Scripture: Lectionary 318 Jan 24/12. II Samuel 6:12-15.17-19. Psalm 24:184.108.40.206 Mark 3:31-35 Discipleship and Mary, Jesus True Family
Most of us feel blessed to hear the words mother, sister, and brother. Since Mark does not give us any information about Joseph, the word father is not mentioned because for Mark’s theology Jesus has no father except God. But Jesus in his humanity is no exception to his feeling a relationship with his sisters, brother, and mother Mary. Again sister and brother mean extended family relationships as we learn from the culture and from the language of Jesus’ time. Mark is continuing the early active ministry of Jesus’ preaching, teaching, and healing of his people.
Nevertheless, despite Jesus separation from his family, they pursue him for various reasons—fear of the crowds, fear of political situations, and rumors about his unusual powers that could threaten both the government of the Romans and the religion of the leaders in the land in which Jesus was born of Mary. We recall that he is known as the “son of Mary” in Mark 6:3. Joseph is not mentioned as the foster-father; however Jesus is known also as the son of the carpenter. As we see there are a number of ambiguous statements about relationships to Jesus and these have never been solved by exegetes or traditions as we know Catholics differ from Protestants on this question and others are just not interested in knowing about anyone except Jesus.
There is a stark realism whenever one of the brothers or sisters leave the mother home while they pursue their studies, their jobs, their vocation. It was not different for Jesus for his mother feels this and searches for him in this story of his early ministry in Galilee. Possibly such sparse information about them but the descriptions and locations help many to think that Mark wrote his Gospel in Galilee. Others think in Antioch in Syria, or even in Rome. Careful study of the Gospel will lead you to your own opinion on this, but do not be surprised if others disagree with you!
Such a separation for us and for Jesus causes pain to the parent who now finds herself with an “empty nest.” Jesus is the focus of our remarks about this pity passage in Mark. He is separating himself from his mother Mary and their relatives in order to accomplish his purpose in life which is always and in all events to do the will of his heavenly Father. For Jesus the mission has already begun and this is what his relatives and Mary want to learn about and to bring him back home to be a carpenter. No such luck. He has only one purpose in life and that is to do the will of the Father which is about redeeming all that has been lost in us through our sinfulness and our continued proclivity toward sinning.
Jesus raises their level of understanding what it means for him to say the words brother, sister, and mother. We learn that those who enter into his purpose in life of doing the will of the Father in heaven are then his true brothers, sisters, and mother. That is good news for us who are so far removed from this opening scene with his family and who do not have any of the Jewish blood that pulses through the heart of Jesus. We are for the most part Gentiles; more related to the Romans than to the Pharisees. Jesus is calling his natural family and us to become his disciples and to enter into what he is willing to share—his prayer, his suffering, his death, crucifixion, and resurrection. These are some of the criteria for becoming his disciples or mother, sister, and brother to him.
Here is a good commentary on our passage from the renowned twentieth century biblical scholar, C.F.D.Moule: “Jesus resolutely follows God’s call: his true relations, he says, are those who obey God. It must have been unspeakably costly to both him and his mother when he made this hard decision. It is clear that, according to Mark, Jesus mother and brothers failed at this stage to understand him. But his resolute determination was justified: they understood afterwards, and in Acts 1:14 shows them , after the resurrection assembled with the other disciples in Jerusalem.” (Cambridge Bible Commentary, Gospel according to Mark, page 31. Amen.