Devotion for June 14, 2018

“Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” Mark 3:35

As the saying goes: blood is thicker than water. What is usually meant by this is that biological family-ties are stronger than with people outside the family. God has made it clear throughout Scripture that family is very important. God places us in a family with a father and mother for our good. Marriage and family is truly the foundation for all societies around the world. Families are great sources of support, joy, consolation and purpose. Friends and acquaintances can come and go but a family tree is connected at the roots.

And yet, every family is made up of sinners who fall short of God’s design for family-life and life in general. Often it can be much easier to show kindness to perfect-strangers than to those in our own family that we know so well. Because of our sin, we tend to hurt those we are closest to, and that usually means hurting those in our family. God has established biological families in this world for our good, but being a part of an earthly family–even one that has been connected to the church for many generations–is no guarantee of life and salvation. Blood is thicker than water, as far as it goes. But in Mark chapter 3, Jesus seems to turn this saying on its head.

As Jesus is teaching inside a house one day, His mother and brothers show up and interrupt His instruction. We are never told why Jesus’ mother and brothers showed up outside of the house. But they are literally outsiders, which is mentioned twice in the reading for emphasis. The insiders are those who are circled around Jesus, listening to His words and responding to His call. Those who cannot fully embrace Jesus’ call to repentance and faith in Him will remain outsiders, regardless of their family origins.

Elsewhere in His ministry, Jesus enthusiastically supports and defends the God-given blessing of families (e.g. Mark 7:9-13). Jesus is not abolishing or degrading family in this story. He is simply revealing that He has come to create and establish a new family. This new family is not based on blood, but on faith. Jesus says that His family is made up of people who do the will of God. What is the will of God? From earlier in Mark’s Gospel, we know it is to “repent and believe the gospel” (1:15) and “to follow him” (1:18, 20).

The Good News for you today is that Jesus has made you an insider with Him! Regardless of how functional or dysfunctional your family may be, you will always have a place in God’s family. At just the right time, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons and daughters (Galatians 4:4-5). God has even given you His name in Baptism: Christian. Blood may be thicker than water in this life, but not in God’s kingdom. The Holy Spirit works through God’s Word to bring sorrow over sin–including sins against family members. The Spirit also creates faith in our hearts so that we may “do the will of God” and follow Jesus. What a joy to always have a place in God’s family by grace.

Prayer: O Father in heaven, strengthen our earthly families, even as you feed and nourish us with your Word of grace and forgiveness in the heavenly family of Your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.