The Family of Jesus – Mark 3:31-35
Good morning! If you can grab a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. We are continuing in our sermon series on Mark, looking at Mark 3:31-35.
I’m just going to read the passage, and then we will dive in. Mark 3, beginning in verse 31: “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’ 33 And he answered them, ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”
In C. S. Lewis’ book, Mere Christianity, Lewis presents the following argument regarding the Person of Jesus Christ. Lewis says, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, or you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to…. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”
If you are here this morning, and you think you have an acceptable view of Jesus as some great moral teacher or religious leader or righteous man, you don’t have that option. Jesus did not give us that option about Himself. You have to join one of the three categories that Lewis presents, and that is: Jesus is either a liar, or He is a lunatic, or He is Lord. Who do you say Jesus is? That’s the question.
Last week, we looked at how the religious leaders believed Jesus to be demonic, thus calling Jesus a liar who claimed to be from God but was in fact from Satan. And we saw that this is the unforgiveable sin that Jesus references in verse 29—that they rejected the Holy Spirit’s work and witness concerning the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. But as we saw, the claim that Jesus is a liar didn’t hold up.
And this morning we are introduced to the physical family of Jesus who, back in verse 21, were saying that Jesus was a lunatic. Jesus had just entered the home where He was staying, and the crowds had flocked to Jesus so that they couldn’t even eat, and it says that “when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”
Jesus’ family thinks He’s crazy. They think that He’s gone off the deep end. They don’t think Jesus is a liar, but they also don’t think He is Lord. They think He’s downright insane, and they are trying to seize Jesus to shut Him up.
And so, what we are going to see, as we look at our text, this morning, is that Jesus had a physical family but has created a new family who believe and who are shaped by the truth that He is Lord.
1. The first thing to notice is that Jesus had a physical family. Look at verse 31. “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.’”
Turn over to Mark 6:3. Jesus here is back in His hometown and His authority is being challenged by those who grew up with Him. And here’s what they say: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?”
Jesus had a physical family. By this time, Joseph had likely died, which is why there is no reference to him here. But Jesus had a mother and brothers and sisters. He had a family and grew up in a family. And like every family, there is tension and there is disagreement and there is conflict.
In Jesus’ case, His brothers and sisters think He’s crazy. And I mean, why wouldn’t they think that? If you had grown up your whole life with Jesus as your brother, you’d probably find it difficult to believe in what Jesus was saying, too.
Here is what Mary, the mother of Jesus, is told about her Son by the angel Gabriel, in Luke 1:30. Gabriel says to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is told that her Son is going to be the Saviour of the world—that He is going to save His people from their sins. This is good news for all mankind. You think that she’s not telling this to the rest of her kids? Can you imagine growing up with the perfect Son of God as your brother?
No wonder it says, in John 7:5, that “not even his brothers believed in him.” They don’t believe the angel’s message about Jesus. They think Jesus is crazy. Talk about family dynamics.
And yet, isn’t it comforting to us that Jesus knows what that’s like? It should comfort us that Jesus was part of a physical family, that the God of the universe would choose this route, because it means that He knows what you are going through in your physical family. It should comfort us that Jesus, who is fully man and fully God, knows what family dynamics you are dealing with, today—that He knows your pain and your struggle and your conflict.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus grew up in a family where there were all kinds of problems and tension, because of who He claimed to be. And what that means for us is that we can run to Jesus when our children or our grandchildren are wayward, or when our siblings won't talk to us, or when there are 20-year-old arguments keeping us from seeing each other at family gatherings. Why? Because Jesus knows what that’s like, and He comforts us in our family struggles.
Looking at our text, how awkward would this have been for Mary? You have to think that she is still holding on to the promise that Jesus is the Saviour of the world, but then you have Jesus’ siblings who just don’t get it. It must have torn her apart, being caught in the middle.
But then, we read Jesus’ response when He is told that His mother and brothers were outside the house seeking Him. In verse 33, Jesus says, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”
If you are the family of Jesus, if you’re Mary, and you’re hearing this, how crushing would this be to you? Family was so important in this culture. It was your identity. It was your life. It sounds like Jesus is being incredibly disrespectful towards His family, but what Jesus is doing here is actual very intentional.
2. It’s here where we consider, secondly, that Jesus is creating a new family. Look at verse 34. “And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers!’”
Jesus is not disrespecting His mom. That’s not what's going on here. This Jesus was a God-man who loved His physical mom until His dying breath. In John 19:26, Jesus’ mom is at the foot of the cross with John, one of Jesus’ disciples, and Jesus says to His mom, while hanging on the cross, “Woman, behold, your son!” And then, Jesus turns to John, and says, “Behold, your mother!” He’s making sure that His mom is taken care of, while He’s dying.
