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02.25.18 The Family You Choose Mark 3:13-21, 31-35 Sermon Summary

by on February 26, 2018

Note: This sermon was delivered in first person as Joses, the brother of Jesus.

Few people have given a thought to how difficult it was for me. I’m Joses, the little brother of Jesus. There were four of us: My older brother James, and our younger brothers Simon and Judas. We also had at least two sisters. All of us had it pretty tough as the younger siblings of Jesus.

Being the first born, Jesus always had a greater sense of responsibility. Like the older brother in the parable of the prodigal son, Jesus was a dutiful first son. He followed our father Joseph into carpentry. He looked out for the rest of us brothers and sisters.

Jesus, and not just because he was the first born, had this attitude that he was special. He reminded us that he was born in Bethlehem, the city of David. The rest of us were born in Nazareth in Galilee. There was a saying about Nazareth: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” But Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He always reminded us of this.

After his birth, our parents fled to Egypt and became refugees. Jesus loved to tell this story though he didn’t remember it himself. He said it was because he was so special that King Herod wanted him dead. He said it made him like Moses—our great ancestor whose life as a baby was also threatened and who eventually returned to our land of promise from Egypt.

One time when we were really little Jesus ended up getting left in Jerusalem after the Passover celebration. Our parents left us with relatives and went back to find him. He was in the Temple talking with the religious leaders and told our parents they shouldn’t have worried since he was in his “father’s house.” Like I said, he thought he was pretty special.

Besides that, though, he was generally a pretty good kid. He stayed out of trouble. He loved nature. And he loved our religion.

So I guess we shouldn’t have been too surprised when Jesus went to get baptized by this prophet named John. John was strange. He dressed funny and kept a rigorous religious diet. He wasn’t afraid to tell people they needed to repent. John thought the Kingdom of God was coming soon, and for most people it wasn’t going to be very good news.

So Jesus went and got baptized with a baptism of repentance. That made us all feel a little bad because we had lots more to repent over than Jesus. We weren’t there, but apparently some kind of divine appearance occurred and the next thing we know, Jesus is off in the desert for 40 days fasting and praying. It was like he thought he was Moses or Elijah or something. We should have known right then that things weren’t right.

He came back from the desert and he was different. He was at once agitated but also confident. I guess you could say he had conviction. His charisma and conviction attracted some folks, and he started a little movement. The people he called, their lives changed. They left their professions and their families and started following my brother. He even changed their names sometimes, like from Simon to “the Rock,” or gave them nicknames, like “sons of thunder.”

“Sons of thunder”: Jesus would know. After some of my mom’s meals Jesus would let out these huge burps which would rock the hut. We thought the walls would fall like the walls of Jericho. It was like the Word of God at creation calling out, “Let there be light!” Yeah, Jesus knew about being a son of thunder, but that’s what he called James and John of Zebedee.

Anyway, when Jesus called you to follow him, he called you by name, and sometimes by another name all together. And that’s part of what began to bother us, his family. He seemed to be abandoning us. At times he even seemed to be abandoning our religion. And that didn’t go unnoticed by the religious authorities either.

Jesus would go on these teaching binges. He’d teach on the shoreline or the mountainside, for example. He’d get so into his teaching that he forgot to eat. He wasn’t taking care of himself. But he also taught in the synagogue on the Sabbath. Some of the stuff he said was pretty good. He was like a Rabbi or a Scribe, but with a different kind of authority. It wasn’t official. But it was undeniable.

But sometimes he would do things as part of his teaching that upset the religious folks. Like that one time he silenced the unclean spirit in a man. Or when he healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath, right there in front of everyone. Sure, he had been talking about God’s love and deliverance and healing, but there were six other days for all that, the religious authorities said. Not Jesus. He said the Sabbath was made for us, not us for the Sabbath, and he healed that guy.

