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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:The Lord Jesus Reveals His True Family
Text:Mark 3:31-35 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God The Son

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Psalm 100
Psalm 38:7,8 (after the law)
Psalm 27:1-3
Psalm 27:4-6
Hymn 36:4 (after the offertory)
Hymn 28 (Augment) or Hymn 6

Reading: Mark 3:20-35
Text:  Mark 3:31-35
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus,


Some time ago, while we were enjoying our holiday meals, approximately 2500 Canadian troops were carrying on with their dangerous mission in Afghanistan.  On Christmas Day, some of them were able to get together for a short dinner, some were also able to participate in a service put on by some of the chaplains.  In an interview, one of them said that he was celebrating Christmas with family – just not with his blood family back home.  His fellow soldiers had become his family in Afghanistan. 


This illustrates the fact that family ties don’t necessarily run through blood.  In fact, sometimes certain kinds of family ties can even be deeper and closer where there is no blood relation.  When people are there for each other through thick and thin, and when they’ve carried each other’s burdens, oftentimes blood means relatively little, if anything. 


It’s this question of family that’s front and center in our text.  The Lord Jesus is confronted with the expectations of his blood family.  At this moment, he reveals the identity of his true family.  That’s our theme for the sermon.  We’ll consider the outsiders in this family and then also the insiders. 


To get a grasp on what’s happening here, we need to go back a few verses, back to verses 20-21.  There the Lord Jesus had gone into a crowded house, a house so packed that taking care of his basic needs was impossible.  Mark relates that his family set out to rescue him.  Rather than embracing his identity as the Son of God, rather than believing in him and his mission, his family exclaimed that he’d gone insane.  They thought that he’d gone overboard with some kind of ego trip. 


So, in verses 20-21, they had set out from Nazareth, journeying over to Capernaum, maybe about 30-40 km distant.  Now when we come to verse 31, we find them arriving at the house where he was staying.  Jesus’ mother Mary and his brothers, James, Joses, Judas and Simon finally arrive on the scene.  And when they arrive, they stand around outside and send someone in to call for Jesus.


Now why are they standing outside?  Presumably because the situation described in verse 20 is still the case.  There are just too many people and they can’t get inside.  But that raises another question:  Why haven’t they been at Jesus’ side all along?  What were they doing in Nazareth while the Son of God was teaching in Capernaum?  Earlier in chapter 3, in verse 8, we’re told that people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon.  But his own family couldn’t be bothered to make the short trek from Nazareth in Galilee to Capernaum in Galilee.  What was their problem? 


Well, when it comes to Jesus’ brothers, John 7:5 gives us a clear answer, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”  Now later on that changes – they do eventually believe in Christ and we find the evidence of that in the book of Acts.  But at this particular moment, his family, at least his brothers for sure, are unbelievers.


Now consider the great danger that their unbelief put them in.  First of all, they knew the Lord Jesus more intimately than anyone else.  They had grown up with him, spent hours and hours with him.  Yet, they reject him.  Even if they could get inside the house in Capernaum, they wouldn’t come inside to listen and to hear what Jesus has to say in faith. 


Second, apart from being Jesus’ family these were not some joe-blow people in the Roman Empire.  Jesus’ brothers had been circumcised on the eighth day – they had received the Old Testament sign and seal of God’s covenant.  They were part of God’s covenant people who should have been eagerly longing for and waiting for the coming of the Messiah.  And now the Messiah has come, he’s even a member of their own family, and they blow him off.  They even try to stop him and his ministry. 


This put the family of Jesus in danger, because according to Jesus’ own words, the covenant people who heard his preaching and teaching were going to be held responsible for what they had heard.  If they remained on the outside, refusing to come in and listen, there would be a harsh judgment, in fact, their judgment would be even harsher than that of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Imagine how much harsher the judgment for Jesus’ own family who had spent all that time with him, who had been regularly exposed to his person and work, to his preaching, teaching, and healing and yet they choose to reject him. 


As I mentioned in the nature of the case, God saved Jesus’ family from the great danger in which they were at the time of our text.  They came to believe in him and we can be sure that they’re with him to this day.  But then there’s us.  While we haven’t grown up seeing Jesus physically face to face, we’ve been so richly blessed in other ways.  Most of us have grown up in the covenant.  We were baptized and received the sign and seal of God’s covenant.  We’ve grown up or are growing up in Christian homes.  We go to church each Sunday.  His promises have been clearly announced to each one of us. 


Now consider the great danger that we would be in if we would remain in unbelief or if we were to go back to unbelief.  Consider the great peril if we would stay on the outside looking in, like Jesus’ family in our text, if we were to think that Jesus Christ is good for others, but for us, we’ve got more important things to do and to be concerned about.  Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to the gospel call and neither is deliberate neglect.  Listen to the warning message of Hebrews 10:26-31,


If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.  Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.  How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace?  For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."  It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


Loved ones, please hear that warning and heed it.  Don’t be on the outside.  The fact that you were raised in a Christian home is not going to save you.  The fact that you went to a Christian school is not going to save you.  Your membership in the church is not either.  The only one who saves is Jesus Christ and you need to be looking to him.  You need to be looking to him now, not tomorrow or at some point in the future, but now. 


