The Kingdom of God in the Gospels - 7:
Family Status in the Kingdom
Scripture Reading: Mark 3:20-35
Text: Matthew 12:46-50
457:1-4; 222:1,2; 351:1-4; 112:1-4; 118:1,3
Sermon by Rev. Harry Van Dyken
Minister in the Orthodox Christian Reformed Churches
© Burlington United Reformed Church; The Preacher, Vol. 21, No. 12
This sermon may be used in worship services for free; please state the author and church above.
Congregation of Jesus Christ:
Let us look back a moment and consider the kingdom of God as this is revealed to us, particularly in the parables our Lord spoke and in the parts of the gospels. Remember with me that we have considered together that the prospects for the kingdom of God are prodigal prospects. That is, they are those who know that in Adam they have wasted our Lord’s creation. They have wasted themselves. They have absolutely nothing to offer Him, to whom they must come if they will have life. Remember that there was also the prodigal’s entrance into the kingdom, that this way is open. The Father reaches out into the far country. There is the reality of the son who comes to himself, and the Father is waiting to welcome him. Then remember that this means that our relationship to Christ is changed. Our relationship to God is changed. Our relationship to the world is changed.
I would have you now consider with me family status in the kingdom. Let us consider the following points:
1. Its Misunderstood Head;
2. The Questioning Rebuke;
3. Its Intimate Relation; and finally,
4. Its Definitive Mark.
I need not remind you, church of Christ, that it is the King, the Christ, who has been speaking of the kingdom. I need not remind you that you see here not one who is merely another man. He was indeed a man, but yet He is the God-man. He is the last Adam, who has come to take the place of the first Adam who did not resist but yie1ded to the temptation of Satan.
This is the man who is also the Son of God. This is the One who came as the seed of David, who could say, when Pilate put the question to him, "Art thou then a King?", He could say, "Thou hast spoken. Thou sayest that I am a king." Then He also said, "But My kingdom is not of this world. My kingdom is the kingdom of truth. My kingdom is the kingdom of heaven."
Church of Christ, how terribly this king was misunderstood. He came that he might destroy the kingdom of Satan. He came that He might win the victory over Satan. So as He goes about this work, He casts demons out of those who were the image of God, who are God’s possession and ought to be declaring the glory of God. As He cast demons out of them, the scribes and the Pharisees say, "He casts out demons by Beelzebub the prince of the demons." Well, we might have expected that. He might have too, because they were in the employ of Satan. They were being used of Satan to try to destroy and break that covenant line which God had established. They had in their hypocrisy given themselves over to the work of Satan.
Now His mother and His brothers come; His friends and family. In Mark 3 we read, "And when his friends heard about it they went out to lay hold on Him. For they said, ‘He is beside Himself.’" His family and friends are concerned because, as they see Him here in the midst of this multitude and casting out demons, they consider Him to be a fanatic. They consider Him to be a religious zealot who has lost His mind. Because He lost His mind, gradually the crowds are turning against Him. So they are going to lay hold on Him and deliver Him. "Your mother and your brothers are looking for you. They want to speak to you."
They are afraid, church of Jesus Christ, that our Lord has temporarily lost His mental balance. So now they are going to save Him. He is misunderstood! Here is the Christ who came, not to be saved. Here are those who are near to Him and in a certain way dear to Him, who in one sense have a most intimate relationship with Him, who should have known. Yet they have kept themselves on the outside, on the fringe of the church, the kingdom which He was building. They hadn’t identified themselves with the scribes and Pharisees, who did not say that He was possessed of a devil, but of Satan, Beelzebub, the prince of the devils! They were not identified with those. Nor were they identified with the disciples, of whom He later spoke. No, they were on the other edge of the crowd. They were concerned, and were going to save Him, very much as Peter later did. Peter made a wonderful testimony, and then later said, "No, you are not going to the cross. I will never allow that to happen. I will never forsake you." Christ had said to him, "Get thee behind me, Satan, for thou savorest not the things that be of God but the things that be of men." How misunderstood was this king; this head of the family, whom God sent. You can see how important a right understanding is of this One, who is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the promised One of the seed of David.
You see the reactions that come because He was not understood. You see that they do not come to say, "Save us! We perish"; but they came to say, "We want to save you from yourself, because You have made such a mess of things that people think You are crazy." How terribly important it is to understand this One, especially as we contemplate going to the table of the Lord. Do we understand? Who is He? What is His work? He comes with His absolute demands, which are yet the demands of grace. He comes to say, "I am king of your whole life, and yet I have given you that life." He comes to say that our life must be a life of faith; that is, we must live out of faith, and that which is not of faith is sin. Therefore also that which compares practical life, so-called, with faith life and says, "Yes, we must have faith, but we must also be practical"; as if there is a contrast between these two. It’s exactly this kind of dualistic view that caused his mother and his brothers to say, "We want to save you. You are being called Satan." We want to take you out away from this crowd and bring you home. It was true too of the multitude. The multitude to which He was speaking had eaten the loaves and were happy to eat them. Yet when Christ said, "You don’t really have to be saved from the physical hunger. That’s not your basic need; but you have to be saved from that spiritual hunger," they thought He was fit to be cast off the hill of Nazareth. He was misunderstood!