The Pharisees, who were concerned about moral uprightness, and the Herodians, who were concerned about keeping peace with Rome—now they were concerned about Jesus. These were the “law and order” crowd. They thought our religious piety should be private and personal, not political, and certainly not challenging the religious status quo. But Jesus was upsetting all that. Jesus’ piety was personal and public. It was heartfelt and action-oriented. It was peace-loving but also justice-seeking.

I guess I can understand why people were drawn to him. But it was dangerous to be associated with him, to be sure. Which is why we went to get him that day, his family. We were concerned not only for him but for ourselves. “Look,” we wanted to tell him. “Love God, OK, and be devoted to your religion. But don’t upset the authorities. Don’t forgive law breakers or welcome the outcasts. Don’t question the thirst for vengeance or the way powerless people are treated. People are beginning to talk about you, and about US!”

We thought, being his family, we could rein him in a little. There was this big crowd with him in the house so we couldn’t get too close. So we sent a message. “Tell Jesus his family is here asking for him.” Then Jesus said this, “Who is my family? Who are my brothers and sisters?”

We heard this, and it was very awkward. Then he said, “Here is my family! Here are my brothers and sisters! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother!”

That hurt. It really did. Our mother just put her lips together and looked at the ground. She did this whenever Jesus told the “I had to go to my Father’s house story.” And my older brother James seemed to be thinking about this more deeply. He would eventually become a leader in Jesus’ movement.

But my other siblings and I were like, “Forget this! We’re out of here! Jesus is going through some kind of phase and we’ll just have to wait it out. He’ll come around.” And then we all left.

“Whoever does the will of God is my family,” he had said. WE were doing the will of God! Isn’t it God’s will that families look out for each other? Isn’t it God’s will to be nice and get along and not rock the boat? Isn’t it God’s will to trust God and wait for God to fix things?

And we weren’t alone. Earlier, when some of John’s disciples, the guy who baptized Jesus, were fasting, and Jesus wasn’t, people asked him, “Why don’t you fast? John is fasting. The Pharisees are fasting. Why aren’t you fasting?” Jesus answered something about old ways and new ways. Does God change his ways? Weren’t John and the Pharisees doing the will of God?

And then there were the Scribes. These were the scholars among us. All they did was study the scriptures. They hobnobbed with the Priests and the Herodians, that is, the official religious and political authorities. How could you say they weren’t doing the will of God?

The majority of the people who followed Jesus weren’t the eccentric types like John, or the righteous types like the Pharisees, or the knowledgeable types like the Scribes, or even us, his family who knew him best. The people in that crowded house were fishermen, shepherds, prostitutes, tax-collectors.

And this was the family Jesus chose, over the family he was given by God at his birth.

That got me thinking about what it means to be chosen by God. I thought John was chosen by God. I thought the Pharisees were chosen by God. I thought the Scribes were chosen by God. And I thought our parents Mary and Joseph were chosen by God. And I still think that. I think somehow God is so big and so generous that he could choose the whole world if he wanted to. After all, God made the whole world.

But there’s another choice that has to be made, and that’s the one we make. You see for these folks in the house, it wasn’t obvious they were chosen by God. Not like it was with the Scribes or my parents. Those folks in the house probably felt like they weren’t chosen by God.

So when Jesus chose to spend his time with them, they knew at least that he had chosen then. And being chosen, they were now free to choose also. They could choose to follow Jesus. They could choose to do the will of God. I think Jesus was teaching that you don’t have to be a morally righteous person like a Pharisee or a Bible scholar like a scribe or have angels appear to you like my mom. If Jesus comes to you, you’re chosen. And now you have a choice to make also.

But I’ll tell you something else. Jesus never said the Pharisees weren’t chosen, or that the Scribes weren’t chosen. He never said the Herodians or the Priests or the Romans weren’t chosen. The way Jesus related to all these diverse people suggests rather that he thought they all were chosen. All he did was invite them to choose also.

My brother Jesus, he was pretty remarkable. You’ll excuse me if I have to go. I have some more thinking to do about this. And praying. I have some choices to make about my life, and about whose family I’m really a part of. Amen.

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