18 January 2016
“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
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
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
- 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
- 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?
Bible notes author: The Revd Dave
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