Keeping Focus on Family through Self-Indulgent Summer
Whatever family friendly sit-com you grow up watching- whether the I Love Lucy, Full House, or Home Improvement, the source of the laughs and the heart-tugs are the same- family can be rough sometimes. We can all see the elements of dysfunction, and fortunately, all share a laugh of emphathy when we see it acted out before us. Family- can’t live with ’em, can’t live without them.
Jesus had some rough run ins with his family. In Mark 3:20-25, we see a sort of literary “sandwich” that Mark’s gospel is well known for: where two similar events (the top and bottom bread slices) bookend another event or pericope in the middle (the “meat”), which is the highlighted part, although both slices and the filling are all oriented around a big idea. In Mark 3:20-35, we see Jesus returns “home,” and is called crazy by his own family (v 20-21). Then, the accusations get worse: in 22-23, some elite scholarly teachers of the Torah make a trip out from Jerusalem, to bring an even more jaw-dropping claim: “Jesus’ exorcisms are not done by the power of God,” they claim, “but it is because Jesus is possessed by Satan himself that they listen to his commands! In some well known verses that follow, Jesus shows how this claim is absurd, and logically, doesn’t even stand on its own two feet. But then, he brings them a warning for their audacious claim: Jesus, the one with the authority to save sins, can save man of every blaspheme, but warns of the eternally devastating warning that the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, leaves someone in big trouble (3:29).
But THEN, Mark returns to this picture of family. Those gathered together try to grab Jesus’ attenston, to let him know that his biological mother and brothers are looking for them.
But, how does Jesus respond? With a dramatic poise, Jesus replies “Who IS my mother and my brothers…?” Then, looking around, taking a slow panoramic scan of each person sitting around him in a circle, Jesus responds “Behold, my brothers and my mother!” You see, it is not biological ties, but the fact of whether one “does the will of God” that determines membership into the family that knows truth, the family that is genuine, and the family that Jesus belongs too.
Does Jesus’ biological family get it? No. And the religious pros? Well, they’re even worse off. But Jesus’ disciples, those who will are following, are the one’s who receive, these have he highest honor of being Jesus true family.
So, what does discipleship look like in the Kingdom of God? Discipleship isn’t only about who your following- it comes with expectations about knowing and living with the rest of your fellow followers.
For the person in the 21st century today, one who comes from such an individualistic culture, realizing how penetratingly powerful the shock value of that statement was- coming from a strong group, collectivist society- was tantamount on going and pulling the TV plug on the Superbowl. It shook up the norm, and it got people’s attention. Yet, what is even sadder? This beautiful picture that the church is the true family of Jesus… is probably even more lost and incomprehensible. “Wait, I’m suppose to sacrifice my time, and give my money to support my brothers and sister’s in the church, even more-so than my unsaved brother in law, or my non-believing sister?” No, that can’t be write- the Bible is all about family! That can’t be what it means!”
But actually… it is. Jesus is very clear that your real brother is that one you serve along side with in your neighborhood canvassing, not that silly goose who gobbles down turkey with you at every Thanksgiving Reunion. Our real brothers and sisters, are our true human priority.
So, why write about this now? Well, summer means some change for many people- for some it means vacation. For some, we use vacation to visit families. Others, use it to escape our families! But regardless, summer is normally a season of “break,” a season of rest, a season when many “take time for themselves.” Well, rest is good- the Bible is clear on that. But one of the traps about thinking about our private retreats and relaxing for ourselves, it to lose sight of the fact that our obligation and our commitment to our true family doesn’t vanish in this time. And, if we do visit blood family… let us not forget who Jesus shows us our family to be.