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Thicker Than Blood

Baptismal Water Is Thicker than Blood

Many, perhaps most, subcultures in North America affirm the belief that “blood is thicker than water.” Even when our commitment to family is too often served through hand-wringing sentiment over the so-called decline of the family or pandered to by politicians seeking to prove their “family values” credentials, we like to think of ourselves as loyal to our own kin. Family comes first! In the gospel, Jesus sharply, alarmingly, contradicts the norm; he snubs his nuclear family, his blood.

We discover that Jesus’ family is not defined by objective or biological categories—DNA tests, adoption records, or custody papers—but rather by function: Jesus’ family consists of those whom God has called into mission and are engaged in that mission.

Bringing a child of God from birth to maturity of faith requires many things, among them food, shelter, new birth, story, discipline, catechism, and an enduring hope in the one who raised Jesus from the dead. It is a joy to be celebrated when these gifts are provided by those who live in one’s own household—parents, grandparents, extended families. But Jesus reminds us (with an echo from Paul) that even when those nearest to us thwart God’s purposes, we “do not lose heart” but trust that God will call and create a household “not made with hands,” where God’s purposes for us will be nurtured and we will become like the one who “does the will of God.”

There is a strong challenge here to Christian communities to keep their focus on the mission of God and not be tempted to confuse God’s mission with what’s “best” for nations or communities or (even) nuclear families.

In response to charges that he is possessed, Jesus wonders aloud how anyone who is demon-possessed can cast out demons. Those who do the will of God are possessed by the Holy Spirit, sisters and brothers of Christ.
[Jesus went home;] 20and the crowd came together again, so that [Jesus and the disciples] could not even eat. 21When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—30for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”
31Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”
Mark 3:20-35