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Episode 68 - Encounter with Jesus' Mother and Brothers - Opening Up the Gospels

I’ve been walking through some of the events of the time period I’ve called Jesus’ Middle Galilean ministry in these past few episodes. Last time I walked through the story of the sinful woman at Jesus’ feet in Simon the Pharisee’s house. We saw how she broke all the cultural norms and threw herself at Jesus’ feet in an act of such love and faith. Jesus would use the situation to not only commend this woman but to rebuke all of the Pharisees dining with Him. Just imagine what it must have been like to be in that house after the woman had left… dinner continued and all the Pharisees thought they were now ritually unclean. Talk about awkward… Well today I want to look at yet another scene in this Middle Galilean period, and that’s Jesus words about his mother and his brothers. We see it in Luke 8 verses 19 through 21, but I’m going to read Mark’s account in Mark 3: “Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”… And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”” (Mark 3:20-21,31–35 ESV) Let’s place this scene geographically and chronologically. Again, Luke and Mark say that Jesus eventually returns home to Capernaum after his visit to Nain and other cities in this third major circuit throughout Galilee. Jesus hasn’t left Galilee for a while and continues to appeal to the Jews with his message. And looking at our timeline, we’re looking at events taking place in this Middle Galilean period, which is sometime in the early spring of 28, before the second recorded Passover feast of Jesus’ public ministry. To get a little context, we’ve been looking at: – The raising of the Widow’s son in Nain and the Third Circuit throughout Galilee – Jesus’ words about John the Baptist – The sinful woman at Jesus’ feet, which we looked at in the last episode, – And now Jesus’ return to Capernaum and the encounter with Jesus’ mother and brothers in this episode – Jesus’ teaching in parables Looking back at the text, we saw Mark saying that because the crowd was so huge, there wasn’t even time to rest and eat a meal. Just think about that. Imagine being pressed about by crowds because your fame and popularity has exploded, and there’s no time to send them all away and just go eat a meal in private because they’re swarming and seeking your attention at every turn. And this is Jesus we’re talking about – the kindest and most compassionate Man who has ever lived, and the very God of Israel Himself wanting to be near His people. Well, his family heard about what was happening, and they say the craziest thing – “He’s a crazy man. Something’s messed up in his head. All this fame has gotten to him and he’s just lost it.” Now other translations say “his kinsmen” or “his own people” instead of “his family”. The word used may refer to His extended family or his close friends in Capernaum, because shortly after that is when His mother and brothers appear. But think about what they said for a second and remember who it is we are looking at – this is God incarnate, the very Messiah of Israel, and the people that are closest to Him have such a profound misunderstanding of who He is because of their familiarity with Him. What piercing misunderstanding did Jesus experience here?! Right after Jesus confronts some blasphemous Pharisees again, Jesus’ mother and brothers come. It appears Jesus is in a house or in a structure at this point, because it says that his mother and brothers were “outside”. Somehow they communicate their identity to the crowd, and the crowd tells Jesus. And Jesus responds by looking at those around him and saying “here are my mother and my brothers!”. So how should we take this? What does Jesus mean here? Well, I don’t see this as Jesus rejecting His own family. Though the Gospels don’t tell us, perhaps He did go out and see his mother and brothers at some point. But what Jesus said after looking at the crowd shows that He had something of greater significance in mind than His mother and brothers outside. He says “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” I believe Jesus here is reasserting and expressing once again the reason and purpose for which He came, which was to call the lost sheep of Israel back to Himself. And so he is drawing the distinction between His identity and the profound misunderstanding He was experiencing from His own family. His Father is the God of Israel, and His family are those who, like Him, do the will of their Father. Let me say it a little differently. When we become a believer, we see that the bonds of fellowship between brothers and sisters in Christ are actually stronger than family relationships – or at least they should be. They are more permanent and more lasting, and our allegiance should be greater to our brethren in Christ than to our natural kin who does not know the Lord. So similarly here, Jesus’ family and allegiance and camaraderie is to those who sought to be like Him and those who sought to join the purpose of the Father, those who would bear the fruits of repentance. Does that make sense? I don’t see this as Jesus rejecting His natural family or being harsh towards them. Just like when we become a believer and put our faith in Christ, we aren’t mean and harsh towards our family. We love them, but our preference and allegiance is for our family in Christ. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus is so patient and tender with his natural family. Even after this scene, He goes back to Capernaum and spends time with them. For example, in John 7, we see Him with His brothers again. He’s not mean or cold to them. This statement Jesus made here in Mark I believe is just a statement of allegiance to His Father’s purpose. All of us have known the pain of being misunderstood at some point in our lives. This scene here is probably one of the more dramatic scenes in the Gospels where we see Jesus so profoundly misunderstood. Now not only in first century Israel, but throughout all of human history, there has never been a man more misunderstood than Jesus of Nazareth. He knew who He was, He knew His rightful identity as the one true God, the maker and sustainer of all things. But the measure to which people actually perceived that was so utterly small. The disparity between who He really was and who people perceived Him to be has never been as far apart as anyone else who has ever walked the earth. Not even remotely. So if this is true about Jesus, let’s think about ourselves for a second. All of the pain that we feel from being misunderstood, overlooked, and unrecognized is real pain. But the pain we feel is nothing compared to the real pain Jesus felt from being misunderstood. However, his pain was very different from ours. His pain was not because He didn’t know who He was. He never had a moment of doubt concerning that. He was not drawing His identity from the opinions of others. But that’s what we do, we draw our identity from what others think about us, and we feel pain because we are rejected and misunderstood and people don’t assign an identity to us that is to our liking. But Jesus’ pain was because He deeply loved the people around Him and wanted them to have fellowship with Him. He wanted them to know who He really was. All throughout His life, Jesus was revealing the Father and revealing Himself, showing them how much He loved them. And so this is why Jesus’ rejection was painful for Him. His pain was from love and a genuine desire for humanity to see Him for who He really was. He knew who He was, He didn’t have others make up His identity for Him. Does that make sense? Now not only in his lifetime was Jesus misunderstood, but for the last 2000 years He has been profoundly misunderstood. Only a small percentage of people of humanity that has lived for the past 2 millennia have seen Jesus in a significant way for who He is. Most of humanity has mocked, reviled, blasphemed, and disregarded Him, the matchless one, the glorious God who humbled Himself to take on a human frame and even die on a cross. This fact only makes what the Bible says about the culmination of all things as even more dramatic. In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul says, quoting the prophet Isaiah, that one day every eye will see, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is the one true living God. That’s where this thing is going. The most misunderstood Man in all of human history will be vindicated by God in the eyes of all creation. Oh, how precious is it that we see Him for who He is today, even if it’s just a little bit?! What must Jesus feel when that happens? Well, I hope this episode encourages you today – not only to find fellowship with Jesus in these moments but to be a witness of who He really is to a world that largely rejects and reviles Him. That’s the ultimate point of missions – to show people who Jesus really is so that they too can find fellowship with Him and acknowledge His greatness. It’s a beautiful thing when the eyes of our heart are opened to see Him rightly. My prayer is that He would do that with whoever is watching this episode. In the next episode, we’ll start to take a look at some of Jesus’ famous parables, so be sure to come back next time.