“Who are my mother and my brothers?”

by Pat Lee

(Based on Mark 3:20-35, Gen 3:18-15)

Dr. Mickey Anders (Pastor of South Elkhorn Christian Church, Lexington, Kentucky) proposes: “Have you ever accused someone of being out of their mind?  Probably.  We are not unaccustomed to making such a statement about people we know today.  A friend of yours takes a bungee jump off a high tower, and you ask, ‘Has he gone out of his mind?’  On a lark, another friend takes a sky diving lesson and jumps out of a perfectly good airplane, and you ask, ‘Has she gone out of her mind?’  A person of modest income decides to purchase a house obviously beyond his means, and you ask, ‘Has he gone out of his mind?’  There are lots of situations in which we might ask that question of someone we know, but we are shocked when someone asks that question of Jesus. In verse 21, we learn that people are saying, ‘He is insane.'”

I think we’ve all done this (except for that last part). I know I have, and have also been on the receiving end of someone asking me, “Are you mad?” or “Are you out of your mind?”
Well I don’t think I am, but some may think so.

Actually, this scripture makes me feel quite sad. Jesus’ family didn’t recognize who he was and thought he was was out of his mind.
Families should be  safe places where we can express our views without fear of being asked, “Are you mad?” but sadly, that often is not the case.
We should be able to disagree with our parents, brothers and sisters on a topic knowing that we may, at the end of the discussion, say, “Let us agree to disagree on this subject.”  We should know that although there is disagreement, we are still loved, and love those, we have disagreed with. But in many families, some of the discussions they have become heated and often, sadly, violent or with words spoken that are divisive and hurtful and difficult to reverse and heal.

The reading from Genesis relates the first time a disagreement took place. Adam accused Eve and Eve accused the serpent.
If we go a little further in Genesis we find Cain killing Abel because he was angry with him over sacrifices made to God. So, unfortunately, it has been happening right from the beginning of time.

When we look back to chapter one of Mark, we see that Jesus has driven out an evil spirit, healed Peter’s mother-in-law, and many others, cleansed a leper, and caused a paralytic to walk. It is interesting to note that the evil spirit he drove out knew exactly who Jesus was, because it called out to him and demanded, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are … !” (v1:24)
This seems to me to beg the question, If the evil spirits recognize who Jesus is, why don’t his family and the teachers of the law? They all seem to think that Jesus is out of his mind. As one commentator says, “He has spoken in the synagogue with an outstanding authority, but a kind of secrecy enshrouds him which only the demonic seems to recognize; yet secret power breathes from him that will not be contained, as witnessed by numerous events of healing that mark his route.”

So instead of recognizing who and what Jesus is, his family come to restrain him, because they think he is out of his mind. They are closely followed by the teachers of the law who claim that he is possessed by ‘Beelzebul’, by whose power he is driving out demons.
I find this rather outrageous, because, as I have already said, the demons knew who Jesus was. So, Jesus  spoke to them in virtual riddles and asks them, “How can Satan drive out Satan?” It is not possible because anything “that is divided against itself, cannot stand”.

Michael J Marsh in his commentary says, “This division and inner conflict is a reality of today’s world and our lives. A marriage divided is a divorce. A nation divided results in vitriolic politics and, in the extreme, civil war. An economy divided yields poverty and injustice. A community divided becomes individualism and tribalism, prejudice and violence. Humanity divided is all these things on a global level. Faith divided is sin.”
And we do see all these things in today’s world.

Marsh goes on to say, “It’s hard to look at the division and inner conflict within our own lives. The beginning of wholeness, however, is acknowledging our brokenness. Where is our own house divided? How and to what extent have we created conflict and division within our relationships. In what ways do we live fragmented lives, parcelling out pieces here and there? What is it that shatters your life? Anger and resentment, greed, insecurity, perfectionism, sorrow and loss, fear, guilt, or loneliness?”

At the end of the reading we come to where Jesus was told that his mother and brothers and sisters had arrived, and his response is surprising. (“Who are my mother and my brothers?”) It sounds like a rejection of his family. Was Jesus rejecting them? No, I don’t think so. What he was doing was looking around at the gathered crowd and telling them that those present, and elsewhere, who had responded to the call from God in the person of him, Jesus Christ, were ‘his family’.

Unlike the people in the crowd, who had Jesus right there in front of them, we do not; but we have all been called to follow him. None of us has seen him, but we know him and believe in what he did for us on a cross, over two thousand years ago. We have faith in him and his teachings, so we can be assured that we, too, are part of his family.
Living by faith mean means that whatever happens here on earth, whatever we go through in our daily lives, we have confidence that we are part of Jesus’s family, and that should give us hope. 2 Cor 17-18 can suitably wrap this today: “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”  


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