Who is my family?


The famous Swiss psychiatrist, Paul Tournier has observed: ‘Children who are raised-up in a family where they are affirmed and encouraged, and taught God’s unconditional love for them, grow-up, move out into the world, and wherever they go, they feel at home’ (A Place For You).

In our Gospel text for this coming weekend from Mark 3:20-35, Jesus rather stands our “family values” a bit on-edge. This happens at the close of this Gospel story, when some of his family members travel east, some 15 miles from Nazareth to Capernaum (which was Jesus’ home-base when he began his ministry). They come to call him home. Why? Well, because reports were flying around Galilee that Jesus had lost his ever-loving-mind. And so, the crowd that had gathered around Jesus, in the house where he was staying, said: “Your mother and your brothers [and your sisters] are outside, looking for you” (Mark 3:32b).

Then comes the zinger, at the heart of it all: “And Jesus replied, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers [and sisters]?’ (Mark 3:33). Ouch! … Bazinga!! … Right?! Then comes Jesus’ concluding words for us: “And looking around on those who sat about him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother’” (Mark 3:34-35). 

In our time, and yet …in every time and place, there’s so much stress of high expectations and demands placed upon a family. And indeed, ours is a time packed-full of “shuttling schedules” and “marathons of meetings” and “dead-lines” that create enormous pressure and brokenness in our family systems.  I mean, most of us are simply bursting-at-the-seams. So, what is God’s diagnosing Word of judgment here (i.e. the diagnosis of the Law)? But also, what is God’s good news of hope here (i.e. the healing prognosis of the Gospel)? That is to say, what is Jesus’ word here for us, one that creates some “stretch-marks” of grace and new birth (cf. John 3: 3-7): in getting us to see a family that is more than just the biological flesh-and-blood-of-it-all? And finally, what or who is this “second family” (more accurately, “first family”) that Jesus is pointing-out for us? It’s a larger circle of folks who are around us, but also we who are around them, with Jesus in the center (Mark 3:32). It’s a circle that has Jesus’ watery Word at its heart – one that begins at baptism.

“We welcome you into the Lord’s family. We receive you as fellow members
of the body of Christ,
children of the same heavenly Father, and workers with us
in the kingdom of God.”
(LBW, p.125; emphasis added) 

John Christopherson