The Gospel according to Mark reports that even though Jesus’ miracles were genuine and the crowds heard him speak truth with authority there were those whose eyes, while listening, registered complete disbelief and even scorn.
On occasion it was the Pharisees. They listened and then tried to tie his words into contradictory knots. Even the chief priests, the assumed spiritual leaders of Israel, attempted to trip him up when he spoke words of truth. Measures of mistrust seemed unavoidable around him.
As calm and restrained as Jesus must have appeared, living under a cloud of undeserved disbelief must have cut him deeply. Especially so when it came from those nearest and dearest. What happens to any human when those as close as family discredit words spoken in truth?
Mark reports an unusual case of this mistrust (Mark 3:20, 21; 6:31,32). Early in his ministry, Jesus entered a house to eat. But the news spread and soon a crowd had gathered to ask their questions and present their urgent needs. The intrusion was so great, it was impossible for him and his disciples to eat.
Meanwhile, from a distance his immediate family heard of the crowds and miracles and assumed he had lost his mind. They set out for Capernaum where Jesus was. Their urgent mission? They were going to “take charge of him”.
In Chapter 6 Mark tells us just who comprised that family. It was his mother Mary, and brothers James, Joseph, Judas and Simon, along with unnamed sisters. Assuming there are at least two sisters we can say Jesus is the eldest of at least seven. He is approximately 30 years of age so they are all younger.
Imagine this family — at least six siblings and a mother — coming onto the already crowded scene. In spite of his miracles and teachings they assume he is in some way deranged. We may excuse them for not understanding but why so mistrustful?
By this time Jesus has been affirmed by the mighty John the Baptist at his Baptism (Mark 1: 9), has received the witness of Heaven that he is the Father’s beloved Son (Mark 1:11), has begun to choose his disciples for extended mission (Mark 1:16 — 20), has been looked at with awe for casting out a demon in the synagogue at Capernaum (Mark 1:21 – 28), and now he is in the midst of a houseful of people who are seeking his help.
Yet his own earthly family marches into this crowded setting full of mistrust. They wait outside and ask for him to come out. They pronounce to whomever will hear, “He is out of his mind” (Mark 1:21). Even his siblings didn’t believe the messianic claims they must have heard him make.
We are not told the end of this episode. Whether he went with them or not is unclear. We are not told how he responded on the spot. All we can be sure of, as the Hebrew letter tells us, is that ”he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He did not sin in response to this unpleasant mistrust.
In fact, the moment gave him a wonderful opportunity to say to those who were sitting in a circle around him and who were disposed to hear: You say my mother and my brothers are asking for me? Then motioning to the circle that surrounded him he says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
This is not a renunciation of his human family connections. He was surely a model of love and respect for the earthly family as he grew up (Luke 2:51, 52) and for his mother from his cross (John 19:25–27). But the family slight gave him opportunity to declare how closely connected believers will be in the kingdom he has come to establish.
Radical obedience to him connects us in profound ways not only to Him but also to one another — brothers and sisters in the faith.
Photo credit: israeltourism (via flickr.com)