2019-3-10 The Family

The Family
Mark 3:20-21, 31-35

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” [1]

This is the Word of God for the people of God. Thanks be to God.

Prayer of Illumination:

Lord God, you Word is everlasting and unchanging. It was true when you first spoke it and it is true even now. May you give all wisdom necessary to understand your holy and inspired Word. May the Holy Spirit be renewing our hearts and making it so that we can apply your Word in our lives and reflect your Son our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

There’s a saying, “Blood is thicker than water”. It’s a relatively popular saying. And it means that the identity one has as being part of the family is what defines someone. It says that the familial bond is greater than all else.

One of the best illustrations of this idea is William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Romeo and Juliet is the tale of two star crossed lovers who fall in love after meeting at a ball. There’s just one problem. Romeo is a Montague and Juliet is a Capulet. Those families are sworn enemies. Any fraternizing between the two is inconceivable. The family is the source of their identity and greatest bond. Blood is thicker than water.

Or we could look at American history and see the longstanding feud between the Hatfields and the McCoys. Their identity was found in being a Hatfield and not a McCoy. Or it was found in being a McCoy and not a Hatfield. Their identity was found in their family and it was their great bond. Blood is thicker than water.

That would have been the understanding in first century Palestine. You family was your identity; it was your great bond. That is still the case in traditional cultures. The family is your identity; it is your greatest bond.

When Jesus’ family hears what is happening, they come to take him home. They think he’s gone mad; that he’s lost his mind. There is probably some shame and embarrassment at what they are hearing. So the go to take Jesus home.

When they reach the house that Jesus is in, they can’t enter. The crowd is too thick. There are too many bodies pack in between them and Jesus. So they tell some in the crowd that they have come, hoping that Jesus will come out. They want him to stop what they perceive as nonsense and come back with them. The want the bond they have as family to supersede this teaching adventure; they want his identity to be in the family and not embarrassing them.

Jesus responds in the most shocking way possible. He looks around the room at those sitting at his feet and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” What Jesus is saying here is that our identity is ultimately found in the heavenly family. Blood may be thicker than water but faith is thicker than blood. That supersedes all other bonds.

As we look at this important truth of the Christian faith, we’ll see what it means for the Church and what it means for families.

What It Means for the Church

First it means that as Christians, we are adopted children of God. We often talk about everyone being a child of God. That’s not exactly true biblically speaking. Biblically speaking, those who are children of God are believers.

Jesus says here that those who are sitting at his feet are his brothers and sisters. The ones sitting at his feet are the disciples; it’s the twelve he has called to himself as apostles and others who he has called to follow him. Those who sit at his feet, learn from Jesus, and do the will of God are the ones that Jesus calls brothers and sisters.

The Apostle John says something very similar in the opening of his gospel. John writes, “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Being a child of God is not something that is inherent to being a human. Being human means that we bear the divine image but does not mean that each and every one of us is a child of God. The right to be a child of God comes only through faith. It is through faith that we are adopted into the family of God.

I keep saying adopted because there is only one begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”[2]

Jesus is the only with a right to say that he has always been, is, and always will be the son of God. But those of us who have been redeemed, those of us who have been brought out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, are able to call God Father. We have been adopted through faith in Jesus Christ.

Adoption is the work of all three persons of the Godhead. God the Father plans from all eternity; God the Son redeems the elect through his death on the cross; God the Spirit stamps the seal of adoption on our hearts.

The Apostle Paul tells us this in Galatians . In verse 4-7 he writes, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

Second it means as Christians we have brothers and sisters throughout the globe. Believers all over the earth are our brothers and sisters. Just as we are adopted into the heavenly family through faith in Jesus Christ, so too are believers in Africa, China, India, and South America. We have brothers and sisters who speak different languages than we do, brothers and sisters who have different skin tones than we have, brothers and sisters who have a different understanding of politics.

Unfortunately this truth has been neglected in America. The most glaring example of how we have neglected this is the issue of slavery. While many slave owners considered themselves to be Christian, they did not treat African-American believers as brothers and sisters in Christ.

Even after the abolishment of slavery, we have still often failed to treat African-American Christians as brothers and sisters. That is something we need to repent of. We need to repent of how we have treated our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.

