If you are new to this series, you can read the introduction here.
No one seemed willing to break the awkward silence that fell after Miryam and Mark’s words, most fully aware of the estrangement of her sons. Some looked ready to leave, but no word of parting blessing had been spoken as yet. Finally Yiftach spoke up, his words carrying across the courtyard in a more gentle tone than usual. “I imagine many of us have family who do not understand the choices we have made – the way of life we have chosen. Certainly my name is no longer spoken in the homes of some of my relatives.”
Mark looked up at these words, cleared his throat and met Yiftach’s gaze with a grateful half-smile. “Certainly many among Jesus’ own family did not. Just before the confrontation with the scribes they had tried to take custody of him, saying that he had lost his senses. Word of the confrontation reached his mother and brothers and they soon arrived and, standing outside, they sent word in to Jesus, calling for him. Those they sent inside made their way gingerly through the crowd sitting around him, and they said to him, ‘Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.’” Mark stole a glance at Miryam, who regarded him, long-suffering sadness etched on her features.
Rachel spoke up hesitantly. “I’m sure they were just concerned for Jesus – for his safety. It seems foolish to provoke such powerful men. And in such a public manner.” “Maybe they were concerned for their own safety,” said one of Yiftach’s companions. “My family certainly let me know that my actions brought shame on them all – and could have put them in danger as well.” Rachel turned back to Mark. “Well then, I imagine Jesus went out to reassure his family.” “No,” responded Mark, “he did not. In answer to the report of his family’s presence outside Jesus said, ‘Who are my mother, and my brothers?’” Rachel’s brow wrinkled in confusion. Mark continued. “Jesus looked around at all of us crowded into the space around him and said, ‘Behold, my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of G_d, he is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Mark saw the confusion in Rachel’s and several more of the faces before him. Jesus’ declaration struck at the heart of the social structure of his people. A person’s extended family determined their identity, their vocational prospects, who they could marry. Kinship was the central factor in their social world, and Jesus had just re-defined it. “Jesus proclaimed and taught that the Kingdom of God was at hand. He had confronted the scribes and the Pharisees, the temple system of forgiveness, and now with his redefining of the kinship system, his challenge of the traditional authority structures of our people was complete. Kinship in the Kingdom is based upon obedience: not to the family or clan patriarch, but to God alone. The new family – from which we draw our identity – is the community of discipleship, those who choose the Way of Jesus. ‘Whoever does the will of God, that one is my brother and sister and mother,’ as Jesus said.” He looked around the courtyard before completing his thought. “But not ‘father.’ That is God, who has created and defined the new family.”
Someone called out from under one of the trees by the gateway. “Is that why you have never spoken of Jesus’ family line? Why you have not told us who his forefathers were?” Mark nodded. “Yes,” he responded. “To choose the Way, to enter the Kingdom, is to reject all other claims to our allegiance. And it is to embrace a new family.” He flung his arms out wide. “You are my brothers and sisters.” Seeing a few people casting nervous glances towards his mother, Mark turned to her. “But that does not mean we stop loving the family we were born into. If our hearts have been filled with the love of God, how could it? It means we pray for them to join the new family with us. To embrace Jesus as the Christ, and to pledge their allegiance to the Kingdom of God which he proclaimed and embodied.”
Seeing his mother pushing herself to her feet, Mark stepped over and took her arm, helping her up. Her voice carried across the courtyard. “But to do that comes at a cost, a cost that many of our loved ones cannot – or will not – pay. In times such as these, filled with fear and suffering, it is easier to cling to what is familiar, to tradition, than to risk giving oneself to something new.” She looked around the courtyard. “Even for some of us, I fear that if – or when – the Romans lay siege to our city, we will be tempted to turn our backs on the Way and join our fathers and brothers in taking up the sword against them.” She looked at Yiftach, kindness and question in her eyes. “But that is not the Way of the cross: ‘For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s shall save it.’”
“Amen,” said Mark. He invited the gathering to stand, and then turned to Miryam. “It is late. Would you offer the parting blessing for us tonight?” “Of course,” she replied…