“Then He went home, and the crowd gathered again so that they were not even able to eat. When His family heard this, they set out to restrain Him, because they said, “He’s out of His mind…” Then His mother and His brothers came, and standing outside, they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him and told Him, “Look, Your mother, Your brothers, and Your sisters are outside asking for You.” He replied to them, “Who are My mother and My brothers? ” And looking about at those who were sitting in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:20-21, 31-35 HCSB)
Blood is thicker than water, so the saying goes. It tends to mean that family ties are often deeper and more binding than any other human relationship. While I would agree that family relations and bonds run very, very deep, I still believe there are some that run even deeper. Surely not, you may be thinking but I really couldn’t disagree more. For example, my wife and I are not related in any way except by mutual consent and binding promises made to one another almost forty four years ago. Yet, my love for my wife is deeper and more intimate than even the deep love I have for my children and grandchildren.
But there is one blood relation that runs even deeper and is tied to both blood and a covenant promise, the one we have we have with God through the blood of Jesus Christ. The greatest commandment tells us: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 HCSB) (see also Deut. 6:5) So, our love for Him must exceed and supersede all other loves and relationships. I believe this is the focus of Jesus’ comments regarding family and we will spend some time today exploring this and its implications for our lives.
Mark has a habit of taking two related stories and sandwiching one in the midst of the other. We will see this several times in the coming weeks but, if you’ll notice in our focal passage, he does this with last week’s focal passage and this week’s passage. Last week we find the reference to Jesus’ family being concerned about His mental health and trying to perform a family intervention. His family heard He was home and a crowd had gathered and was preventing them from even being able to eat. So, His wanted to “restrain” him because they thought He was “out of His mind.”
At this point, you might be wondering how these two stories are related. A crowd was preventing Jesus and His disciples from even being able to eat, His family becomes concerned for His mental health and wants to intervene, then the scribes begin to attribute Jesus’ ability to cast out demons to being demon possessed Himself and, finally, Jesus addresses His family’s concerns and His relationship with them. How are these two seemingly unrelated stories even remotely connected? How can His family’s mental health concerns, the scribes concerns regarding His ability and authority to control and cast out demons and Jesus’ relationship with His family be tied together, even remotely? Well, let’s start with two issues that show up in both stories and see where they lead us.
First, I believe I mentioned two weeks ago that the word for “restrain” in verse 21 is the same term used when Jesus references the “strong man” and being unable to plunder the strong man’s home unless he is first “tied up” or bound. So, our first connecting idea is that Jesus’ family wants to “restrain” or bind Him and take Him home because they believe He’s having a mental breakdown. Now, Jesus takes that same idea and states that He’s not the one who needs to be bound but Satan must be bound in order to plunder his home. In other words, Jesus isn’t the one who needs to be bound, Satan is so that everyone that Satan has bound can be set free. Besides, the only one who can bind the strong man is someone who is STRONGER. Remember? We talked about that, go back and read it, again, if you need too.
Second, His family believes He is “out of His mind” and so do the scribes. His family questions His mental state because He is making life choices that seem to be crazy and self-destructive. The scribes believe that He’s empowered and acting under the influence of Beelzebul or Satan because He has the power to drive out demons. In other words, they also believe Jesus is out of His mind and is speaking and acting in this way because He is possessed by the power and spirit of Satan. So, our two stories are sandwiched together by Mark as each one helps us understand the other. If we take either story by itself, we can easily misunderstand its intent and purpose.
Since we looked at the story of the scribes and the binding of the strong man, last week, we will focus in on the story of Jesus’ family and how He defines and redefines those relationships within the Kingdom of God, this week. But remember, as we do so these two stories are related and share several elements. Specifically, who’s crazy and who needs to be bound and who’s thinking clearly and has been set free from their bonds.
As previously mentioned, Jesus’ family shows up and begins expressing concern for His mental health. It appears from the text, that their concerns are based upon His actions when confronted by the needs of the crowd. He appears to be more focused on their needs than His own and that causes His family to question His mental health. Now, let me be very, very clear here. This passage is NOT intended to downplay or minimize the need for believers to focus on and provide care for their own mental health or the mental health of others. In fact, my daughter-in-law is working on her counseling degree and certification and has a t-shirt that she wears that I love. It simply says, “mental health is health” and I echo those words. The church needs to embrace the need for good mental health among our friends, family and neighbors and we must encourage each other to seek help for mental health concerns.
However, in this instance Jesus isn’t having a mental health breakdown and His family has misplaced concerns and desires to restrain Him. He might have ignored His own physical needs for a brief period of time but it was so He could focus on the needs of those around Him, those who were restrained (bound up) by the power of Satan and suffering under the weight of sickness and disease. He wasn’t crazy, He was clearly seeing their needs and knew He must respond, now! In other words, their needs were a higher priority than His own needs, at that moment. He could easily miss a meal or two but they couldn’t miss this opportunity for a life-changing encounter with God.
