Mark 3:31-35 | A Growing Family

jon-tyson-Es6wM0ASCAU-unsplashIt’s at this point in the narrative that it seems to me that Jesus is just getting smarmy and I think needs a vacation. He’s had a rough go of it lately: He’s been doing the hard but good work of healing and casting out demons, and crowds of people have been following him. On top of that the religious and political leaders are challenging the authenticity and authority of these acts. So he’s doing hard work to begin with, he’s then got the whole superstar thing going on, the authorities of the day don’t like any of it, and at this point he’s just come off of what I perceive to be a heated argument with those authorities. So I think it’s reasonable to think that Jesus is getting a little stressed and edgy.

It’s in this context that his mother and brothers come out to him “asking for him”. The text doesn’t tell us what they want. It could be that they have something for him to do or that they want to talk to him about something, which would be just one more thing on his plate. But I wonder (and I think “wonder” is about all we can do here) if they just wanted him to get away from the crowds. I wonder if they’re worried about him. I wonder if they simply wanted to get him away, get him in the house, and force him to rest a little. And it’s here that Jesus’ smarminess comes out, but also perhaps the reach of his mission and purpose is revealed.

In response to his mother and brothers asking for him is, “Who are my mother and my brothers… here are my mother and my brothers.” There’s a smarminess in this, at least as we read it through our lens today. Once again this is not the nicey-pants-patient-flannelgraph Jesus with children on his knee. This is a smarmy, edgy, not always so pleasant Jesus. But it’s also a focused Jesus. I don’t think he is disowning his mother and brothers here. What he’s doing is stepping into his distinct role as the Son of God that role is to tear the heavens open. Perhaps just as our own John Wesley said hundreds of years ago, “the world is my parish”, Jesus is taking that a step further here and saying “the world is my family”. Who are my mother and brothers? All of these are my mother and brothers. Smarmy though he may sound, he is also naming us as children of God, by virtue of naming us the siblings to the Son of God.

Sometimes when we expand the boundaries of who is in, those who are already in feel like they are being excluded. As new people come in, it can feel like there’s no place for me anymore. This is, perhaps, how the religious elite felt in Jesus’ day, and could have been part of what fueled their anger toward him. I wonder if Jesus’ family felt the same here. By naming the crowd as his family, did they feel like they didn’t fit anymore? Sometimes it can be hard to welcome in the crowds because then we feel less important. But we must remember that as the doors of the Kingdom of God fling wide open, and the crowds are welcomed in, it doesn’t mean that those on the inside don’t count anymore. It’s just a growing family.