When we treat a fellow believer as though they are not a brother or sister, as though they are not part of the heavenly family, we hurt our Father. We hurt God when we do that. It’s like when as children you would fight with your siblings. Don’t deny it, I know you did. I have a brother and we fought. My brother and I aren’t that different from you. And I know that if we fought, you and your siblings fought. And I know that it hurt my parents. And since I know it hurt my parents, I know it hurt you parents.

I don’t have children, but the kids I coach I care for. And when the kids would fight with one another, it hurt me. And if that hurt me, how much more does it hurt our heavenly Father when his children fight amongst themselves?

About two years ago, Ken Parker had joined with other neo-Nazis at a rally. While he was there, Parker met filmmaker Deeya Khan. Khan was there making a documentary about the rise of neo-Nazism in America. Despite saying unabashedly racist things to and about Khan, Parker was impressed with Khan’s kindness to him and he left thinking and re-evaluating what he believed about non-whites.

A few months later, Parker was still re-evaluating his beliefs when his African-American neigh was having a cookout by the pool in their apartment complex. As the sunset, Parker walked up and began talking with the host of the cookout. What Parker didn’t know was that the man he was speaking with, William McKinnon, is a pastor. McKinnon and Parker kept meeting to talk for several weeks until he invited the former neo-Nazi to attend an Easter service.

At this Easter service, Parker was moved by the message that Jesus came into the world to redeem sinners. Parker recognized he was a sinner and in need of the grace of God found in Jesus Christ. Parker repented of his sin and recognized that McKinnon was his brother in Christ. When he found his identity in the heavenly family as an adopted son, he recognized that while blood may be thicker than water, but faith is thicker than blood.

Let us recognize and treat fellow Christians across the globe as our brothers and sisters regardless of their ethnicity, culture, language, and political affiliation. Those things are not what define our identity. Our identity is ultimately defined as adopted children of God.
That’s what it means for the Church that our identity is found in Christ. What about the family?

What It Means for the Family

With our identity ultimately found in Christ, the idol of family is cut off. An idol can be anything that we put in the place of God. It does not have to be a statue that represents a god. It can be sports, or money, or even family. Simply put an idol is anything we find our ultimate identity in.

In traditional cultures, like the one Jesus ministered in, family often becomes an idol. It is easy for that to happen as the family matters more than the individual and therefore it can become the place where someone gets his identity from.

And in the Church we can easily make the family an idol. We rightly recognize that marriage was instituted at creation and that the family is the primary place where people learn the faith. But at times we can idolize it; at times we can make it the place of ultimate identity. We can take something that is a good thing and make it an ultimate thing.

That’s what was happening in Romeo and Juliet. The two families had made an idol out of the family. That was the place where they said someone’s ultimate identity was found. That’s what was happening with that Hatfields and the McCoys.

The truth is, if we try to find our ultimate identity in our families we will end up crushing them. We’ll do untold damage to our children. We’ll put too much pressure on them to succeed. We’ll make excuses for their sins and enable them in their sin. We’ll hurt our spouse as we’ll put too much weight on their shoulders to meet needs they can’t really meet.

So how do we prevent that from happening? We let our identity be found ultimately in Jesus. When we do that, we won’t make an idol out of our families. We’ll recognize that blood may be thicker than water but faith is thicker than blood. When we do that, we won’t put too much pressure on our children and grandchildren; we won’t make excuses for them; we won’t put unrealistic expectations on our spouse. When we find our identity in Christ, it’ll actually make us better parents, grandparents, children, husbands, and wives.

As we do that, we’ll find that our family is actually bigger than we imagined it could ever be. We’ll find that our family is made up of hundreds of thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ. We’ll find those who can help us grow in our faith; those who have been in similar situations and can guide us through our troubles. We’ll find brothers and sisters who have thought more deeply and fully about how our faith can play out in certain situations.

Two thousand years ago Jesus made a shocking pronouncement. He said that “whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother”. He said that our ultimate identity is to be found in him; that if we have faith in him, we are adopted children of God; and that faith in him frees us from idolizing our families.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Mk 3:20-21, 31–35). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[2] Historic Creeds and Confessions. (1997). (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Lexham Press.