And [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:31-35 ESV)
Jesus has an uncanny way of redefining things for us. Well…He doesn’t really “redefine” so much as give us a more complete understanding; a Spirit-inspired understanding of something. In this case, He sets the record straight on who our brother actually is.
Who is Our Brother?
Jesus does two things in this passage that we must take note of.
First thing He does is expand the family from blood relation to immediate followers.
And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! (Mark 3:34 ESV)
As disciples and followers of Jesus, anyone else who is a disciple and follower of Jesus is our brother. For those of us from the Protestant tradition, this is a hard truth for us to swallow. We revel in our divisions and our disagreements. We even make excuses for them. And God forbid we work with Catholics.
But, the thing is, this is an improper mindset. In light of Jesus’ words here, and in other places throughout the Gospels I’m sure, anyone who is a direct disciple and follower of Jesus is His brother, and, therefore, our brother.
So, any Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, Emergent, etc.; any person within the Christian tradition who is an immediate follower of and disciple of Jesus is our brother. But Jesus takes this a step further.
Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:35 ESV)
I can’t help but think that what I am about to say is not going to be taken in the manner that I intend it. I can’t help but think that it will be assumed that I am advocating universalism. So, before you can call me a heretic, let me clarify something: I am not an advocate for universalism. I do not believe that anyone can be saved outside of Jesus’ atoning sacrifice. Now that we have that out of the way…
At this point, Jesus precedes to to shatter our understanding of who our brother is even more. Not only is our brother our fellow immediate disciples, but the “brother” includes “whoever does the will of God.” This is a very inclusive statement. Especially with the word “whoever” thrown in there.
The idea behind “whoever” is “anyone.” So, Jesus is saying in essence, “Anyone who does the will of God is my brother.” Contextually, the idea is that you can be in the know regarding Jesus and yet be excluded in the end, and you can be outside of the Christian “in-group” and be included in the end.
This idea is presented most clearly in a little parable.
Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?” And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:21-23 ESV)
Combined, Jesus is telling us that some of those who we think are “in” may not be and that those who we deem as “out” may actually be included.
It is statements like these that get people into trouble. In fact, Jesus even got into trouble for the controversial things that He taught. According to the author of our initial text,
And when his family heard [that the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat], they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” (Mark 3:20-21 ESV)
And if Jesus got in trouble for His own teachings, can we really expect a smooth ride when we repeat them?
In summary, Jesus has just given us deep insight into who we are to regard as our brother. We are to regard immediate disciples as our brother, but it doesn’t stop there. We are also to regard “whoever does the will of God” as our brother as well. Interesting…And we’ll see why next time.