March 6, 2016
If only I could have seen Jesus walking on the earth – been with Him – then I think I would have believed. If only I could have heard His teaching with my own ears, seen His miracles with my own eyes – I think I would have believed – or, my faith would be stronger. I suppose we’ve all had that thought before.
But, we’ve discovered, that’s not necessarily true. Yes, Jesus said what He said and did what He did to prove He was the Christ, the Son of God. But even seeing, many, in fact most, did not believe. Last week we saw those who should accept Him, didn’t. Namely, the religious – the guys who read the Bible, who supposedly knew it, who were the experts in the Law – they should have been ready, when He came fulfilling those OT prophecies, to welcome the Son of God. When He came, teaching with authority, and performing undeniable miracles – healing people of every imaginable disease and casting out demons – their response should have been one of wonder, awe – even praise. But instead, their response was one of denial, and not just denial, but rejection, and not just rejection, but hostility. Their opposition reached a climax last week. No, we can’t deny Your miracles – the lame are walking, the blind are seeing, the deaf are hearing, the dead are breathing, the demon possessed are freed. But what you do, you do by the power of Satan himself.
They had heard it all, seen it all, and yet refused to believe. They had come to a settled rejection of truth. And we found, in doing so, they had committed the unpardonable sin. And so, seeing is not necessarily believing. In fact, there will always be those who oppose the truth of Christ. Those who, despite the overwhelming evidence, refuse to believe.
But, what do you do when you believe, and those around you who should believe, don’t? In fact, those around you, oppose you for believing? Let’s say, you decide to get serious about your faith. You become convinced Jesus really is worthy of worship, He’s worthy of your attention, He’s worthy of your service, He’s worthy of your life. And you get serious. And those around you who should be glad, they should be with you, aren’t? The religious around you – they profess to be Christians, they go to church, they occasionally even do Christian things. But you get serious, and they say to you, don’t get carried away. Don’t get radical. Don’t start doing what those crazy fundamentalist Christians do – they start talking to everyone about Jesus. That’s embarrassing. And for sure don’t become intolerant like those overbearing people who think Christianity is the only true religion. They’re so judgmental and intolerant. Don’t do that. What do you do when the religious around you start opposing you because you really believe Jesus is the real deal?
Further, what do you do when that opposition comes from your own family. There you go – you’ve gone off to college to get an education and you’ve gone off the deep end. What do you mean you want to go on a mission trip – isn’t that part of the world dangerous? What do you mean you want to change your major so you can go into ministry – that’s not what we paid for. What do you do when your family – mom or dad, brothers, sisters, think you’ve lost your mind? You’ve just gone too far with this Christianity thing. I’m alright with your Christian clubs on campus, but you can’t give up everything for this Jesus, can you?
What do you do when those who you wish would accept your faith and join you in your commitment – instead oppose you? What if it gets worse than that. What if they disown you because of your commitment? You understand that happens all around the world today – deny your faith, come back to our faith, or we’ll disinherit you, or we’ll cut off your head. Becoming a follower of Jesus will get you an honor killing. You do understand that opposition to Christianity is rising even here. What then?
That kind of rejection because of faith in Jesus happens all over the world, all the time. Which is kind of interesting in itself. Why do these scribes from last week, why do different religions, why do non-believing family members have to be so vigorously, even violently opposed to our faith? Can’t they just let us believe and leave us alone? They can’t – because light always exposes darkness and darkness always opposes light. They opposed Jesus, the light of the world, and they will oppose us.
Last week, we saw Mark use the first of his sandwich methods, whereby he starts a story, interrupts it to tell another story with a related theme, and then finishes the first story. Last week, we saw the meat of the sandwich being opposition to Jesus from an official delegation of scribes who came from Jerusalem. They came not to check Him out – to see if He might actually be the Christ. No, they came to oppose Him. In the midst of His marvelous teaching and those incredible miracles – they rejected Him – they opposed Him. They accused Him of being in league with Satan Himself.
If you find yourself here this morning violently and vehemently opposed to Jesus and His gospel – could I ask you to do something? Could I ask you to put aside your animosity for just a moment and consider the possibility that Jesus might just be the Son of God. That His words and works actually turned this world upside down for the better. That He came to deal with the brokenness of humanity that you have not only experienced, but you possess. That the Son of God came to die on a cross, taking your sins in His body so that you could be saved. Ask yourself this question – why are you so angry – so opposed to this story? Is it possible it’s because it’s true? Is it possible it’s because Jesus infringes on the way you want to live your life, in your brokenness?
