family matters…


Mark 3:31-35 (CEB)

His mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside and sent word to him, calling for him. A crowd was seated around him, and those sent to him said, “Look, your mother, brothers, and sisters are outside looking for you.”

He replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Looking around at those seated around him in a circle, he said, “Look, here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does God’s will is my brother, sister, and mother.”
Here endeth the first reading on this special Sunday at St. Warthog’s Under the Bush, Mothering Sunday…. 

OK – at first reading – if you are not expecting it – it can sound a bit harsh.  Take a breath….

Here’s a question: Why do you think Jesus’ family called to see him?

There are no right answers here – so let your imagination run wild!  Nobody knows – nobody can disprove your theory – let your hair down and paint yourself a mind-picture of the scene.

Jesus is at work – it’s what he feels called to.  Maybe his family doesn’t accept that this is a “proper job”.  He’s the oldest son, he must be if Mary was a virgin before she had him, no?  So, as eldest son, in them there olden days, he had special responsibilities and duties.  It probably caused family and family business problems for the first son to wander off and play about at being an itinerant preacher.

Mark describes virtually the whole family coming – mother, brothers and sisters – but not Joseph.  Maybe this is something to do with Joseph having died and business needed to be sorted out.  It has the feel of what today might be called “an intervention”.

In my mental picture of this scene, the family have come to put Jesus straight – to tell him that he’s had his fun and now it is time to settle down – find a wife, continue the family name, take responsibility for the family building business, see to his family duties.  In my picture this is not the first attempt they have made – maybe it’s not the last.

And Jesus makes it clear where his responsibilities and duties lie – with those he has been sent to save.

So – no, not so harsh if my picture is anywhere close.  In fact – entirely normal in the experience of all those who have stepped out to do something unexpected and in the process have shattered the expectations that others around us had for them.  Sometimes we NEED to step away from the expectations that others have for us, even if it is family – and especially if we feel that this is God’s call on our lives.

Maybe Mary has Simeon’s words haunting her mind, “This child will be like a sword piercing your heart.”  Maybe she naively thinks that if she can draw him back to herself, keep him close, get him into a safe job and a safe marriage, then she can protect him – what parent would NOT want to do that?

But there she is at the end, at the foot of the cross.  This encounter is not the family-shattering disaster that some might imagine, she doesn’t shun him or abandon him, nor does he abandon her.  Ultimately she knows who he is and what he must be and she knows she cannot stand in his way…  but what parent wouldn’t at least try?

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