Jesus of Nazareth once sat among a circle of people unrelated to him, and He called them His “brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).* His words must have been surprising and meaningful to hear. Apparently being part of the family of Jesus wasn’t about their blood; it was about His.
It was Christ Himself who created blood family: a cluster of people who spend an enormous amount of time together; who resemble each other in looks and personality; who even have the same blood type flowing through their bodies.
There’s nothing more beautiful than family. And sometimes there’s nothing more painful than family.
Jesus knew the pain of family. He was born in scandal, earning Him the moniker “Mary’s son” (Mark 6:3)—code for bastard child. He grew up with four brothers and at least two sisters, and yet His own siblings were slow to support Him. Going home to Nazareth was not easy for Jesus.
But it wasn’t just His own family pain that Jesus knew. As the eternal Word, Jesus knew and carried all the family pain that ever existed.
And so, for the bruised reeds and smoldering wicks who lived around a medium-sized lake called Galilee, Jesus took on flesh and became their family: men who’d thrown it all away; women who’d lost their worth; children who never got attention. And at some point, Matthew and Mary and all the other lonely hearts realized: They weren’t alone anymore.
But Jesus wasn’t done. He would create a new form of family called the church. This worldwide spiritual family would do together what He did alone: be family for one another, especially for those without one. Knowing they had a never-ending spiritual family would free people from depending so heavily on blood family. Their blood family was no longer the center of their universe; Jesus was.
This past week I visited the remains of the house in Galilee where Jesus once sat among the misfits. Along with my colleague Greg King, I was leading an Adventist tour group of all ages, all backgrounds. During seven days together, we watched our group grow close, looking out for each other, becoming family. I especially loved the interactions among old and young, given the close link between loving adult mentors and the assurance of salvation. In just a week’s time our group of 90 became a little church. If Jesus were here, He would have loved it. And of course, He was.
Jesus never envisioned a church of isolation; there’s no biblical support for that. Nor is “two or three” (Matt. 18:20) the gospel ideal; that verse is about reconciliation, not community. Jesus envisioned and modeled a spiritual family bursting with people, like a packed house at the Sea of Galilee.
It’s time to let go of the COVID culture of isolation and get back to church community, not only on Sabbath but all week long. Because someone there needs you. You need them. And we all need Christ, who took on flesh and dwelt among us.
Andy Nash ([email protected]) is an Adventist author and speaker who leads biblical tours for all ages.
* Bible texts are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.