The Text: Mark 3:31-35 – His brothers and His mother then came there, and standing outside, they sent to Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers outside are looking for you.”
And He answered them, saying, “Who is my mother or my brothers?” And He looked around at those who were sitting around Him, and said, “Behold, my mother and my brethren! For whoever will do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.”
Jesus gave some difficult commands in His life, but they were always ones that He Himself was ready to follow as well. He has been preaching and teaching, proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the face of opposition from His associates (who thought He was crazy) and the scribes (who claimed He was possessed by Satan), but He didn’t stop. And now, Jesus’ family shows up, wanting Him to stop teaching so He can come talk to them.
The Text, part 1 – Earthly Family Calling (Mark 3:31-32).
Satan uses peer pressure and false accusations to try to disrupt God’s work. That’s what he did against Jesus earlier in this chapter. Now, he uses another—very potent—device to try to stop Jesus: His own family.
Then, there came His brothers and His mother
Let’s just get this out of the way from the start. These aren’t Jesus’ cousins. These are the children of Mary and Joseph, all younger than Jesus, who arrived with their mother, Mary. Matthew 13:55-56 shows that Jesus was known by the people in His own area as “the carpenter’s son” whose mother was named “Mary,” and “His brethren, James and Joses and Simon and Judas” and who had “sisters.” It is ridiculous to claim, as the Catholics do, that the people who knew Jesus had to identify Him by His earthly father and mother, and then rattle off the names of four of His cousins, and then add that He’s got female cousins (“sisters”) too. These are the actual brothers (half-brothers, to be specific) of Jesus who have come with Mary.
Some Greek manuscripts also include “sisters” with this group that was trying to get to Jesus.
This is the family that Jesus has known His whole earthly life. He certainly had a spot in His heart for them. Even though John 7 portrays them as non-believers, He visited James after the resurrection, which led to all of the brothers being present in Jerusalem, gathered with the disciples (Acts 1:13-14), and later becoming well-known Christian examples (1 Corinthians 9:5). So these brothers of Jesus were not beyond reaching with the gospel, and Jesus knew that. This fact would have made it very tempting for Jesus to go talk to them and try to convince them to believe in Him.
Standing outside, sent to Him, calling Him
Luke tells us that they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the massive crowd of people (Luke 8:19) who were sitting around Jesus, so instead of going to Him, they began calling to Him. The Greek word is “phoneo,” which means they were using their voices. So, they were telling people at the edge of the crowd, “Tell Jesus that we’re out here, and that we are looking for Him.” So, from the edge of the crowd, this message was sent (the Greek word is “apostello”) until it reached Jesus.
The multitude sat around Him
This is something that only Mark mentions. Remember that earlier in the chapter, those close to Jesus thought He was crazy because He was allowing these massive crowds of people to crowd around Him. But Jesus is in no danger of being crushed. The multitude is sitting around Him.
They said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”
The message had made its way through who knows how many people to finally get to Jesus. He’s told that they are “seeking” Him. The same word is used in Matthew’s account, where it is translated “desiring” to speak to Jesus (Matthew 12:46-47). In other words, they wanted Jesus to stop what He was doing and come outside to talk to His physical family.
The Text, part 2 – True Family Identified (Mark 3:33-35)
As Jesus’ family stood outside, the crowd looked at Him, probably wondering what He would do. Would He stop preaching and teaching to go talk to them? Would He send them a message back through the multitude? Would He ignore them?
He answered them, saying “Who is my mother or my brothers?”
As literally-minded as some of Jesus’ disciples were, you have to think that some of them were quite confused by this statement. What? Jesus, you know…your mother? Mary? Don’t you remember her? And your brothers, the ones you lived with for years? What do you mean, “Who is my mother or brothers?” Maybe this statement, for a moment, reinforced the idea that some of them had that Jesus had lost His mind.
But Jesus wasn’t pleading ignorance, nor was He crazy. He was asking a question to get the people to start thinking. He wanted them to start thinking about which relationships are most important. He wanted them to change their focus from the physical to the spiritual.
He looked around at those who sat around Him
This is Jesus pausing for effect, looking at the people who were listening, making sure they are paying attention. Then Jesus lifts up His hand, and points it towards His disciples (Matthew 12:46-47).
And [He] said, “Behold my mother and brethren!”