Well, this week, let’s turn our attention to the outside of the sandwich – to the story Mark started last week and finishes today. And I want to encourage many of you today. Those who have found yourselves opposed because of your faith. And that opposition hurts – because maybe it came from your own family members – your parents, your siblings. What do you do? How can I encourage you? Let’s read the text – Mark 3:20-21, and then we’ll drop down to verses 31-35. Read.
Our two points this morning serve to encourage us in two ways:
- The Opposition of Jesus’ Family (20-21, 31-32)
- The True Identity of Jesus’ Family (33-35)
The first way I want to encourage you is this – you’re not alone. Our very Savior faced the same opposition you’ve faced. Look at that first point. Jesus came home – the only home mentioned in Mark was Peter and Andrew’s home in Capernaum. Again, the crowd gathered, filling the house to such a degree that they could not even sit down and eat. The demands of ministry were great – interrupting the basic needs of life. Remember, Jesus had just named the Twelve in the preceding verses, so the they who could not eat were likely Jesus and the Twelve. The crowds were coming, remember, to be healed by Jesus. Word had spread – He could heal, He could drive out demons. His popularity was growing, but so was the opposition.
Verse 21 says, when His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him. His own people is more literally, those of His, and as I suggested last week, is somewhat ambiguous – at this point. But Mark identifies His own people in verse 31 – they were His immediate family – His mother and brothers.
They lived down in Nazareth, but had apparently heard what was going on up in Capernaum – in fact, in all Galilee. Remember, people were coming from all over – every point of the compass. Word spread that this Jesus of Nazareth was teaching and healing everyone. He was gathering quite the following. And the brothers down in Nazareth looked at each other and said, “Are you kidding me? Our older brother, Jesus? He’s lost His mind.” And so they made the short trip to Capernaum to take custody of Him. The word there speaks of forcibly arresting or seizing Him.
Several things we need to note here:
- First, we notice Joseph is not mentioned anywhere in this story. Jesus is 30 by now, so it’s possible, even likely that Joseph is dead by now. So later, when Jesus looks around and says, behold my mother, brother and my sister – He doesn’t say, my father. It could be because Joseph is dead. But more likely, in the family relationship we share, there’s only one Father.
- A second thing to notice is this mention of Jesus’ brothers. The church came to teach a doctrine called the perpetual virginity of Mary – that is, not only was she a virgin when Jesus was born, but she remained a virgin her entire life. That teaching is actually nowhere found in Scripture. In fact, Jesus’ brothers and sisters are named elsewhere. Now, it’s possible they were children of Joseph from a previous marriage and not children of Mary. Jerome suggested they were actually cousins and not siblings. But the stories seem to point to these being brothers and sisters of Jesus. By the way, Mark 6:3 says his brothers were named James and Joses and Judas and Simon. There, we also see He had sisters, but they’re not named.
- Here, we see they came to get Jesus because they thought He’d lost His senses. John 7:5 makes it clear that even His brothers didn’t believe in Jesus…yet. In that passage, they actually mocked Jesus – hey, they said, if you’re really the Christ, why don’t you go to Jerusalem and show yourself to the world.
- They didn’t believe in Jesus, which is another point to notice. They’d grown up with Jesus – lived with Him, and didn’t believe in Him. Can you imagine what that was like? If in fact they were children of Joseph and Mary, then they were all younger siblings. Most of us have had siblings who thought they were always right – who thought they were perfect – can you imagine having an older brother who was always right? Who never did anything wrong – who never lied to mom and dad, who always obeyed them? If light exposes darkness, I can imagine no other place that happened more starkly then in Mary and Joseph’s home. So they didn’t believe. So it shouldn’t surprise us when others who should believe, family members, don’t believe.
Notice something else – growing up in the family of Jesus did not make you okay. There’s no such thing as proxy membership in the family of God. Just because Jesus was their brother did not give them some king of pass. Just because your family is Christian, your parents are Christians, you grew up in a church doing Christian things, you got confirmed, you got baptized, you attended Sunday School, you joined the church, you grew up in a Christian nation does not make you a Christian. You must personally declare your allegiance to Jesus. Just as there is not guilt by association, there is also not salvation by association.
