18 January 2016Mark 3:31-35
“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” (v. 35)
Psalm: Psalm 13
What an interesting passage with which to begin the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity! In an even stronger challenge than yesterday this continues the theme of the Gospel writers seeing faith and discipleship being stronger ties to Jesus than family.
Some have seen these verses as Jesus rejecting his family, after their attempt earlier in the chapter to restrain him (Mark 3:21). However, that is not easily reconciled with his later actions with Mary at the cross or indeed with James his brother becoming an apostle and leader in the early Church (see, for example, Galatians 1:1; 2:9). If he did reject them then certainly there also seems to have been reconciliation later.
Perhaps here we can see Jesus demonstrating an ability to neither cave in to family trying to take us away from the call of God to faithful discipleship nor cease to love and support our families - a tightrope that will frequently be challenging for us.
In this passage Jesus replaces that blood family with the relationship he offers to disciples (just as John's Gospel highlighted Mary's movement from family to disciple in yesterday's passage).
Jesus offers something rather different to other passages, where the relationship is more commonly that of a child (Mark 10:15; John 1:12) or friend. Here we learn that disciples are like brother, sister and mother which overturns hierarchy. The idea of Jesus declaring that his disciples can have a relationship to him as that of a mother is astounding.
In this time of prayer for Christian Unity, coming after the struggles within the global Anglican Communion last week, the example of Jesus who welcomes and does not reject (even when his family have tried to restrain and take him away from his calling) is very powerful.
- How does it feel to be a sister or brother of Jesus in contrast to a child of or friend of? In what ways is it helpful or challenging?
- How do we handle those who reject our beliefs and even those who try to take us away from them?
- In what ways might we treat people from other traditions as sisters and brothers? How might this change things?