Next, His family approaches the crowd and asks them to relay a message that they’d like to speak with Him. So, they begin to pass the message forward and it finally reaches Jesus, “Your mother, brothers and sisters are outside asking for You.” We will spend the rest of our time considering Jesus’ response to their request and then bring all of this together and consider its implications for our faith and response to Jesus.
I am certain that Jesus’ response catches His disciples, the crowd and His family off guard, at first. In fact, it may have caught you off guard, too. When the crowd tells Him that His family is outside asking for Him, He responds: “Who are My mother and My brothers?” He then looks around at those sitting in a circle around Him and replies, “Here are My mother and My brothers! Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” Everything indicates that His disciples are the ones sitting in a circle around Him as He looks at them, gestures towards them and explicitly states that His family consists of those who do the will of God. “This is My family!”
Let that settle into your minds, a bit. If we follow Jesus and seek to do the will of God then WE are His family, too! Not those who think He’s crazy. Not those who believe He should be restrained. Not those who think His actions are evil and the very work of Satan, himself. Not them, but those of us who recognize that He’s not crazy! Those of us who realize that we are the one’s bound up and need Him to bind up Satan and set us free! Those of us who KNOW He acts in the power of God and is filled with His Spirit. Those of us who seek Him to cast out our demons, heal our sin sickness, restore sight to our spiritual blindness, empower us to walk with Him, enable our deaf ears to hear His truth and our mute voices to speak out His truth. His family is a family defined by faith, driven to obedience and thinking clearly because of His indwelling Spirit.
“Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. What the law could not do since it was limited by the flesh, God did. He condemned sin in the flesh by sending His own Son in flesh like ours under sin’s domain, and as a sin offering, in order that the law’s requirement would be accomplished in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1-4 HCSB)
So, what are the implications of Jesus’ words for our lives? We live in a world that is more and more hostile to the truth of scripture and to the authority of Jesus over life. Instead of being transformed by Him, we simply want Him to bless our choices, accept our self-defined identities, ignore our sinful choices and dole out eternal benefits based on our expectations and desires.
Ok, so what? Isn’t that what I really need? Well, only if you think that Jesus is crazy and a liar.
However, if you are willing to hear and understand Mark’s story as divine truth then hear Jesus’ words: “Whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother.” What is the will of God? Go back and reread that statement I made at the beginning of our discussion, “love God with all of your heart, soul, mind and strength.” There is no greater relationship and no greater personal sacrifice. What? Yes, no greater sacrifice. It means that we must love God more than we love our own self, love God more than we love life, itself. That is the essence of this story regarding Jesus’ family. They want Him to love His own life more than He desired to do God’s will. They wanted Him to love Himself more than He loved God.
Wait, if Jesus is God then isn’t that the same thing? Ah, this is where we encounter the conflict between the humanity and the divinity of Christ, the struggle between man’s will and God’s will, and we see this most clearly in Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. While I don’t have time to delve into the depths of this issue, let me tell you that there are basically two schools of thought on this issue of Jesus’ humanity. First, there’s the view of Jesus as being fully human and fully God but completely incapable of sin. Next, there’s the view Jesus is fully human and fully God but capable of choosing sin and disobedience to God but chose to be obedient and DIDN’T sin. I fall into this second group and it is entirely based on the verse that says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tested in every way as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us at the proper time.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 HCSB) If that doesn’t clarify it for you, consider this: If Jesus was incapable of choosing sin then He didn’t fully know the depth of our weakness and the temptation to sin but this verse says He does know and we can approach with boldness knowing we will received mercy and find grace.
When Jesus was confronted by the choice to obey His need to eat and satisfy His own desires to rest as the crowd demanded His attention, He chose to love God and His will more than His own needs and desires. When He was confronted by the choice to love His mother and her desires for Him (to stop, rest, eat and come with her) more than God’s desires for Him, He chose to obey God and disobey His mother. You may think that I’ve pushed this further than the story supports, but I challenge you to go back and read that final verse: “whoever does the will of God is My brother and sister and mother. (Mk 3:35)” That statement implies that His family was wanting Him to act in opposition to God’s will but He chose to remain in obedience to God and to define His family by those who will join Him in obedience to God and His will for their lives.
So, what are the implications of Jesus’ words for our lives? Well, the implications are quite serious and far reaching. Our world likes to stress that “we are all God’s children” but Jesus clearly defines His family (and God’s children) as those who desire to do God’s will. We are all made in the image of God, but we are not all children of God. We have the potential but not necessarily the desire to do God’s will and to love Him more than we love ourselves. John put it this way, “He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:11-13 HCSB)
What do you want most in life, your will or God’s will? Who do you love most, God or yourself? That’s the core question of scripture and the hardest choice you’ll ever make. To borrow a movie phrase, “choose wisely.” Zig Ziglar once said, “You can have what you want in life, you just can’t have everything.” What Zig was saying is that some things in life are mutually exclusive. You can’t have two things take first place in your life. To put it simply, you can’t love God above everything and everyone else while still loving yourself first and foremost. Not possible. What do you want most in life? God’s will that involves some sacrifice and pain but results in perfect peace and satisfaction? Or your will that avoids all sacrifice and pain but always seems to come up short of what you’d hoped it would be?