“Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:35).
We might imagine that someone starting a movement would want all the support he or she could get. Go to your hometown and announce your intentions, secure family approval, get endorsements from local officials and clergy, make friends and coalitions with important people, and frame your message to reach the largest possible audience.
In fact, Jesus seems to go out of his way to declare his independence and to challenge every ordinary source of support. He offends people in his hometown synagogue with his claims and by not working miracles, he chooses simple fishermen instead of influential figures to be his disciples and he hurts his reputation by associating with lowlifes and outcasts.
And in today’s gospel passage, Jesus seemingly slights his own family and even his mother by declaring that the only loyalty that is important is not blood or tribe but obedience to God. “Who is my brother and sister and mother?” Jesus says, “Anyone who does the will of God.”
Rather than see this as an insult, we might also interpret it as the highest possible praise for every disciple. If you obey God, you are family. Baptism means we are adopted brothers and sisters of Jesus. At the Eucharist, we sit with him at the family table and become one body and blood with him. If we truly obey God over our lifetimes, we become other Christs. There is no identity deeper nor praise higher that this.