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  • Michael Shawn Carbaugh II

Jesus' True Family (Unison Church Podcast Ep. 2)

31 [Jesus'] mother and his brothers came, and standing outside, they sent word to him and called him.

32 A crowd was sitting around him and told him, “Look, your mother, your brothers, and your sisters are outside asking for you.”

33 He replied to them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”

34 Looking at those sitting in a circle around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!

35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:31–35 (CSB)

This is one of those passages that hits you the wrong way when you read it. At least, that's what happens when I read it. It's retold in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which means it was a fairly notable event in the ministry of Jesus. But at first glance, it doesn't seem to paint Jesus in the best light. I mean, He's giving His mother and siblings the cold shoulder here right?

And Mary was a devoted follower of Jesus. Upon close examination, you can find allusions to Mary all throughout the Gospels. We really like Mary. Jesus really likes Mary. He loves her, in fact. It's in light of this that Jesus' actions here are so striking. Why would He turn away from His mother in this moment.

It's not because Jesus is a workaholic who prioritizes His ministry over His family. As a modern Westerner who grew up around pastors who sometimes did just that--or at least who warned against doing just that--that's the image I often get. No, what Jesus is doing here is actually the exact opposite. What Jesus does in this short passage is redefine what family even means in the Kingdom of God.

Jesus is challenging the social norm. The social norm was obsessed with the nuclear family. What He's doing here stands in sharp contrast to that, because Jesus was all about shifting our focus. He wanted to shift our focus off of what was easy and obvious. Obviously, the family you were born into matters. Jesus is not anti-family. But Jesus is kind of anti-tribal. In these moments, Jesus was challenging His listeners to go beyond blood-bonds and see every Jesus follower as their family, regardless of their ethnic background. Jesus valued those who were often overlooked. Jesus invited every kind of culture He encountered into the Kingdom of God. Jesus accepted people of all sorts of different political persuasions. Jesus healed the rich and poor alike.

Jesus saw the entire kingdom of God as His family. He honors every piece of it. In this short interaction, He reminds us that we are called to go beyond our immediate family to be of service. It's not just about them, it's also about the person in your church who is different than you. It's about the one who sits in front of you with a young sometimes-disruptive child. It's about the middle-age single guy who slips in the back. It's about the widow. It's about the grandparents. It's about the black people two rows up, the Asians who sit behind you, the Spanish across the isle, and the white people in the left-hand corner. Every one of those faces is in the family of God and Jesus values them all!

We need this perspective so badly! It's easy to get preoccupied with ourselves. It's easy to get preoccupied with our immediate families only. It's easy to get preoccupied with the people that look and sound like us only. But Jesus is calling us beyond that.

This week, I released a podcast with my good friend, Gina and we talked about a particular way in which the church needs to do a better job being family. We talked about how some of us can be overlooked because we don't have "the normative experience." But in Jesus' family, there is no normative experience, because there are many of us and we are very diverse. We're reminded not only that there are many different kinds of people to care for, but also that we are all called to do that caring. Which means...I am your father! (And your brother for that matter)

Jesus says that His mothers and brothers are those that do the will of the Father. AKA His family is the kingdom of God and that means you and I, church. So I am your father and brother. You are my brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers. How can we treat each other to reinforce this idea? You and I are irrevocably tied by Christ, so let's live in such intimacy that reinforces Jesus' perspective on what family really is.

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