The Gospel according to Mark (3:31-35)
The mother of Jesus and his brothers arrived at the house.
Standing outside, they sent word to Jesus and called him.
A crowd seated around him told him,
“Your mother and your brothers and your sisters
are outside asking for you.”
But he said to them in reply,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?”
And looking around at those seated in the circle he said,
“Here are my mother and my brothers.
For whoever does the will of God
is my brother and sister and mother.”
Two things about today’s Gospel reading have always bugged me: first, how was it that Jesus had brothers, and second, how could Jesus dismiss His family so easily? I mean, if my mom were at the door, asking for me, I would drop everything and answer her. As it turns out, it comes down to the translation of “brothers” into English, and also that Jesus was talking from His divine nature here, not His human nature, when He was responding as recorded by Mark.
The Gospels were primarily written initially in Greek, the most widespread language of Jesus’ time. They weren’t necessarily initially shared in Aramaic (Jesus’ language), because that language was only spoken in a fairly small area. The Gospels were to be shared with the world and the language of the world was Greek. In Greek, there is only one word for close relative (which in English would correspond not only to a blood brother (child of the same mother), but also a close blood relative, such as a cousin). We actually see this in some places in the Old Testament, too, where the word “brother” is used, but actually means either a cousin or nephew.
This means that the “brothers” of Jesus were not sons of His mother Mary. They were likely His cousins (like John the Baptist was). But, family ties were still the most important. In Jesus’ time, your name indicated your family lineage (so, Jesus would have been known as Jesus, son of Joseph). It was also understood that you never turned your back on your family.
So, how about that second troubling point? Jesus seems to be dismissing His mother and His relatives. Why would He do such a thing? Especially in light of what I just shared about family ties, this seems a particularly harsh answer. Part of it does come down to translation, but the truth is that Jesus alone was one who had human and divine qualities – He was fully human and fully divine. When He answers those telling him that His mother and brothers were there, He was answering as the Son of the Most High. To His Heavenly Father, all were His brothers and sisters, provided that they kept the will of God. He is demonstrating to those who were present that He was more than just “Jesus, son of Joseph”. He was “Jesus, Son of the Most High” (as the angel said He was, at His Annunciation).
It can be hard to distinguish that. It’s a mystery to be sure. But, isn’t it a wonderful truth that we – you and me – are sons and daughters of the Most High, and brothers of “Jesus, son of Joseph”? It gives us hope that our loving Father will never turn away from us, and trust that each of us has special value and dignity. May we always keep that in mind, no matter how others may tell us that we don’t have value. In God’s eyes, we do and He gave His Son for each of us just to show how valued we really are.
Action for the Day:
Today, take some time to think of a person who you would like to let know that he or she is a valued son or daughter of the Lord, and that person has touched you in some way. It can be something small, but go and share that today and then thank our loving Lord for blessing you with that person!
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