Jesus is Mistrusted by His Family – A Powerful Lesson

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A fourth century synagogue in Capernaum

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.

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Photo credit: israeltourism (via flickr.com)

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3 thoughts on “Jesus is Mistrusted by His Family – A Powerful Lesson

  1. Hi Bishop: Once again you’ve done a good job in opening up scriptures. I wonder if Mark’s story took place so early in His ministry that the negative was a lot of what was in the air. Hard to speculate–but a good lesson for us each to keep on no matter the problems. Roy

  2. Your reflection on this text came at the right moment for me! I was seeking insight into what to use for the coming Sunday’s sermon. It’s the first Sunday in Lent, but also a festive time with dedication of a new baby, first grandchild of one of our leading members, with a number of visitors expected. I think I may focus on both the cost of obedience as demonstrated by Jesus, but also the idea of “welcome to the family of Jesus,” with the emphasis that we nurture and guide this child best by being more loyal to Jesus and his “family” than to anyone or anything else, no matter how close by blood or interest. THANKS, Pastor Bastian, you have helped me again!

  3. Jesus often talks of people having eyes to see and ears to hear , I notice. But some eyes and ears can’t or won’t see and hear the truth before them. During His earthly mission, Jesus faced constant heckling and doubt ,often by the rich and powerful ,members of the temple establishment .Conversely Jesus often met blind faith and loving trust in the most lowly in society.

    At the beginning of Lent I read Mark through in one sitting. It’s a compact account of Jesus’s human life on earth. – from the cousin who pointed the way to Him, and through Christ’s baptism, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection .We see a recurring blindness and deafness to Jesus’ truth. Also many attempts to discredit and even destroy Jesus , to just make Him go away .But Jesus won’t go away, not even upon death.

    The constant niggling mistrust of Jesus must have been tiresome to Him. When Christ’s own community ,the neighbors He grew up alongside, even His own kin, questioned and doubted Him it must have hurt Him deeply.I think of the English ‘peasant poet’ John Clare’s words in ‘I Am’. Forsaken by friends and family,the poet laments

    ’And e’en the dearest, that I loved the best
    Are strange – nay ,rather stranger than the rest’’ John Clare.

    A stranger in his own country,his own village,even his own house ! John Clare’s nearest and dearest said he had lost his mind.

    Roman Catholic tradition insists on the permanent virginity of Mary. Yet In Mark , the Bible talks of Jesus’ brothers and sisters. This always confused me .Non canonical writings go into great detail about the names and ages of Jesus’ siblings but I thought these were legends.

    How exactly are Jesus’ siblings in Mark related to Him , I wondered . Children of Joseph ? Children of Joseph and Mary? Extended kin ? Honorary family ? These questions have been pondered and exegeted from Scripture for two thousand years.

    On the Cross Jesus gave his beloved John to His mother, as if she needed a son, for with Jesus gone she would have no child to care for her in her old age. That is one perspective of the Johanine gospel.Mark’s Gospel ,however states clearly Jesus had brothers and sisters.

    Exactly what did brother and sister mean in first century Jewish society,to a man like Mark.? I’m not even sure if Mark was of a Jewish family or a Roman like his name suggests. Romans constantly refer to brothers and sisters who are not blood kin but children one grew up with, extended kin. They do so even with fathers and sons.

    Jesus says in the Bible that His family are His disciples. Jesus’ blood kin are not central to His story,as Jesus Himself says –

    ‘’ Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

    It’s interesting to ponder Jesus’ family life. I often do. I wonder when Joseph passed and left Mary alone to raise Jesus. Of course extended family was important .then. Which may explain why Jesus was not immediately missed , a day out of Jerusalem, when He remained behind at ‘His Father’s house’.

    Mary and Joseph may have assumed their 12 year old boy was safe among His many extended family members in another stretch of the caravan of pilgrims returning from Jerusalem. Did all the community look after each other’s children ,as in a modern Israeli kibbutz?

    But this is historical detail, and speculation at that , The heart of Jesus’s story is in spiritual truth not historical detail. So I find myself accepting Mark while reading Mark and John while reading John , understanding these are written from different perspectives and though details may vary, central spiritual truth is actually reinforced by natural discrepancy. Humans witness, remember and pass down the story of great events differently .But in essence the truth is clear.

    It would be very unusual for a home in Nazareth to have only one child ,back then, I’m thinking. .Whether half brothers and sisters,step brothers and sisters ,adopted brothers and sisters – family are family .Blood may run deeper than water, but love runs deeper than blood. My own sister has a different father to me but is not half as dear to me for that.She is fully my beloved big sister.

    So what if our family did not believe in us? There are sayings that every father is a hero in his son’s eyes, and every husband is a hero in his wife’s eyes. This could extend to all family relations. But what if this broke down ,and our family doubted and mistrusted us, didn’t believe in us ?

    That would be a terrible cross to bear. How would we react –with petulance or anger of another kind ? Would we lash back and speak angrily or insultingly.We know Jesus did not, because He is uniquely without sin .Just as you point to ,Pastor Don. Hebrews 4:15 is one important verse that confirms this.

    We cherish and love our families. Family is a God given blessing .But who is the most important and essential center of our lives ,without whom we are nothing : God ! Just so, the most important family in our lives must be Christ’s family ,the brothers and sisters in Christ ,the body of Christ which we were baptized and born again into .

    I see this ‘Just Call Me Pastor’ develops the theme of the demands Christ makes upon us us , f we are to be His disciple. Radical obedience is a very good way of putting it.

    The demands are great , the rewards even greater.

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