The crowd had said “Behold, your mother and brother are outside,” and Jesus’ response is “Behold, my mother and brother” are right here! Jesus explains what He means by this in the next verse, but I want you to put yourself in the shoes of Mary, or of James, Jude, Simon, or Joses. The message certainly got back to them, and it probably didn’t make the brothers too happy. But what about Mary? Do you think another incident popped into her head? Perhaps an incident that the Bible says “she kept…in her heart”?
Now His [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother did not know it. But they, supposing He was with the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought them among their relatives and acquaintances. And when they did not find Him, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him [this is the same word as in Mark 3:32]. And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions. And all that heard were astonished at His understanding and answers. And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you dealt this way with us? Behold, your father and I have sought you, sorrowing.” And He said to them, “How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them. And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51).
Even from the time Jesus was 12 years old, He knew the difference between His earthly family and His true family. The incident from Jesus’ boyhood, along with the incident in Mark 3, shows us without a doubt that Jesus knew which family was most important.
For whoever shall do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.
Now, just to make things crystal clear, Jesus isn’t saying that His disciples were somehow His spiritual mother (or sisters). He is saying that His true family is the spiritual family. His true family are the people who obey the Father’s will. Here’s something that you might want to contemplate: your earthly family is only temporary. Your spiritual family is forever. But praise God when your earthly family is counted as part of your spiritual family too!
The Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed You. And Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30).
The ones who have put Jesus ahead of their earthly family will receive a much greater family—brothers and sisters of untold numbers—here, in this life. A person who obeys the gospel immediately gains a family of brothers and sisters in Christ—and new family members are made every day!
Jesus warned about placing your physical family ahead of Him—being a disciple of Jesus must come first in your life!
[Jesus] said to them, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).
Jesus isn’t saying that you have to despise your family, but He is saying that you have to put Him first. Earthly ties are to be secondary to your ties to Jesus Christ.
Put Your Family First—Your TRUE Family.
I don’t need to tell you that people have fallen away from God, left the family of God (the church, 1 Timothy 3:15), because of their physical family. Maybe it’s a domineering husband who berates his wife for going to worship with the saints. Maybe it’s a wife whose religious ties are to a denomination, and she’s nagged or guilted her husband into joining her. Maybe it’s someone who has children who are living in wickedness, but they can’t bring themselves to admit that they are lost, so they stop worshiping with the saints, lest someone ask about them, or lest they hear a lesson that deals with the sins that their children happen to be guilty of. I know a man who left the church and tried to split it on his way out because someone dared to tell him that it was wrong for his daughter to be cheating on her husband.
We must be like Jesus, and realize that regardless of our earthly ties, it is our Father’s family, our true family that matters the most.
How Do I Become Part of God’s Family?
We become part of a physical family by being born into it. Similarly, in order to become part of God’s family, Jesus’ family, the spiritual family, the family that Jesus claimed as His own, we must be born into it as well. But this birth isn’t something done when you come out of your mother’s womb. Since this is a spiritual family, it requires a spiritual birth.
“Truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to [Jesus], “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).
James 1:18 says “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” The word “begat,” when describing a father’s actions, means that he has provided the seed so that a new creature can be born. In the genealogical lists, it is said “Adam begat Seth” or “Abraham begat Isaac” and so on. The fathers didn’t give birth to them, but they provided the seed so that a birth could follow. When God begat us, He provided the seed so that a birth could follow. But what was that seed?
James tells us that it is “the word of truth”
The seed that God provided so that our new birth could take place is the word of God. The word of God is described as the seed from which Christians come (Luke 8:11). In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus described the seed (the word of God) as going to people’s hearts. When it took hold of good and honest hearts, Christians came forth.
There is NO CHANCE of being born again without the Scriptures—the word of truth. Some people claim they had some religious “experience” and they could tell by their “feelings” that they were saved. James says quite plainly that the new birth comes by the word of truth. Being born again doesn’t come from feelings, from experiences, or from a direct action of God upon the person. It comes from following the word of God.
Peter reiterates the same idea in saying “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and remains forever” (1 Peter 1:23). You read the Scriptures (the seed) and plant it in your heart. The birth which follows comes when you obey the commands to believe (John 3:16), repent (Acts 2:38) and be baptized (Acts 22:16).
For you are all children of God by the faith, in Christ Jesus, Because as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27).
Come be a part of God’s family today!
-Bradley S. Cobb