St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

Who Is Jesus’ Real Family?

Sermon on Mark 3:20-35

Text: Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

The idea of family evokes a feeling of closeness. You share common experiences. You have certain traditions that your family observes. Usually, you feel safe in your family setting. You can tell them things that you could never tell anyone else. You can feel free to be yourself and your family accepts you for who you are. This morning, we have the opportunity to see Jesus’ family in action. As we do so, we may be surprised at the way that his family treated him. In response to this, Jesus speaks about family and gives us opportunity to ask WHO IS JESUS’ REAL FAMILY? Is it 1. His Birth Family? Is he a part of 2. Satan’s Family? Jesus tells us about 3. His Adopted Family.

Jesus had returned to his adopted hometown of Capernaum. No sooner was Jesus’ presence known than crowds began to gather. He attracted the attention of many people. Among them were sincere inquirers, curiosity seekers and some bitter opponents. The crowds kept Jesus and his disciples so busy that they were not even able to take time to eat.

Jesus’ family became concerned, when they heard about Jesus’ activities. They heard about his miracles, the people’s desire to make him a king, and the increased opposition from the Jewish leaders. We read that “They went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Verse 21) They thought, ‘It’s insane and unhealthy how he’s spending himself. He doesn’t seem to be concerned about the welfare of his disciples, to say nothing of himself.’ As a result, Jesus’ family decided to go to Capernaum and take him home – by force, if necessary.

Jesus’ family meant well, but their actions and attitudes show that they did not believe in him as their promised Savior. Nor did they understand the necessity of using every available opportunity to share the message. What they saw was their brother, who was acting as if he was out of his mind. They did not understand Jesus and why he had come to the earth.

Before we come down too hard on his family, we would do well to ask ourselves, ‘Do we always understand Jesus?’ ‘Do we sometimes make unreasonable demands on him?’ His family wanted him to stop what he was doing. They wanted him to act in a certain way. Do we make the same sort of demands on Jesus? We come to him in prayer, which is our right and privilege. Yet, if Jesus does not answer in exactly the way that we think that he should, we think that he does not listen to us. We have the privilege of seeing Jesus from the viewpoint of history. His family saw him grow up. They knew him when. We know the whole story and still we misunderstand him.

Meanwhile, the teachers of the law, who had come from Jerusalem addressed Jesus’ activities. They were the heavy hitters of the Jewish religion, who had come to assist the local religious leaders as they challenged Jesus. Jesus had just healed a demon-possessed man, who could neither see nor speak. The teachers of the law were telling everyone, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.” (Verse 22) Beelzebul is a name of a foreign god. Later, the name became synonymous with the devil. These men accused Jesus of doing things in league with the devil.

In response, Jesus called them and showed them the foolishness of their thinking. He said, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.” (Verses 24-26) Civil war does not make a country strong. It weakens the country, as it uses its resources to fight itself. Jesus was showing them that it was preposterous to suggest that Satan would advance his kingdom by plundering his allies, the demons. When a ruler attacks his own army, his days are numbered. So, for them to say that Jesus was casting out demons using the power of the devil is just ridiculous.

Then Jesus said, “In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house.” (Verse 27) Would anyone let his goods be taken by a robber, if he was able to overpower the robber? Of course not! Robbers, using surprise or deadly force, first try to incapacitate or kill their victim. Then, they can proceed unhindered. If Jesus can cast out demons, it must be that he has defeated the devil and is stronger than the devil. Jesus was already defeating him. We remember the battle in the wilderness for those forty days. Jesus was defeating the devil at that moment with his preaching and his miracles. The final victory would come when Jesus suffered and died on the cross and rose again. Satan would be powerless to stop Jesus from plundering his kingdom. Mankind would be freed from the devil’s stronghold.

