‘He must be mad..’: Mark 3: 20-21and 31-35

20-21   “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family[b] heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
31-35  Then his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  NRSV Updated Edition

27th February 2024, Lichfield

We are looking at a moment when Christ’s mother and other family members come to look for him in Capernaum. It seems that they have tracked him down at a house, probably the place he called home, where he is once more beset by a large crowd. The story is in two parts, a few verses apart, and so we are taking both together here.

A few verses ago, we saw Jesus casting out demons and commanding them not to disclose his true identify as the Son of God. One reason for this is that announcing his name to the crowd as the Messiah will place him in great danger. The claim of Kingship will put him in conflict with not only the religious community, but with the Romans, King Herod and the political classes. One thing which would not be tolerated by the occupying forces is a challenge to their power, and the first sign of unrest would surely be gathering crowds following an unauthorised leader. And here is Jesus – unsupported by the religious or secular leaders, at the centre of a vast crowd of people. A crowd so dense that there is no room to eat and the family who have come to rescue him can’t get through. Crowds of people from all over the region, not looking for the Messiah, but desperate to be with, even to touch the celebrity healer.

We all know that following God comes at a cost. One cost, paid by many people, is that their faith creates issues between them and at least one member of their family. It’s clear from Scripture that Jesus did not lose touch with his family, but even for Christ,  following his chosen path did create challenges and tensions within his family.

I wonder whether you have noticed that from the perspective of the family, Jesus has walked away from the support of his family home and childhood friends, distanced himself from the security and life prospects of the family business, left his own town and allowed himself to become head of a radical movement of rag tag people at least one of whom, Simon the Zealot, was known for his revolutionary tendencies. Already, Jesus is attracting the wrong kind of attention from the religious leaders. To be in a place where he might become target of the Roman rulers would inevitably end swiftly in his imprisonment and death.

His chosen lifestyle looks reckless and dangerous. No wonder then, that his family were concerned about him. No wonder they thought that he had lost his senses and set out to rescue him from himself.  

Christ’s response may seem at best disrespectful of his mother and family, but I don’t believe that is the case.

“What did Jesus do? He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (vv. 33–35). These words, which seem slightly rude on the surface, were not a denial or repudiation by Jesus of His mother and brothers. Instead, they are a profound teaching about union with Christ. Jesus declared that those who believe in Him and do God’s will have a relationship with Him that is closer than the blood relationships between parents, children, and siblings. We must never lose sight of the fact that we are bound to Jesus by mighty mystical cords that cannot be broken.

RC Sproul, Mark, An Expositional Commentary, p58

Richard Jackson, West Sussex: LifePictureUK

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