The True Family of Jesus
31 Then Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, "Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you."
33 Jesus replied, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, "Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
Again Jesus' family expresses concern for his well-being. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach that the most important type of kinship is the one based on obedience to God (see Romans 8:29; Hebrews 2:11).
Mother and brothers (Mark 3:31)
"Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him," the text tells us. The precise relationship between Jesus and his siblings is much debated due mainly to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, which claims that Mary was miraculously kept a virgin before, during, and after the birth of Jesus. However, Matthew tells us that after taking Mary to be his wife, Joseph "kept her a virgin until she gave birth" to Jesus (see Matthew 1:24-25). As one source notes: "Joseph lived in continence with Mary till the birth of Jesus. Matthew does not say that Mary bore no other children than Jesus. ... The perpetual virginity of Mary is not taught here. Jesus had brothers and sisters and the natural meaning is that they were younger children of Joseph and Mary and not children of Joseph by a previous marriage"238 - in which case Jesus would not have been the firstborn and thus not heir to the Davidic throne.239
Asking for you (Mark 3:32)
Jesus was in the middle of teaching his followers when he was rudely interrupted. How does he react? "Jesus uses the interruption to good advantage. He always did exactly that with interruptions. Interrupted while he was praying (Mark 1:35), addressing a crowd (Mark 2:1 ff.), sleeping in a boat (Mark 4:37 ff.), conversing with his disciples (Mark 8:31 ff.), or traveling (Mark 10:46 ff.), he always knew how to turn an interruption into a springboard for the utterance of a great saying or for the performance of a marvelous deed."240 While we may tend to see interruptions as obstacles, Jesus saw them as opportunities. Why? Might it not be because Jesus valued people more than plans or programs?
God's will (Mark 3:35)
Simply put, God's will is that we follow Jesus. This involves nothing less than, by God's grace, repenting and believing, turning from our sins, and by faith receiving God's pardon in Christ Jesus.241 We become members of God's family "[b]y means of a new birth, a special birth from above (John 3:1–7; 1 Peter 1:22–25). When the sinner trusts Jesus Christ as Saviour, he experiences this new birth and enters into God's family. He shares God's divine nature (2 Peter 1:3–4) and can call God 'Father' (Romans 8:15–16). This spiritual birth is not something that we accomplish for ourselves, nor can others do it for us (John 1:11–13). It is God's work of grace; all we can do is believe and receive (Ephesians 2:8–9)."242
God's family is both inclusive and exclusive: Jesus says anyone (= inclusive) who does God's will (= exclusive) is his spiritual kinsman.243 Everyone is responsible for realizing his or her need and then acting upon that need by accepting Jesus Christ as personal Lord and Savior. Beyond that, we must continually, and with much humility, seek to make God's will as revealed in his inspired, authoritative Word, the Bible, our absolute priority.
Professor Nick Stinnett, chairman of the Department of Human Development and the Family at the University of Nebraska, headed a research project to "discover what makes families strong." Their team observed and interviewed three thousand strong families in South America, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, South Africa, and the United States. From all of this research they concluded that strong families have six main qualities:
Family members are committed to the family.
They spend time together.
They have good family communication.
They express appreciation to each other.
They have a spiritual commitment.
They are able to solve problems in a crisis.244
Jesus announced the creation of a new family based on one's relationship to God.
Because God's spiritual family is modeled on the natural family he created, it should come as no surprise that the qualities that make for strong natural families also make for strong spiritual ones.
??? We become close to other believers by sharing: experiences; interests, obedience, and goals.245 What are some practical things we can do to become closer to other Christians?
Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed
1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
3 "Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn't have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!" 9 Then he said, "Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand."
Jesus addresses the crowd gathered at the shore, using a story (or "parable") to teach them about God's kingdom. He likens the kingdom to a farmer planting seed. While only a portion of what is sown actually takes root and grows to maturity, nonetheless the end result is a spectacular crop.
Teaching (Mark 4:1)
As one modern paraphrase renders it, Jesus got "into an offshore boat, using the boat as a pulpit as the people pushed to the water's edge" (Mark 4:1 The Message).246 There at the edge of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus preached to the throng of eager listeners. As usual, he used parables to teach about God's kingdom. Worth noting is the fact that Jesus proclaimed God's truth in many and various settings: indoors, outdoors, along the road, in the synagogue, in houses, in boats, by the shore, on a mountain, and even in a cemetery - in other words, whenever and wherever people would listen.247 In his teaching Jesus "commanded, commissioned, admonished, exhorted, explained, questioned, consoled, refuted, and predicted."248 Jesus used parables for several reasons: (1) It caught people's attention and made them listen. (2) It was a teaching technique very familiar to Jesus' Jewish audience. (3) It transformed abstract ideas into concrete realities. (4) It encouraged personal reflection.249
Farmer ... seed (Mark 4:3)
The parable of the sower/farmer can actually be thought of as the "parable of the soils," since that is where the emphasis lies.250 It is intended "to illustrate the various responses to the message of the kingdom of God."251 This parable - or allegory - accurately represents farming as it was practiced in Jesus' day.252 "Sowing would occur in late fall or early winter (October to December) in the rainy season, looking for sprouting in April or May and a June harvest."253 Seed was normally sown broadcast style from a bag slung over the farmer's shoulder. The soil was hard and rocky, making it necessary for the farmer to come back and plow the seed underneath the surface. Because of these less than ideal planting conditions, much seed was lost to the elements.254 In the case of the seed that did take root and grow, a tenfold crop was considered good.255
Seed fell (Mark 4:4, 5, 7)
The seed that falls "on the footpath" ("beside the road" NASB) never has a chance to be plowed under; it is completely exposed, and the birds swoop down and gobble it up. The rocky soil is actually very receptive at the beginning of the growing season, as it "is moist from winter rain and the sun and air have not become too warm."256 But then time passes, the ground begins to dry under the hot sun, and the plants that looked promising to begin with quickly wither due to their shallow root system. The thorns Jesus mentioned were a persistent nuisance that would return if plowed under rather than dug up.257 Thorny weeds could grow to a height of six feet and would attack the good plant from both above and below: from above, the thorns would literally smother the plant by prohibiting its exposure to sunlight and air; from below, the thorns' major root system would draw away the crucial "moisture and richness of the soil."258
Seeds fell ... and produced a crop (Mark 4:8)
Jesus is most certainly not teaching the discouraging prospect that we can expect three-fourths of our efforts to be wasted. Notice the shift from the singular "seed" that is unproductive to the plural "seeds" that produce a crop, perhaps intended to emphasize the variety of approaches to sharing the Gospel.259 The main point of Jesus' parable is twofold: (1) the seed's growth potential is determined by the soil's condition260 and (2) in spite of losses, the word Jesus sows "will spring up among the faithful and produce a bountiful harvest."261
A farmer doesn't sow his field and then walk up and down the rows shouting, "Grow! Grow!" Nor does he monitor every seed he plants in order to determine its final outcome. Rather, the farmer does the work and leaves the results to God. In a similar manner, we as Christians are called to spread the Gospel seed without fretting over the end result of every seed we plant. In the end, we must be faithful and content: faithful to spread the seed, and content to leave the results with God.
??? What can this passage teach us about God's kingdom? About our obligation to spread the Gospel?