In Mark 3:20, Jesus’ mother and brothers have come looking for him. They are convinced he has gone mad. The scene fits into a theme running through the chapter which asks the question “Are you able to truly see who Jesus is? His glory and power, his goodness and love?” Or do you end up rejecting him, misunderstanding or misrepresenting him. The religious leaders think he is bad, his family think he is mad.
So the encounter with sceptical relatives envelopes round the opposition of hostile scribes. We pick up with the family now. They are outside waiting whilst the encounter is going on inside. A message comes into Jesus that his mum and siblings are waiting outside. His response is shocking. He asks who is true family are, is the physical relatives out there or is it the people listening to him in here?
Jesus’ true kith and kin are not those who are related to him by blood and genetics. Rather, he insists that they are those who are united with him by a desire to do God’s will. In other words, it is those who are in step with the Holy Spirit and not opposed to him, who recognise God’s goodness at work in Christ’s mission and are committed to that mission too.
Incidentally, this passage helps us settle a couple of disputes. First of all, Roman Catholicism has often sought to venerate Mary as a perpetual virgin. Yet, as we see here and in other passages, we discover that Jesus has physical brothers through Mary. Secondly, you may recall that a few weeks back I mentioned a rather bizarre controversy where some have insisted that Jesus must have been married and had children. Notice first the complete absence of reference to wife and children here – yet you would expect them to be among the concerned crowd. Moreover, it is striking that Jesus makes clear here that his family are not of the physical kith and kin kind. Just as it is his followers who become spiritually his mother and siblings, so too it is the church that becomes the spiritual bride of Christ.
The great thing we discover here is that Jesus calls us into his family. Belonging to Jesus is not about ethnicity, not about your parent’s faith, not about your status in the world. It is all about trusting in him.