So they go to rescue Jesus from Himself – He’s bringing embarrassment to the family name. When they arrived, they have to stand outside – remember, the crowd is so great they can’t get into the house. They send word to Him and called, come out and see us. And the crowd sitting around said to Jesus, Behold, or Look, your mother and brothers are outside looking for You. Don’t miss that Mark is drawing a contrast between outsiders and insiders. The disciples were on the inside sitting around Him – His family was on the outside – not believing. So the encouragement to us is – even Jesus’ own family opposed Him – so if yours does, if they think you’re crazy because of your commitment to Christ – you’re not alone.
Which brings us to our second point, verses 33-35, where Jesus identifies His true family. Now, at first glance, this can appear a little rude, maybe even mean. This would have shocked His hearers – the family was held in high regard in the Greco-Roman world. So for Jesus to say these things would have been a bit surprising. But He’s teaching a truth – an encouraging truth for us. He says, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Interesting question – uh, they’re the ones outside from Nazareth asking for You.
And Jesus looked around and says, “Behold My mother and My brothers.” Who’s He talking about? His followers. Those who do the will of God, that one is My brother, My sister, My mother. Now, what is it to “do the will of God”? Thus far in Mark, Jesus has preached one thing – repent, and believe the gospel. That’s what Jesus means here – do the will of God by repenting of your sin and believing the gospel of the Kingdom. Become followers of Jesus – this is the will of God. And by doing so, you become part of a spiritual family.
Here’s the truth from this point I want to encourage you with: even if your biological family thinks you’re crazy – if they reject you, oppose you, even if you lose them, you gain a spiritual family that is far greater, far bigger, and far longer – for all eternity.
There’s so much I could say about this. We remember in other places Jesus said things like, if you’re not willing to hate your father and mother for My sake, you’re not worthy of Me. The point being, following Christ is far more important than biological commitments. Spiritual relationships are thicker than blood. We also remember He said, I’ve come to divide families – father against son, mother against daughter, brother against sister. A person’s enemies will come his own household. Again, the point is the same. We must willing to sacrifice even family relationships for a relationship with Christ. But what we gain in the end is infinitely greater.
So, two significant points of encouragement for you today. If your family rejects you because of your commitment to Christ, you’re in good company. Jesus’ family rejected Him, too. And if your family rejects you because of your commitment to Christ, be encouraged – you have gained a far greater, eternal family. In both these stories, people who should have accepted Jesus didn’t – His own family – His own people, the Jews. So Mark is teaching us that true spiritual relationships don’t come from ancestry or ethnic or national identity. True spiritual family comes through faith in Jesus Christ. Through a common allegiance to our Savior.
As we close this morning, let me encourage you with one final, important thought. Yes, Jesus said His followers make up His true family. When we repent and believe, we are adopted in the family of God – with God as Father, and each other as brothers and sisters. But even if your biological family rejects, it’s never too late for them. It’s never too late for them to believe and join our spiritual family as well.
Why do I say that? Well, Mary was there that day. I’m not sure why. She knew she was virgin when she gave birth to Jesus. She had heard the angel tell her that she would give birth to the Son of the Most High – the Son of God, that He would sit on David’s throne. She heard him say the power of the God would overshadow her such that the Son born to her was of the Holy Spirit.
I don’t know why she was there that day. Maybe with Joseph off the scene and Jesus, her oldest gone, she had been pressured by her other sons to tag along. Maybe she was thinking, Jesus is taking this Christ thing, this Christianity too far – it might cost Him His life. They’re going to kill Him if He keeps it up. Maybe your family has said similar things to you – you’re taking this Christianity thing too far. But I do know this – Mary was later at the cross of her Son. She heard Jesus say to John, Behold your mother, and to her, behold your son. Even in His death, He was taking care of her. She was there at the cross – I think a believer in her Son Jesus.
Not only that, those brothers – James and Joses and Jude and Simon? By the time Mark wrote this gospel, at least two of them had become believers in Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus cared about them – He appeared personally to James after He rose from the dead. And James became a pastor in the church of Jerusalem, and wrote the letter that bears his name. And Jude became a believer and wrote the letter that bears his name. The encouraging truth? It’s never too late for those family members who have rejected your Christ, opposed your Jesus, ridiculed your faith. You keep praying, you keep sharing – and trust their eternal salvation to Jesus.