Today’s reading was Mark 3:31-35 –
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
At first glance, this appears to be pretty rude of Jesus. His family, out of sincere concern for him, have come to take him home. They are worried that he is so busy with ministering to the needs of others that he is neglecting himself. So, why so brusque? Jesus knows that they do not understand either the nature or the urgency of his mission, and that he cannot allow anyone to get in the way. If he can resist the attempt of Satan to put him off course, then he can certainly resist the attempts of his family.
They have good motives, but they lack the big picture. We see this in Peter later, who correctly identifies Jesus as the Messiah, but then tells him that he will not allow him to be crucified. Jesus retorts with, “Get behind me Satan. You have in mind the things of men, not the things of God.” The mission is so important to Jesus that if he has to be rude, to move people out of his way, then he will. We understand that. If a paramedic knocked us aside while running to save a suffocating child, we would not be offended, or if we were, we would at least recognize that it was for a greater good than our comfort.
As I read this, and get a sense of Jesus’ urgency, that he won’t even stop for his family, it forces me to question my own sense of urgency with the gospel, the mission of Jesus. Now I don’t want to be paranoid, but I don’t want to be unconcerned either, and somewhere between those two extremes is the happy place.
The other thought that occurred to me as I was reading was, what is the nature of family? For Jesus, his true family are those who align themselves with him, and so do God’s will. There is a very clear connection between obedience and belonging. Whether we like it or not, there are certain behavioral standards expected of family members. In my house that means things like apologizing if you hurt someone, being willing to share and so on.
I realize that it is popular to talk about the unconditional love of God for us, and at a certain level I understand this. After all, without any contribution from us, Jesus went to the cross and obtained forgiveness for us. But this does not leave us with no responsibility. Being part of the family, being able to call ourselves “those who love Jesus” does come with certain conditions. In John 14:15, Jesus says: “If you love me, keep my commands.”
So where I land on this is here: if we truly want to be part of the family of faith, if we truly want to love Jesus, we must keep his commands. These include things like forgiving one another, bearing one another’s burdens, not gossiping, helping one another in time of need.
In the end, family is not just who we are, but it is what we do.
By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, that you love one another. (John 13:35)