Mark 3:32-35. NRSV
A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
My first reaction when I read these verses this morning was, “But Mary did the will of God, or you wouldn’t be here. How can you say she isn’t your mother?”. I mean, Mary is pretty much the poster child for doing God’s will. Then I realized Jesus didn’t say anything like that. He wasn’t rejecting his blood relatives. He was teaching a lesson expanding the definition of family. But I heard rejection. My first reaction was to jump to conclusions and get defensive on Mary’s behalf.
I wonder if Mary and Jesus’ brothers heard the same thing I did. There’s no way to know, of course. Mark and the other Gospel writers didn’t record their response to Jesus’ words. For all we know, Jesus come over and gave them all hugs, then had dinner with them while they all discussed the family of God as an expansion on the family of Joseph. Or the other way, the family of Joseph as a microcosm of the family of God.
When I started attending 12 Step meetings I heard people begin their sharing with “Hi Family.” It took a while for me to understand why they said that but eventually I came to realize that I often felt closer to these people than to some of my blood relations. We had a common purpose. We were dedicated to helping each other heal and grow. We shared a set of beliefs that revolved around a loving God. Over a period of time this group became family, and that family was so extended that where ever I traveled from then on, I could find family members who would accept me just as I was. This doesn’t mean that my family of birth wasn’t still my family. It just means that my family had gotten much larger.
I think that’s kind of the point Jesus was making that day. Not that Mary and his brothers were no longer family, but that the family had grown to include everyone whose desire it was to obey God’s will. We might not all agree on tradition or practice or even what God’s will is on any given topic. We might even fight as siblings often do. But we are all siblings, God’s beloved children, one family in Christ.
God our Father, thank for this family you have welcomed us into. May we always remember that even in our differences we are all your children. Let us reject no one who follows you, but welcome all into that same family of Christ. Amen.