The True Family of Jesus

[Jesus] 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! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother’” (vv. 33–35).

- Mark 3:31-35

Familial bonds tend to be far stronger than the bonds we have with any other people. In all but the most dysfunctional families, family members stick together and stand up for one another. Children look out for parents, and parents guard the interests of their children. In married relationships, husbands and wives share secrets between themselves that no one else on earth is privy to. Brothers and sisters put up with more from their siblings than they do from outsiders. Family members also tend to be willing to do things for their families that they would not do for even their closest friends.

Given this reality, we might expect that the earthly family of Jesus would have a place in His heart far above the place He grants any of His other followers. Yet the New Testament shows us that this is not the case. In fact, Jesus does not define His family as those closest to Him by blood. Instead, only those who do the will of God can be called His true family (Mark 3:31–35).

We should not take from today’s passage that Mary, Joseph, and the brothers and sisters of Jesus such as James and Jude were unimportant to Him. After all, we know that Christ never sinned, which means He honored His earthly parents perfectly and cared for His siblings flawlessly (1 Peter 2:22; see Ex. 20:12; Lev. 25:25–28). Rather, what Jesus does with His statement is demonstrate that as important as His earthly relatives are to Him, they have no special claim on Him. Christ takes as His closest family members any who trust in Him and show that trust by keeping His commandments (see also John 14:15). To such individuals, He shows the same undying concern and affection that He shows to His blood relatives. By implication, those who are His family members by faith would be closer to Him than any family members by blood who do not trust in His name. Moreover, this is not a privilege only for men but also for women, for He takes believing men as His brothers and believing women as His sisters (Mark 3:33–35). John Calvin comments that Jesus “admits all his disciples and all believers to the same honorable rank, as if they were his nearest relatives.”

Consequently, Jesus is not more willing to listen to Mary, His mother, than He is to any other disciple. James and Joseph do not have an inside track to Christ that no one else shares. Jesus accepts all believers as equal members of His family—faith in Him is what is critical.

Coram Deo

Calvin comments that “every one who is regenerated by the Spirit, and gives himself up entirely to God for true justification, is thus admitted to the closest union with Christ, and becomes one with him.” We can respect the members of Jesus’ earthly family and honor them for their faith, but they are not more special to Him than any other disciple is. By grace, He guards all of His people as members of His family.

Passages for Further Study

Matthew 12:48–50
Ephesians 6:23–24

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