Jesus warned the teachers of the law in love when he said, “Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.” (Verses28-29) Here we have the one sin that cannot be forgiven. The Jewish leaders were in great danger of committing this sin. It is the sin of unbelief. The Holy Spirit had testified to them, through the preaching and teaching of Jesus, as well as through his miracles. They were resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. If they continued to do so, they would be lost forever. For where there is no faith, there is no forgiveness. Where there is no forgiveness, there is no salvation. Some have been worried they have committed the “unforgivable sin.” However, if you are worried that you have committed it, you have not. Otherwise, you wouldn’t care if you had or not.

When we read the actions of these teachers of the law, we are shocked at them. How could they ascribe wickedness to Jesus’ actions of healing? Yet don’t we do the same thing sometimes? We ask God for something, but don’t get what we ask. We assume that God is out to get us. We forget that everything in our lives happens to us is all according to God’s loving plan. No, we may not see it now. No, we may not understand this side of glory why things occur in our lives. Yet, we have God’s promise that he will always be with us and cause everything to work out for our benefit.

As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his family arrived. Because of the crowd, they sent someone in to tell Jesus that they were there. Remember, again, why they had come. They had come to take him home, by force, if necessary, because they thought he was out of his mind. Jesus used this opportunity to express a truth that Jesus’ family, and all of us, need to take to heart. He asked, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” (Verse 33) Then, we are told that he looked at the crowd sitting around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Verses 34-35) Jesus is not rejecting his flesh and blood family. However, he is pointing out that in the kingdom of God, the Church, there is something more important than human relationships.

Jesus said his real family is “whoever does God’s will.” At first, when we read that statement, we might be filled with fear. The reason for this is the fact that none of us has done God’s will. Since we are talking about family, we ask ourselves if we have always treated our family as we should? Have we, as spouses, always treated our spouse as the special gift from God that they are, or have we, at times, taken them for granted? Have we, as parents, always been loving to our children, or have we, at times, been selfish and petty? Have we, as children, always given our parents the love and respect that we should, or have we been disobedient and disrespectful? This is just in our relationships in our family. It doesn’t even go into our other human relationships, much less our relationship with God. It becomes quickly clear that we do not do God’s will and, because of that, do not belong in God’s family.

However, thanks be to God, that he sent his Son into the world to be our Savior. Jesus came to rescue us. He was the perfect son in his relationship with his parents. He had submitted to their authority. He would later provide for his mother, while on the cross. Then, to pay for our sins, he suffered and died. Our debt before our God has been paid in full. This fact is attested to by his resurrection from the dead. We are brought into the family of God, through the working of the Holy Spirit. We have been adopted into his family. We can rightly call God “our Father,” and Jesus “our brother.” Because we are part of this family, we have the assurance that our Father will provide for us. We have the assurance that our Father will protect us. We have an eternal inheritance to look forward to in the glories of heaven. How blessed we are to be a part of God’s family!

This fact, then, causes me to look at other believers in a different light, as well. We are more than just fellow members in a congregation or a church body. It doesn’t matter our age, race, or social standing. We are brothers and sisters. We care for and about each other. We are there to help and support each other. We love each other with a Christ-like love. It also means that, when we have differences of opinion over things that are not doctrinal, we can still, at the end of the day, work together for the furthering of Christ’s kingdom. The fact that we are brothers and sisters in the faith gives us extra incentive to reach out to those who have been straying from the faith. We want them to spend their eternity with us in heaven. We love them enough to do what we can to bring them home. This is Jesus’ real family. It is us, the brothers and sisters, who have been adopted by our heavenly Father.

In 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates won the World Series, with the song “We are Family” as their theme. They were saying using this song that, no matter what, each of the members of that team was there for the other. They would be there for each other during the good times, and they would be there during the bad times, as well. They were family and they were going to stick together. You and I are family. We are part of the adopted family of God. That relationship is stronger than any pledge that might have been taken by a baseball team. That relationship is even stronger than any earthly family. We are a part of Jesus’ family, with people around the world, with people who are already in heaven and with people who will yet become a part of this family. Who is Jesus’ real family? How thankful we are that we can say, “We are.” Amen.