God’s Word for You
Mark 3:31-35 Jesus’ mother and brothers
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, February 26, 2022
Jesus’ Mother and Brothers
31 Then his mother and his brothers arrived. While they were standing outside, they sent word to Jesus, calling for him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him. They began to tell him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”
This isn’t the only time Jesus’ brothers are mentioned. In Mark 6:3, we learn their names: James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. We also know that there were sisters, although we don’t know how many. The most obvious way to take this, especially remembering that Luke called Jesus Mary’s “firstborn” (Luke 2:7), is that Mary and Joseph conceived and raised a large family after Jesus was born. Reading their dogma into the text (rather than drawing their doctrine from it, as we should), some Christians insist that Mary was not just a virgin at the time of Jesus’ birth, but that remained a perpetual virgin, never having intercourse with her husband Joseph. This would be an abomination and a sin against the doctrine of marriage (Genesis 2:24), but it is retained because of those churches’ teaching about imposed celibacy. I find no reason at all to think that Mary did not give birth to these seven or eight children herself.
Here in our text, Jesus’ family came to find him while he was teaching in Galilee. The sudden popularity (Mark 1:22,28) and the size of the crowds (Mark 1:45, 2:4, 3:7-9) as well as the reports of there being resistance and opposition to his teaching (Mark 2:16, 24) must have alarmed them; especially Mary, who had been warned prophetically by Simeon in the temple: “A sword will pierce your own soul” (Luke 2:34).
We can imagine Mary with the string of twenty-something boys and teenage girls hurrying with her, just like a mom today making her way through a parking lot, keeping tabs on the kids while straining to find the oldest, the thirty-one year old, who was turning the whole country on its ear.
33 He replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 He looked at those who sat around him in a circle and he said, “Look, my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
For some, there is a hiccup in this account (noticed by Lenski and others), that the brothers of Jesus act as if they are his elders, as they also do when they tease him about the festival in John 7:3-4. But sin makes us do things that upset the natural order, and the Holy Spirit clearly tells us in John 7:5 that “his brothers did not believe in him.” And Jesus does not seem surprised by their actions.
Jesus’ words force us to consider our place with him. Who is truly close to Jesus? Who is truly within his circle? Am I his brother? Could my wife or mother have said, “I am his mother?” Could I say that I would not have shooed away the crowds, or would I have fallen at his feet to listen?
A person who puts their faith in Jesus enters into his family in a special way. Perhaps there is a comparison here to a woman who marries a widower, a man with children. She knows when she marries him that she will take up a special place in his family. She will be like a mother to his children even though she is not their mother. In this way, a woman who is a Christian will see all of the children of the church as children who need her even though she is not their mother. They need her example, her kindness, her patience, and sometimes her correction or discipline. And her faith is built up by their faith, their singing, and their little accomplishments as they learn from her (or a Sunday school teacher) their Bible stories, their catechism, and their memory verses. Each of us becomes brother, sister, and mother to Jesus as we become these things to one another. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). Show your love for him with your love for one another.
Pastor Timothy Smith