“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35 ESV)
Mark chapter 3 is a text containing great distinctions. We’ve seen the distinction between the religious leaders, who used feeble men as pawns in their scheme to trap Jesus, and the true Rabbi, Jesus himself, who healed and helped people even on the Sabbath. We’ve seen the distinction between true and false followers of Jesus: those who trailed behind because of what they can get out of Jesus and those who truly believed in him. We’ve seen the distinction between those who count Jesus’ power as nothing short of demonic and those who recognize the power of God. In each of these instances, the point of contention is Jesus himself. He is the stumbling block that is to be embraced or rejected. He divides the masses.
There is one more distinction that Mark brings to light in this chapter, and it may hit home more deeply than all the rest: the family. In verses 31-35, Jesus teaches the distinction between earthly families and true families of God. And once again, the common factor is how you approach Jesus.
Jesus had an earthly family. Joseph, his earthly father, is not in this scene. It’s been suggested that he passed away by this time. Mary, his earthly mother is here, as are his siblings. Jesus grew up in a rather large family. He knows all the trials and tensions that come with this. But when it was reported to him that his family was looking for him, Jesus declared that his true family consists of those who “do the will of God.”
Such a statement can be taken as an insult to those who hold to a “family first” philosophy. But Jesus is teaching and modeling something for all of us. While we should love and appreciate our earthly families, there is an eternal family that must take priority. Our blood-bought Christian brothers and sisters are our true family. They are the ones we are called to live in unity with, to bear their burdens, to work together in the Great Commission, to love with the love of Christ, and to spend our eternities with.
Two often, believers put their earthly families in front of their heavenly family. Re-prioritizing this order is no easy task. Jesus even told us he came to bring division among families (Luke 12:51). But to be a disciple of Jesus is to abandon everything that holds us back from following Jesus, including family (Luke 14:26). May the Lord use his word to grant us a deeper appreciation for the family of God!