So who has the real problem here? Is it the growing masses, following Jesus closing, beginning to think he could be Messiah? They’ll soon be turning on him. Is it Jesus and the disciples, so popular, attracting such crowds, they can’t get a table even at McDonald’s? Is it his mom and brothers who hear neighbor’s rumors: “Your boy ain’t right” and try to drag him home? Is it the scribes Jesus calls out, saying they blaspheme the Holy Spirit? That’s pretty serious. Is it Jesus, accused by the scribes of being in cahoots with Satan? Whose side do you take in this squabble? Our default choice, of course, is Jesus. Yet also according to Jewish norms, he’s doing some goofy things that cause him problems.
Sometimes I feel like I live in a “No Man’s Land.” I wonder if Jesus did, too. In Wisconsin, some are unsure and ask where I’m from. When I tell them, they say: “I knew you weren’t from around here – had to be some place in the south.” And when I’m back south, someone will ask, “Where ya’ frum?” I reply: “I was born in Hickory, NC.” “You don’t sound like it.” Problem for Jesus – people know his background – his momma and daddy – his kin. Some are thinking, “The boy’s outgrown his raisin’.”
Jesus doesn’t come off as much of a family guy, not in the traditional sense of family. When his brothers come to fetch him home, he asks the crowd, “Who’s my kin anyway? Whoever does God’s will is my mother and my brothers.” Well, his family’s just been dissed. To set the context: in Jesus’ day the family was central – for identity, religion, economics, caring for the widowed, old and young. Jesus, now eldest, of course, is by law and tradition in charge. He’s abandoned them – wandering teacher with crazy notions – forgives sins, performs miracles, and claims to bring God’s kingdom. You can see why his family’s concerned. They’re doing what a good Jewish family is expected to do: rein him in; protect him from himself. They come to “restrain” which means to take him away, forcefully. Is he an embarrassment? Are they concerned for him? Or concerned for themselves? Maybe “yes” answers each of these questions. When Jesus turns his back on his family, he shocks everyone, “outgrown his raisin’.”
God’s kingdom interrupts, disrupts and reorders our loyalties and allegiances – friends and family. Family calls, you’re to come running. It’s part of life’s fabric. No – Jesus redefines family loyalty. Our kin now are people loyal to God, not necessarily those who give us Christmas gifts. Look around you. We, here in this room, are brothers and sisters now.
For Jesus, though, reordering loyalties does not mean severing ties. Who is loyal to Jesus at his crucifixion? Who comes with other women to his tomb that Easter morning? Who is in the company of the early church? His mom and brothers. Reordering does not end family ties, just reorders them.
I have a friend – devoutly Jewish and very spiritual. I wish more Christians took faith as seriously as he does. He inspires me. His career was soaring – security, prestige and made lots of money. His family was proud of him – until a dream and a calling took hold of him. He leaves what he’s achieved behind to start a non-profit organization that tells a story that’s vital it get told. Those who lived it are quickly dying off. Friends tell him he’s crazy – “ain’t right.” His family – mom, dad, siblings won’t talk to him. He is no longer welcomed at their home, table or for any family gatherings. They are trying to restrain him forcefully. They shun him, cut him off. He directs his pain and uses its energy positively – fuel and determination to make his dream reality. He hears a higher voice, Adonai – the Lord. He’s learned to trust the Lord’s strength and therein he finds his inner strength and peace – finds what he’s made of – who he is and who his family now is.
Do you know who you are – who’s your family? Only one thing is thicker than blood – the water of baptism. Aiming for God’s will above ours, loving God and one another, abiding in God’s grace and peace, makes us Jesus’ sister and brothers. I hope that includes our blood kin. We eat as family at a table God sets. That’s why we invite everyone to eat together here. That’s why it’s good to start getting along with each other now. In God’s family, no one gets shunned. That’s what God’s table looks like. So get used to it. God welcomes us not because we’re righteous, or believe some number of spiritual laws. It’s because God made us and renames us his beloved.
I used to tell high school and college graduates: “Remember who you are. You’re going off and probably will do some bone-headed things. You may blow it badly. You can lose your way. But always remember your home and family. You’re always welcomed here. Just come back. Show up. In God’s love we are kin. We’ll hug you and remind you again you’re part of this family. You are always God’s beloved and ours, too – baptized, marked and sealed “as Christ’s own” forever, and that makes us family eternally.
Jesus is son, brother, cousin, teacher – but even more. He transcends and reorders all human relationships. Look around you at the others here – these are your kin. Some thought Jesus had outgrown his raisin.’ Thank God he did, for our sake, so he can raise us up, too – to live now the life God has made us for, to live even now in the kingdom yet to come. So get used to it.