The Pilgrim God: Reflections on the Story of Jesus
 


38. Christ's Relatives (Mark 3:20-21;31-35)

After Jesus had concluded the day of parables, an exhausting day of teaching and talking, he returned to the place where he was staying in Capharnaum. Some of his relatives were there and apparently they hoped to get some quality time with him. They said to each other:

Perhaps over a quiet dinner he will come to know us better and value us more. After all, we are his cousins.

If this was their desire, it was quickly frustrated. The crowd from the lake, discovering where Jesus had gone, rushed to the house hoping to see Jesus again. Much to the chagrin of his relatives, Jesus left them and went out to the crowds and continued his conversation with them. His relatives shook their heads and mumbled:

He must be crazy! It is just crazy never to take time for yourself. It is just crazy to ignore your own family and the advice of your own staff. It is just crazy to constantly waste your time with strangers who only follow you because they want something from you.

Of course their concern was not without self-interest. While complaining about those who wanted something, they were firmly convinced that they deserved something. They wanted salvation kept to an inner circle, with their cousin Jesus at the center for sure, but with themselves not too far away. They wanted all the curing power, all the teaching authority to be funneled through them. They wanted all the consequent love and honor and gratitude to come to them first. They would then pass it on to their famous cousin, having taken out their own healthy cut for handling and delivery.

They had ignored Jesus when he was only a poor carpenter's son. But now that he was popular, they thought it only proper that they have a piece of his success. Of course they had no wish to be part of his failure. Except for his mother and a few "holy" cousins, none of his relatives seemed to be able to make it to Calvary.

And so on this evening when Jesus went out to the crowd, his kinfolk could not get very close to him. They finally joined Mary at the edge of the crowd. (She liked to hear her boy speak but she preferred to stay in the background.) The cousins did not share her humility. They tried to make their way through the mob crying out:

Jesus, Jesus, your mother and cousins are here!

Jesus responded in an unexpected way. He said:

Who are my mother and my family? Here ... (now pointing to the crowd pressing close to him) ... here is my family. Whoever does the will of my Father, that is the one who is my mother, that is the one who is my brother and sister.

His message was clear. He had no select family among human beings, one that excluded all others. There was to be no God-favored nation or race or city. There would only be the people of God living in the City of God and membership in that people was to be a matter of choice rather than blood. It was not that Jesus did not have a special feeling as a human being for his blood relatives, but can you really feel good about a bunch of cousins who seem to ignore your Father?


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