Who is in the family of Jesus?

Photo by Torli Roberts from FreeImages.

One of my favorite passages from Scripture is found in the Gospel according to Mark, toward the end of the third chapter:

Then [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Mark 3:31-35 New Revised Standard Version

I think this passage is so wonderful because of the encouraging and faith-giving openness and love which Christ so clearly demonstrates here.

One of the most pressing questions our conscience may put before us in this life is this: Do you belong to Christ? Are you in His will? This question can be a good one if it turns us back from a very sinful and dark life. But it can also be a burdensome question, since there will always be something in our lives that can give us reason to question ourselves. We deceive ourselves if we seriously think that we do not have sin (1 John 1:8-9). And as long as there is some sin in us, there will always be something about us that does not conform to the will of God in Jesus Christ. One might wonder, then, how can we have any kind of confidence that we belong to Christ!

This particular passage is so wonderful because of the magnanimity and generosity that Christ shows. He puts it plainly: Whoever does the will of God is the brother, sister, or mother of Christ. Now, this can sound quite intimidating. Didn’t we just finish saying that there is always something “off” about us? That we never perfectly embody the will of God? How, then, can we have any confidence that we belong to Christ? But look at what Christ says to those in the crowd: “Who are my mother and my brothers? … Here are my mother and my brothers!” (vv. 33-34). Those people who had crowded around Him, He calls His brothers, sisters, and mothers. So it must be possible for us to achieve this status, since others have achieved, it also.

But what did they do that was so wonderful? Should we understand Christ to be implying that these persons who had gathered around Him really did fulfill the entirety of the Law of God in every detail? That God could make no claim against them? Of course not. But then, what did they do that was so great as to merit being considered the brothers, sisters, and mothers of Christ?

In reality, all they did was this: to look toward Jesus, to sit and to listen to Him, and to seek everything from Him. This is all they did! They might not have been particularly good people. They might have been in conflict with each other; they might have had dark secrets in their own personal lives; they might have come from broken and dysfunctional families; they might have very many things of which to be ashamed. But they did one thing right, and Christ calls them His brothers, sisters, and mothers. What was this one thing? They gathered around Christ and looked to Him for everything. That is the “one thing that is necessary” (cf. Luke 10:38-42), and it is what made them to be the very family of Christ.

The will of God, in the most ultimate sense, is that each and every person turn toward Christ and seek everything good in Him. This is even what He said at the scene of the Transfiguration. When Jesus’ clothes had turned into a dazzling white, a great light shining about Him, and Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain talking with him, “Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to Him!’” (Mark 9:7). What God wants from us is that we all turn toward Christ.

What does it mean to “turn toward Christ”? It means to look to Him for everything. Whatever it is that we may want or need, – whether teaching, or healing, or direction, or encouragement, or whatever, – we must get it from Christ. That is why Paul talks about “Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:2-3). And Christ Himself calls us to this: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). As long as we do this, we are in the family of God; we are the brothers, sisters, and mothers of Christ. And it can be as simple as “joining the crowd” and listening to what Christ has to say. After all, this is what those in that crowd then had done, and Christ says without any further ado that they are members of His family.

This means that you, too, so long as you have come to listen to the words of Christ, are in His family. You, too, so long as you are looking toward Him for something, are the brother or sister of Christ. And merely for looking for something from Him, He gives you the most wonderful gift of all: that of being in His family, as His brother or sister, as one who belongs to Him. You belong to Christ! You are His! You are His because you recognize, however dimly or clearly, that He alone is the source of your salvation. Indeed, He loves you and considers you His own. And just as you would love a brother or a sister and do anything for their good, so also does Christ love you, more than He loves Himself even, since He gives His life for your life.