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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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Tony's Reflection 42
Did you grow up with brothers or sisters?
I had one sister, 3 years younger than me. We enjoyed playing together and were good company for each other.
There were times though, as a little boy, when I longed for a big brother. I had older male cousins and they were really cool. Little sisters are fine for playing skipping with (true, but not something I would usually admit to), but you can’t play football, rough-and-tumble, or cowboys and Indians with a little girl, can you?
A big brother would be someone to look up to. Someone on my level, but that little bit older and wiser. Someone who could help me navigate the perils of growing into a man. A protector. A helper. A guide.
If you had a big brother who gave you a rough time, you probably think I am being sloppy and sentimental. Maybe that’s true. But what if we could have a big brother who lived up to that ideal?
Of course, the reality of family life doesn’t always match the ideal.
When Mark’s biography shows us Jesus’ family life, that certainly fell far short of the ideal. In this week’s episode (Mark 3:31-35), we see just how far short they came.
Mark has already told us (verse 21) Jesus’ mothers and brothers thought he was crazy.
“He acts like he is someone great… but we remember him as a snotty nosed little kid, just like anyone else.”
“Who does he think he is, picking all these quarrels with the religion experts? He’s a carpenter not a theologian. What does he know about religion?”
“It’s all going to end with him getting himself hurt. For his own good, we’d better take him in hand, before it all goes too far.”
Mark tells us exactly what they wanted to do. His family were going to come and “take charge of him” (Mark 3:21). The original word Mark used means “to grab hold of him by force and take him away”. His mother and brothers are coming with the ancient equivalent of a straitjacket, ready to cart him off to some quiet, out of the way place, where he couldn’t get himself into trouble.
At the start of today’s episode, they have tracked Jesus down. He is inside a friend’s house teaching the crowds. What trouble is he going to stir up this time? They had better get to him quickly…
His family arrive at the door. Straitjacket in hand. Enough is enough. It’s time to take him in.
Things don’t go quite as planned, though.
To start with, there’s a huge crowd. Everyone is jammed in and the crowd are hanging on his every word. They couldn’t physically get to him. In any case, how would they do it? You can’t just waltz in there, tell everyone “he’s a very naughty boy” and cart him away, can you? Things could turn ugly….
“Let’s do it quietly,” they think. “We’ll send in a message to say we’re waiting outside for him, he’ll come out and we’ll gently usher him off.”
The news gets to Jesus that his mother and brothers are outside wanting a word with him. This was a society where family was everything. Any God-fearing Jewish boy would stop what he was doing and go out to them immediately, if not out of respect for his brothers then out of honour for his mother.
Jesus does something utterly outrageous. What he said and did was so shocking it has echoed through the centuries down to this very day.
He disowns his mother and brothers.
Pointing at the people sat there listening to him, he says something absolutely extraordinary. “You are my family,” says Jesus, “if you are doing what God wants.”
Are you doing what God wants?
We know what that is, simple and straight. What God wants is for us to believe in Jesus.
Believing in him isn’t a question of nodding sagely in agreement when someone recites the facts of Jesus’ life. It’s not even just about saying he was and is God’s unique representative. It’s about trusting him as such and placing your life - everything you are, everything you have, everything you want - into his hands and leaving it all with him.
Have you done that, yet?
If you have, Jesus is your big brother.
He lives up to the ideal of all that a big brother should be and so much more besides.
A good big brother looks out for his little brothers and sisters. He is always watching. Always protecting. Always caring. Jesus is doing that for you.
What do you think Jesus is doing right now? He isn’t sat with his feet up, enjoying the glory of heaven.
He is up there rooting for all of his little brothers and sisters. Praying for you. Feeling your needs, hurts and pains. Rejoicing in your triumphs and successes.
Some people enjoy having “friends in high places”. You have a big brother in the highest place of all.