Thursday, January 26th. Mark 3:31-35

31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  Mark 3:31-35


I once asked a rabbi – not to be rude but I was genuinely interested in learning the answer – “How do you explain, in the first chapter of Genesis, the plural form for God when God says ‘Let us make humankind in our image.’?”


“Well,” he said with amazing honesty, “that one is a little tricky for us.”


Thus far I haven’t taken the opportunity to ask a Roman Catholic brother – one who believes and teaches the perpetual virginity of Mary – “How it is that Mark refers to ‘your mother and your brothers and sisters’ in this text?”


Given that my Lutheran heritage has no reason to put Mary on a pedestal any higher than the one God placed her on in choosing her to give birth to Jesus, I think that an unbiblical idea like the perpetual virginity of Mary defies common sense.  Although it isn’t a chief article of the faith, it makes sense to me that, following the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph went on to have other children and to enjoy a long life with each other, their children and their grandchildren.


Does it make a difference whether or not Jesus had biological siblings?  It depends on who you ask.


It clearly made a difference in the first century.  Tradition says that Jesus himself appointed his brother James to be the first bishop of Jerusalem.  There remains some divide among the Christian cousins just what that meant, and what implications for the future, but that hasn’t proven significant over the long haul. Unlike Islam, still bitterly divided over Mohammed’s succession plan, biological primacy hasn’t been much of an issue.


Although other questions around primacy have caused deep divisions, it seems that, in Christianity, water is thicker than blood.


Our biological families are clearly important to us.  We share deep bonds, a common history, a common gene pool.  But there comes a time when we leave home.  As we move through life, our “families of choice” often become the people we spend most of our lives with.  This doesn’t take anything away from our birth families, it simply acknowledges the reality of life.


Jesus is not discounting his family of origin as he says to those gathered around him, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”  But Jesus IS expanding the meaning of family.


To some, this becomes a troublesome idea that requires ignoring or explaining away.  But to me it attacks the perpetual divide between insiders and outsiders, between us and them, and I believe such an attack lies at the heart of the message of Jesus.


We have one Father, thus we are one family.  Our Father’s will is that we act like it.


Let us pray:  Gracious Lord, thank you for the gift of baptism, for naming and claiming us as your children.  We pray that this be cause for meaning and purpose in our lives rather than giving us a false sense of privilege and position.  May we live according to your will, as brothers and sisters, for the good of the world.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


One Response to “Thursday, January 26th. Mark 3:31-35”

  1. TomS Says:

    I’ve read that Ceasar claimed to be a living god and a virgin birth.
    Perhaps early Christians wanted to “one-up” Ceasar.
    I’m Catholic and always thought that it was enough to show reverance to Mary as Jesus’s mother……that alone is quite an accomplishment !! Every thing else is just intellectual fine print.

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