Jesus isn’t saying that He doesn’t care about His physical family, anymore. No, Jesus is simply pointing out that His physical family didn’t believe in Him and embrace Him as Lord.
For many of us here, this morning, this is a terrifying reality in our families. You might have a brother or a sister, or a parent, or a son or a daughter, who doesn’t believe in Jesus. In fact, you might be the only Christian in your family.
I remember in my first year of Bible College, I was just getting to know each one of the students. And I was shocked at how many of the students had whole families who did not believe in Jesus. By the grace of God, these students believed in Jesus, but there were several of them where they were the only Christians in their family.
And why that shocked me is because my testimony was that I came from a family that believed in Jesus. That’s all that I had ever known. I couldn’t comprehend that there were some people whose story is that they were the only Christian in their family.
And for years, I resented my testimony. I thought that I didn’t have a good testimony of what God had done in my life, because it was so easy for me to believe in Jesus when that’s all that was around me. And it wasn’t until later that I realized that my testimony is just as God-honouring, because there has never been a time in my life when I did not know God.
How glorious is it that I can point to the faithfulness of God in saving me from myself and my sin by the very fact that He placed me in a family where I would be fed the gospel, day after day? And yet, what matters more is not the physical family that I’m part of, but rather, whether or not I’m part of the family of Jesus.
I shared this illustration earlier this year, when Helena and I had the opportunity to visit with a missionary friend, who was on furlough, and how we got to hear the testimony of this Iranian couple that she knew, who couldn’t speak any English.
She translated for us, of course, but their story was that they were both born into Muslim families and grew up believing Islam. But the man said that he had a cousin who believed in Jesus. He would ask his cousin questions about Jesus, and his cousin would answer them for him. And he came to the point where he found the truth about Jesus to be more fulfilling than Islam.
Now, at the time of his conversion to Christianity, he was married to a Muslim woman and had a son with her, but his father-in-law said that he was going to have him arrested, if he ever saw him, again. He was dead to them. So, he made the decision to flee to Turkey, leaving behind his wife and son, never to see them, again. Talk about family dynamics.
While in Turkey, he met this Christian girl who also grew up in a Muslim home. And they eventually got married and have recently moved to Canada to minister to Muslim people here.
We hear of followers of Jesus, around the world, being disowned by their families for choosing to believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, but hearing their testimony really put into perspective what Jesus is saying here about His mother and brothers being those who were sitting around Him.
You see, this man and this woman had more in common with Helena and me than they do with their own families. We’re white Canadians who speak English, and yet, because we together believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, they have more in common with their spiritual family than they do with their physical family.
Notice the irony within our text: Jesus’ mother and brothers, His physical family, are on the outside, but Jesus’ true mother and brothers, His spiritual family, are on the inside. The ones who should understand most about who Jesus is, because they grew up with Him, miss out on Jesus. But we who were on the outside are invited into the family of Jesus.
We rejoice in what the apostle Paul writes, in Romans 8:17, that “we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Ephesians 2:19: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
Jesus isn’t saying that your physical family doesn’t matter when you become a follower of Jesus, but that if your physical family has rejected you because you follow Jesus, you can still be part of His family. Isn’t that good news?
Thanksgiving is coming up in a few weeks, and for many of us, it can be a hard time of year. We might be the only Christian in our family, or there might be some family dynamics going on, or we might not even have family around. And what Jesus is doing is inviting us to become part of His family. We can be comforted, this time of year and always, because we belong to a much larger spiritual family.
3. Jesus is creating a new family. The third thing that we are to consider from our text is how this new family is defined. Look at verse 35. “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
1. What does it look like to be part of this new family? First, it begins with belief in Jesus as Lord.
Turn over to 1 Corinthians 15. I want us to look at an amazing testimony of belief in Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 15:3, Paul writes, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”
Notice to whom Jesus appears, after His resurrection, in verse 7. It says, “Then he appeared to James.” Now, the James mentioned here just so happens to be James, the brother of Jesus, who would also go on to write the letter in the New Testament, after which he is named. And if you look at James 1:1, how does it begin? It says, “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Now, that’s interesting, is it not? How does someone go from being a skeptic of Jesus, claiming that Jesus is crazy, that Jesus is some kind of lunatic who thinks He’s God, to being a servant of Jesus. How does that happen? I’ll tell you how: James watched his brother die and then come back to life three days later.
James is one of the most compelling arguments for Christianity, because a testimony like James’ testimony doesn’t just happen. You don’t go from being a skeptic to a servant, based on nothing. And it’s because, after His resurrection, Jesus appeared to James and James immediately moves from believing Jesus to be a lunatic to believing Jesus to be Lord.