Do you know what has most impressed me so far in my time as a pastor?  Being at the bedside of elderly brothers and sisters who are dying and hearing their utter and complete dependence on Christ for salvation.  Every time this happens, honestly it blows me away.  I’m blown away by God’s grace and his miracle of regeneration.  I’m so taken at what Christ has done for sinners.  I’m so deeply impressed with the work of the Holy Spirit.  If it were possible, I wish that every one of you could regularly hear these testimonies of faith.  These brothers and sisters truly die well, with Jesus Christ on their hearts and lips as their only hope.  And what enormous comfort this gives to those who are left behind! 


Let me address the younger people.  You may think that death is many years away.  Perhaps, but you don’t know that.  Many of you know how in this past year there were several tragic deaths of young people from our churches.  Listen to me carefully:  you have one life.  It may be over at any time.  Your one life counts for eternity, don’t waste it.  When God calls your number, you want to be found like our elderly brothers and sisters with Christ alone on your heart and lips.  With Jesus Christ alone as your hope for salvation!  Live well – with all your faith focused on Christ alone, so that when you die (and all of us will die), your family and friends will be comforted saying that you lived well and you died well.  You lived and died with Christ as your only comfort.  Not only will that result in reassurance for those left behind, it will also result in people being impressed with the God of grace, people being taken with Jesus Christ and all his perfections, people being in wonderment at the mighty power of the Holy Spirit.  Isn’t that what we want? 


Throughout history there have been countless examples of people who lived and died in this way.  In our text, we find a largely nameless crowd of such people sitting around the Lord Jesus.  I say that they were largely nameless, because we do know that Jesus’ disciples were with him and we know their names.  But there were also many others and we don’t know them.  Nevertheless, verse 32 tells us that they were sitting around him.  What were they doing?  From the context, it’s obvious that they were listening to Jesus’ teaching.  The picture here is of a Rabbi with his students gathered around at his feet. 


His crowd of students tells him that his mother and brothers are outside looking for him.  As they tell him, you get the sense that their expectation is that he is going to interrupt his teaching and go and speak with his family, maybe even go with them.  But as he often does, the Lord Jesus overturns their expectations and says something surprising. 


It comes in the form of a question:  “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  The crowd expected that Jesus’ blood relationship to his family would take priority over them and what he was doing with them at that moment.  Seen in that way, Jesus’ question may even seem rude to some people.  Worse yet, the fifth commandment says that we’re to honour our father and mother.  Jesus doesn’t seem to be honouring his mother with the way he responds here.


So, what about it?  Did Jesus break the fifth commandment?  Not at all.  He showed no disrespect for his mother with what he said here.  He did not reject her, nor did he disobey her.  This is not about the fifth commandment, nor is it about how to relate to one’s family, as if we should come to this text looking for ten tips on how to deal with difficult family members.  Rather, the issues at stake here are priorities and identity.  Who is the true family of Jesus and so who takes priority in his life and ministry at this moment? 


In verse 34 he answers this question.  First of all, notice his non-verbal communication.  He looks around at those seated in a circle around him.  He gives a glance to the disciples who are sitting at his feet, looking to him as their teacher, their Rabbi.  And then the words come off his lips, “Here are my mother and my brothers!”  These are the ones who are inside the true family of the Lord Jesus. 


And then to expand on that a bit further he adds, “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”  In other words, whoever does the will of God is in Jesus’ true family.  But that should right away raise the question:  what does Jesus mean by “the will of God”?  That expression, “the will of God,” is found many times in the Bible, but here in this context, it simply refers to God’s will that people sit at the feet of Jesus, look to him in faith, and learn from him as their Lord and teacher.  The will of God here is simply that people would be humble students of the Lord Jesus.  It’s these humble students of Christ that are inside his true family. 


You’ve probably heard the saying that “blood is thicker than water.”  When people say that they mean that the bonds of family relationships and common ancestry are stronger than those between people who are unrelated.  Originally, the water in this expression referred to the water of baptism.  In other words, family relationships are deeper than spiritual relationships.  The Lord Jesus turns this expectation upside down.  He says, “No, my true family is found with those who are my disciples, those who have been baptized and who learn from me.”  Christ says, “For me, the waters of baptism are thicker than blood.” 


So, to be in Jesus’ true family, we’re called to sit at his feet and learn from him.  Now of course, we can’t literally sit at his feet today.  So how are we supposed to take this into our lives?  To rephrase the question:  how and where does Jesus teach us today? 