Thus as he is speaking to the multitude, after He had eaten at the home of the Pharisee, a messenger comes to Him to tell Him that His brothers are at the edge of the crowd and they want to see Him. There is something striking in their approach to the misunderstood Head, the misunderstood King. It is striking because this is the One who is supposed to be possessed of Beelzebub, whose family believes Him to be a little fanatic who will He get in trouble. This One knows their hearts. This One doesn’t have to ask, "What is their concern about me? What did they say? How did they feel about it? How do they look at me?" No, He knows their hearts. He knows that they have come not to look for salvation. They have come that He might look to them for salvation. They have come to save Him. They have good intentions and they are sincere as they can be. But they misunderstood. They too, are speaking the language of Satan. "For the Son of man came not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." He was not the simple son; He was the sovereign Savior.
Beloved, do we try to rescue this One from the multitudes by not breathing His precious name anywhere that we feel that it might not be appreciated? Are we afraid to have Him go out into the multitude by our proclamation? Do we possibly try to use Him for our own ends, and thus supplant our idea of kingdom, our idea of the King, for that which He has given, because it is a little fanatic?
The answer that He gave to the Pharisees was clear and direct, we read in Mark 3. When a kingdom is divided against itself it cannot stand. "You’re dead wrong, Pharisees." The answer He gave to His mother and brothers was not so direct. It was clear, but it was not so direct. It was a questioning rebuke. "And He answered and said to him that told Him, ‘Who is my mother and my brethren?’" Christ asked, "What is the primary relationship of the kingdom?" It is the same question that He had asked when He was 12 years old and they came to seek Him. When they found Him they said, "Why have you done this?" And He said, "Didn’t you know that I must be about my Father’s business? Don’t you understand that it is not a physical, material kingdom that I have come to establish, that therefore, the physical relationships of life are not the first relationships at all? He that loveth father or mother, brother or sister, husband or wife more than Me is not worthy of Me. It is a heavenly and spiritual kingdom which I have to establish. Go back and tell My mother and My brothers that I am busy. I am busy in my Father’s work, establishing the relationships of the heavenly kingdom, not an earthly one." The sonship has preeminence and must take the focal point. The sonship has real meaning here in My life and work now. It is the sonship which is from heaven, not first of all the sonship of this world. It is not first of all the sonship wherein I might become man, that I might establish once more a family, in the grace of God. Children, you will remember that we have seen that God talks to man again after the fall, that God talks to man because He has made a wonderful promise. This promise is fulfilled in the coming of Jesus Christ. That is what He is talking about.
Now God talks to man once more, for He opened the way, so that the voice that comes is the voice of love. It need no longer be only a voice of judgment. Man can answer back to God. He can listen and he can talk, because that is what happens in the family. There is a love relationship established. It is concerning this that Christ asks, "Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?" "Answer that," He says, "and you have the key. Answer that, and you’ve understood the kingdom. Answer that, and you will not join this multitude." No, you won’t even join His mother and His brothers at the time that they are asking.
"Who is My mother and who are My brothers?" Then He speaks, church of Christ, of the intimate relationship. He says, "Behold my mother and my brothers." He stretches out His hand and He indicates His disciples; not the multitude. Nor is it His natural mother Mary, or His brothers James and Jude, and whatever others there may have been. But it is His disciples. His disciples who really understood so little and yet they have seen by faith that this is the One who comes from the Father. This is the One who is come to reestablish the family relationship of the covenant God with His people. "These are My mother, and My brothers, and My sisters; those who have been willing to cut off every other relationship that might stand in the way; these who have been willing to leave all and follow me; those who have been willing to say, ‘If it means that I must cut off my relationship with my mother, my father, my brothers, my wife, my husband ¾ if it means that, then I must do it, because the intimate relationship of this family is of such over-riding, incomparably-greater importance, than any other relationship that has ever been established in this world.’" It is true that this relationship must determine the others; it must hallow the others. This must make them greater, holier, and more wonderful. But, if they stand in the way, He says, Cut them off.
"These are my mother, and my brothers and my sisters." These follow Him, when the dictates of so-called practical reason say that this borders on insanity.
