In P. D. Eastman’s beloved children’s book Are You My Mother? a tiny bird hatches out of his shell while his mother is away from her nest. The story follows the plucky hatchling’s search for his mother and his identity. Predictably, this search takes him to all the wrong places.
Twice, Mark opens a section of his Gospel with the comment that Jesus returns home to Capernaum, where he is met by multitudes (2:1; 3:19-21). The crowds are so great and the stories so astonishing that Jesus’ family comes to pull him away from the ruckus, fearing for his sanity. When his family can’t get to him, the multitude informs Jesus: Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you (v. 32). Jesus scandalizes the crowd by responding: Who are my mother and my brothers? (v. 33) Perhaps this validates his family’s worst fears: Jesus doesn’t know who he is. He’s lost his mind.
But this interaction becomes a teaching moment. Jesus turns to the crowd, saying: Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother (v. 35). Jesus redefines our identity in terms of our relationship to God, his Father, and turns the expectations of his world and ours completely upside down. Jesus is establishing a new family for his followers, a new identity in which they are brothers and sisters with him in the family of God. Jesus knows who he is. He is his Father’s son. Jesus, and only Jesus, is truly and fully whole. We are the confused ones, not who God intends us to be. Until, like the bird in Eastman’s story, Jesus gathers us as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings (Mt 23:37b). Then we become more truly and deeply ourselves, doing the will of God, who is our Father.
What does being a brother or sister to Jesus mean to you? Does the phrase “brothers and sisters in Christ” mean that same thing?
Creator God, we confess that we don’t always want to be brothers and sisters to everyone around us. We want to be first, favored, privileged. Forgive us and gather us all to your breast. Amen.