James, according to Acts 15, would become the leader of the Jerusalem Council. So, not only is James a believer of Jesus, but he’s leading the group of Christians in Jerusalem.
Church tradition tells us that, in A.D. 62, the religious leaders came to James, and asked him to stand on the top of the temple and preach against Jesus to all the people who were coming into Jerusalem. But James begins preaching about Jesus and salvation, and people start believing in Jesus.
So, what do the religious leaders do? They throw James off the top of the temple to kill him, but he doesn't die. So, they proceed to stone him, at which point, someone takes the butt end of their staff and bashes in his skull. And it’s said that James had been praying for his attackers while he was being persecuted.
James goes from being a skeptic of Jesus to a servant of Jesus, dying a brutal death for the sake of Christ, because he believed that Jesus is Lord.
Who do you say Jesus is? Is Jesus a liar, is He a lunatic, or is He Lord? Believing in Jesus as Lord is the first step to becoming part of this new family. Have we confessed our sins and repented? Have we come to Jesus, not with all of our good works, which can’t ultimately save us, but with our need for Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour? Have we done this?
2. What does it look like to be part of this new family? Firstly, belief in Jesus. Secondly, obedience to Jesus.
In Luke 11, Jesus is talking about issues regarding demons, and as He’s speaking, a woman cries out from the crowd, in verse 27, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” That’s a kind gesture, but listen to how Jesus responds to her. He says, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”
In other words, Jesus is saying that what matters more, than the physical family He came from, are those who do the will of God.
If we want to know whether or not Jesus is Lord of our lives, all we need to do is look at our lives and see whether or not we are submitting to Him and obeying what He says. Am I living as though Jesus is Lord, or are am I living as though I am Lord? That’s the question.
Am I living with the attitude that says, “Not my will, but yours, be done?” Am I quick to reconcile with my brother or sister in the faith when I’ve wronged them? Am I loving my spouse well? Am I winning the war on lust and anger? Am I loving my enemies? Am I giving to those in need? Am I taking care of the log in my eye before I start calling out specks in other people’s eyes? Am I obedient to Jesus?
Here’s the reality: We aren’t going to get this right all the time. In fact, we are going to fail at this, often. Why? Because we don’t naturally do this. We more naturally submit to our desires and do what we want to do. It’s unnatural to submit to God and to His will, because of the presence of sin.
We constantly need to be reoriented to the will of God. We constantly need to have our desires changed from what we want to what God wants. We constantly need to be shaped by the truth that Jesus is Lord.
But here’s the good news of Jesus Christ: Jesus accomplished what we were unable to accomplish on our own. Where we failed, Jesus did not. If you look at the checklist of what God requires of His people, Jesus has all the boxes checked. He is the perfect Son of God who does the will of God, perfectly.
And instead of us getting what we deserve—which is judgment for our rebellion against holy God—because of Jesus, we receive adoption as children of God. We have been joyfully brought into God’s family through Jesus Christ.
Do you know what this truth does to all of our relationships? All of a sudden, we are quick to forgive because we have been forgiven. We show grace because we have been shown grace. We love unconditionally because we have been loved unconditionally. We bear one another’s burdens because our greatest burden was borne by Jesus on the cross. This truth changes everything.
Jesus is ushering us into His family, where, though we are not perfect, we are spurning each other on in what it means to believe Jesus is Lord and obey what He says. This is the good news: That Jesus would create this new family and would invite us to become part of it. The question is: Are you part of this family—the family of Jesus? Are these your brothers and sisters in the faith?
We’re going to close our time together by singing the hymn, Blest Be the Tie That Binds. This is the song that we close our Village Missions Staff Conference with, year after year. But before we sing it, I just wanted to read through the verses and how they speak of our being united together in Christ:
Verse 1: “Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love; the fellowship of kindred minds is like to that above.”
Verse 2: “Before our Father's throne we pour our ardent prayers; our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.”
Verse 3: “We share our mutual woes, our mutual burdens bear, and often for each other flows the sympathizing tear.”
Verse 4: “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.”
Verse 5: “This glorious hope revives our courage by the way; while each in expectation lives and longs to see the day.”
Verse 6: “From sorrow, toil, and pain, and sin, we shall be free; and perfect love and friendship reign through all eternity.”
The family of faith, that has been purchased by the blood of Jesus, is a closer family than any blood relatives you and I have ever had. We, who can have nothing in common, can be united together in Christ. What a glory and a privilege it is to belong to the family of Jesus. Let’s pray…