May 19 – Who Is Jesus’ Family?

Mark 3: 7 – 33 NLT

(Verses 1 to 6 were covered in a devotion in Mark 2 on Friday)

“Crowds Follow Jesus

7 Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

9 Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. 10 He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. 11 And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.

Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles

13 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, 15 giving them authority to cast out demons. 16 These are the twelve he chose:

Simon (whom he named Peter),
17 James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), 18 Andrew,
James (son of Alphaeus),
Simon (the zealot – also means nationalist),
19 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).”

There is a huge contrast in these verses – massive crowds and twelve followers. Occasionally on the news we hear about people being crushed to death in panicking crowds. I can’t imagine what that would be like. Perhaps you are in a stadium with thousands of people, there is a startling bang and perhaps smoke and more noise, and everyone rushes for the exit. Even at professional sports events, when the game is over, it can be hard to stay with family and friends as the crowd pushes for the exits. Jesus is exactly in that same situation. “Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him.” (v.9) Jesus is so popular that crowds from all over Israel are arriving to see him, to be healed, to touch him and they are pushing forward so much that Jesus could be crushed to death. Stop for a moment and try to visualize that picture. Keep that picture in mind as we read through this chapter.

Jesus then climbs up a mountain with 12 men he asked to come with him. What an interesting group. First there is Simon who Jesus renamed Peter, a name that means ‘rock’. Peter seemed to be the most impulsive one in the group – hardly a rock. He was the one who stepped out of the boat and tried to walk to Jesus in the night, and when he had second thoughts, began to sink. He was the one at Jesus’ transfiguration who wanted to build a small altar/temple place to commemorate the event. He was the one who cut off the ear of the high priest’s aide when they tried to arrest Jesus. He was the one who went to the outer court to see what was happening to Jesus, but denied he ever knew him when asked by a servant girl. Peter was a rock? Yet, Peter was one of the main figures in the founding of the church. Following Jesus transformed him.

James and John were called the ‘sons of thunder’ by Jesus. That’s also an interesting ‘nickname’. Yet John later becomes known for his deep love for Jesus, and he is often seen sitting close to Jesus at various social events. The Gospel of John and 1,2, and 3 John are epistles that concentrate on love. In that group of twelve, we also see Thomas who became known as a doubter when he couldn’t believe that Jesus had really risen until he could touch Jesus. We see Simon, the nationalist, who was all about freeing Israel from Rome’s domination. And he sat beside Matthew, the tax collector for Rome? And there was Judas Iscariot who seemed to be in the group to get fame and money, and betrayed Jesus in the end.

What a group Jesus took up the side of that mountain because “they were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, giving them authority to cast out demons.” (v. 14 – 15) Jesus wanted to be with them, wanted them to spread his message, and wanted them to face battle with Satan. Wow!

“Jesus and the Prince of Demons

20 One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.

22 But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

23 Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. 24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. 27 Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

28 “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, 29 but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” 30 He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”

Once again, the Pharisees show up. They are frankly jealous. Just like our society today, the ability to draw crowds is admired. Fame is exciting! But now it’s Jesus who is getting all the attention, and they want to take it away. They are in a difficult spot because they can’t do the miracles that Jesus does. How do they explain this conundrum? They accuse Jesus of being empowered by Satan. Jesus dispels that myth with obvious reason – Satan would not destroy himself. That was absurd.

There are 2 verses in this passage that make some people a little nervous. “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences”. (v. 28 – 29) Some people worry that they may have committed the “unforgivable sin”. What is that unforgivable sin? It is a deliberate and constant denial of who the trinity is – God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit – a person who refuses to accept that as truth. Notice the first part of Jesus’ statement: “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, but …” Jesus’ death and resurrection has dealt with all sin, and anyone who accepts that is forgiven. Only those who refuse deliberately to acknowledge that are not forgiven.

“The True Family of Jesus

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.”

33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

These 5 verses seem so mean and harsh. Why would Jesus treat his mother and brothers this way? If God is love, why would Jesus speak like this? In my commentary reading, I came across this explanation that I thought was super good. Instead of trying to summarize it, I decided to just copy and paste from this online commentary. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

“Now it is time to meet the family – v.31. They have been on their way and now they turn up: Mary and her other sons. Presumably they know where to find him because this is his regular base. They wrongly assume that if they send a messenger into the house, then Jesus will immediately drop whatever he is doing and emerge. That’s what the culture assumes. Inside, the house is crowded as usual, the message is passed along until it reaches him and soon everyone knows that the family is waiting outside (v.32). Jesus responds with a distinctly odd question (v.33). Then he looks around. Now the house is crowded, but of course this is not the heaving crowd of thousands we see with Jesus by the lakeside. This is a house in a fishing village; at most a few dozen people are within earshot and these are not the sensation seekers. These are people who want to sit and listen to his words: a group that consists of his core team of twelve with a wider group of others.
In vv.34-35 Jesus gives his verdict. He looks at the group gathered round him on the floor. Then he looks at the messenger at the door and speaks through him to the family gathered outside; and he says, You say they’re outside looking for me? No: my true family have already found me. My true family are here, on the inside. It’s not so much that he is rejecting his human family – though we should note there is no special place given to Mary his mother here. But this is one more way that Jesus is overturning people’s assumptions, redrawing the boundaries. He’s speaking to a nation who believe that family is everything. These people live and die by genealogies. They think God will accept them simply because two thousand years ago they had an ancestor called Abraham.

But, says Jesus, my true people (and therefore God’s true people) are these: the ones who know me, who listen to me, who do the will of God – the God who is creating a new people that doesn’t depend on physical family ties, or on the nation you were born into, but only on belonging to Jesus. It’s a family that will extend right round the world, into every country and across every boundary. It doesn’t divide people by their background, or their colour or race. In every local church we have a small fragment of that big family. It’s not perfect, because it’s full of people who still get things wrong. Sometimes bad things happen in this family. But the good news is that the head of this family is perfect. The day will finally come when we are too: we will see Jesus face to face and he will look at us and say: yes, you are my brother, my sister. In this family, we are united by ties much stronger, far deeper, than even the closest human family. These ties are stronger than genetics, stronger than marriage, stronger than human love. They are ties based on blood, but not ours. The life of this family begins with the blood of Jesus.”

Here’s the question that titled today’s devotions. Who is Jesus’ family? It’s not the crowds that follow him because they think he can do something for them – make life here on earth better by healing their illnesses. It’s not the Pharisees, religious people who are enthralled by popularity and big followings, and get jealous if someone else seems to be doing better. It’s not people who belong to one nationality or keep religious rules. It is “Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” That can be you and me.

From online A Ransom for Many: the Gospel of Mark Simply Explained (Welwyn Commentary Series) Wilmhurst, Steve 2011 Evangelical Press

If you like music by Bill Gaither, here’s his mix of The Family of God (1968)

For I’m part of the family,
The family of God.

You will notice we say “brother
And sister” ’round here-
It’s because we’re a family
And these folks are so near;
When one has a heartache

We all share the tears,
And rejoice in each victory
In this family so dear.

I’m so glad I’m a part
Of the family of God-
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus
As we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family,
The family of God.

From the door of an orphanage
To the house of the King-
No longer an outcast,
A new song I sing;
From rags unto riches,
From the weak to the strong,
I’m not worthy to be here,
But, praise God, I belong!

I’m so glad I’m a part
Of the family of God-
I’ve been washed in the fountain,
Cleansed by His blood!
Joint heirs with Jesus
As we travel this sod,
For I’m part of the family,
The family of God.

Yes I’m part of the family,
The family of God.

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