First, he teaches us directly in his Word.  As we read and study the Bible, we are sitting at the feet of Jesus.  Christ teaches us with his Word and Spirit as we read Scripture and carefully and prayerfully reflect on it.  And as we read the Word, our eyes are more directed to Christ.  He was the one who said in John 5:39 that the Scriptures testify about him.  From Genesis to Revelation, the Bible is about the Lord Jesus Christ.  So, as we read our Bibles, more and more our eyes are opened to the revelation of Christ and we fix our eyes on him.  The school of Jesus begins when we open our Bibles with the prayer that the Greeks had in John 12:21, “We wish to see Jesus.”


But the school doesn’t stop there.  We continue to sit at the feet of Jesus as we hear his Word preached each Sunday.  When the Scriptures are faithfully proclaimed by ministers, Christ himself is speaking to us through that Word.  Romans 10:17 is a well-known passage.  It says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ.”  Now, we might say, “Does Christ speak a Word directly to those who believe?”  Not anymore.  In the context in Romans 10, we know that the Word of Christ is the preaching.  So, it is not an exaggeration to say that the preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God.  Christ continues to speak to us each time the Word is faithfully proclaimed.  And so when we’re in church, we are in the school of Jesus, sitting at his feet, looking to be led and taught by our Saviour.


Sitting with open hands looking for Christ to bless us -- this is how we’ll be in the true family of Jesus.  But now let’s think some more about what that really means, what it means to be in his family.  When you’re in a family, you’re with a group of people who normally love you no matter what.  Of course, we recognize that there are dysfunctional, broken, or abusive families where none of this applies.  And of course, even the best families may go through rough times.  But God’s plan for a family is that it is a place where there is unconditional love and acceptance.  Ideally, families are havens, places of safety and security.  A place where you’re free to be yourself without fear of judgment or condemnation.  This is the true family of the Lord Jesus.  You were adopted into this family. 


In this family, you have a heavenly Father who loves you deeply and who is intimately involved with your life down to every last detail.  This Father adopted you and made you his own, he treats you the same as his own natural Son.  This Father wants to hear your voice speaking to him in prayer.  In this family, you also have an elder brother who calls you his friend.  This elder brother gave himself for you so that you would join him in the family as an adopted child.  This elder brother perfectly obeyed God’s law for you, so that you would be declared right with the Father and have a safe and secure position.  This is a family from which you cannot be disowned, this is a family where your position doesn’t depend on what you do, how you look, or whether or not you measure up.  This is a family where the love is better than unconditional.  Say it with me in your hearts: the elder brother gave himself for me, a sinner.  The Father loves me despite how I am and despite my many failings and weaknesses.  In this family, God blesses me because his Son fulfilled the conditions I could never achieve.  Contrary to what I deserve, I am loved and accepted.  This is the ultimate family of grace, the gospel family!  Believe it, loved ones!   


And in this family, we have God the Father, we have Jesus Christ the Son, our elder brother, but we also have one another.  This is not just a family of three; it includes all who believe in Christ, who look to him as Lord and Saviour.  Where we experience this family is primarily here in this local church.  The church is meant to have the character of a family – that’s why we refer to one another as brothers and sisters.  Some of you have unbelievers in your families and you’ll often hear such people say (and maybe you’ve said it too) that you’re closer to your brothers and sisters in the church than you are to the unbelieving family member.  That’s normal – that’s the way it should be.  When we are part of Christ’s family, we have bonds of love and affection for one another that unbelievers can’t share.  When we’re part of the Christian family, we have the things that are most important in this world in common --  a shared redemption in Christ, a common experience of the wonder of grace, a commitment to Christ and a passion for the glory of God.  Here in the church we have a local expression of the family of Jesus Christ. 


Now this raises the question about the health of our family.  How are we doing as a family?  Does belonging to this church make you feel like you belong to Jesus’ family?  Of course, there could be a variety of answers to that question, and some of those answers may depend on how much effort you put into making the church feel like a family.   


Loved ones, we are Jesus’ true family.  As always, the call goes out for us to be who we are.  We’re called to sit at the feet of our elder brother and teacher and learn from him.  We’re also called to embrace one another in this family.  And since our Lord Jesus himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” we should humble ourselves in prayer and ask for his help. 


Let us pray:


Lord Jesus, our teacher and elder brother,


 We do indeed humble ourselves before you.  We acknowledge you as the only worthy member of the family.  We thank you that through you we have been adopted and included alongside you.  We praise you for not being ashamed to call us your family, though we deserve quite the opposite.  Please help each and everyone of us to constantly humble ourselves before you and to sit in your school.  Help us to do that our whole life long so that at the end we would die with your name on our lips and hearts as our only hope.  LORD God, we thank you for your love and grace.  Help us with your Word and Spirit as we live in your family, also as we live in the family in this local church.  Please give us more grace so that we would have big hearts for one another, also for those who you would bring in from elsewhere.  Cause us to grow in love for one another and for you.  We pray that you would help us to have a healthy church family that makes much of you.  Father, please hear our prayer in the name of Christ our Saviour, AMEN.    

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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