That is what they thought! That is what they were afraid of! This borders on insanity. Then too, know that we have been brought into relationship with Him. Notice that He does not say, "These are My children." "This My mother, my brothers, my sisters. For I have taken them into Myself and carried them back to our Father who is in heaven. I have come not to be saved, but to save. I have come not to try to restore or patch up some of the relationships of this world, which have been torn apart and destroyed, by the sin of man." But He cuts off his relationship to the Father when He broke away from the family, when He refused to be in the family, when He ran away from home in paradise. He is come not to try to patch up some of these relationships here below, but to establish once more in its full intimacy, in this its full blessedness, in its full richness of life, the family ¾ the warm relationship of love with His Father who then is also your Father. Church of Christ, how different this is from the kingdoms of this world. How different is the relationship between the king and the subjects. He who says, "These are my mother, and my brothers and my sisters," this One is the creator of heaven and earth. This is the One of whom the Word of God says, "By Him were all things made and without Him was not anything made that was made." This is the One who came under the scorn of men, the creator, the law-giver, who came under the scorn of men. He was without sin, yet in the midst of that scorn He says, "I’ve established an intimate family relationship, a love relationship, with all those who see Me as the Christ, who see Me as the only One who really understands this world and its need. You see, it is a natural tendency to judge what is normal by ourselves or by what most people do.
That is the standard the world uses. What most people do is normal; not average, but normal. It is the law; it is the norm. It is the way things must be done. We must fit in with the crowd. But here is One that comes into the midst of that whole multitude who are doing things this way and He dares to say, "You are all wrong! Here is the norm. You must be members of the family of God. There is only one way to have that: I must save you."
"Don’t try to save me out of that situation. For then there is no hope." Church of Christ, have we known this family status in the kingdom? Have we heard Him speak to us in the warmth and love of a heart that was bleeding under God’s judgment? Coming to His own, they that were his own received Him not. Have we heard Him speak to us, He who was charged by God’s covenant people of not having come from God but having come from below? Have we heard Him, who was charged with not being the One who was the healer of the nations, but who was the destroyer? Out of that awful situation, He speaks to us in His concern for sinners. "I’m building a family."
Church of Christ, have you known the prodigal’s entrance into the kingdom? Then you’ve come to see restoration back into the family of God. You may hear this One say to you, this One who was the Christ, "You are My mother; you are My brother; you are My sister." Then today, in the midst of your life, as we look forward to the table of the Lord, you may hear Him say unto you, "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." That is what is so beautiful about Sunday, isn’t it. It is so beautiful when the family of God gathers with their Father in heaven. It is so beautiful when the family of God comes to rest in God’s Word and in God’s promises, to rest together in the Savior who has said, "Gather with me, my mother and brothers and sisters. Gather with Me that we may celebrate together." That is the family! Those who are His own.
Concerning that family, He has given a distinctive mark. That mark is this. He speaks forth very clearly, "For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother and sister and mother." Beloved, let us remind ourselves of this, that this is not a mark of candidates or of prospects for the kingdom. Christ is not looking around and finally He finds someone who is doing the will of His Father. There are nothing like that. There are only those who think they are. This is not the mark of candidates. This is the mark of mothers, brothers and sisters. This is the mark of those who have seen Him as the Savior, in His brokenness. He would radically ¾ fanatically, if you will ¾ break into the order of this world as it has been established in Adam through Satan and renew it completely, restoring its relationship to the Father in heaven. Out of that flows this mark which says, "Are you a member of the family?"
How do I know that I am a member of the family? I know because I can look back and see that He has brought me in; He has brought in the one who was lost. I can look to the present and the future. He told us how we can know: He said "Do the will of my Father." So it is meaningful for us to ask ourselves, "Do we do the will of the Father now?" That is what happens in a family, does it not? Of course this is the mark!
Does the will of the Father predominate in your life? Is the will of the Father the one concern of the body which He has purchased, the church? "Whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, that is who the family is! It is those whom I have gathered out of the whole human race, from the beginning of time to the end thereof. I have brought them back to the Father in heaven, that they might gather round Him as family who know family life as the only life. All else is death."
Then of course, as family we want to gather around the table of the Lord. It is wonderful! As family, we want to hear our Father in heaven say to us, "This is what I have done in My Son, who came. Don’t try to save Him when you see the brokenness and the bloodshed. Don’t try to save Him. Be saved! Know that your salvation rests in this. Know that through His brokenness you have boon brought out of the brokenness of death and have been brought back into the wholeness of the family of God." That is why the form for the Lord’s supper has directed our attention specifically to look now at our lives; to examine ourselves; to ask the question, "What is the standard?" It is "whosoever does the will of My Father in heaven; whosoever listens to Me, the Son, listens at the same time to My Father, for I do nothing of Myself. I do only the will of Him that sent Me." It is he who listens to the Father, listens to hear His voice; listens to hear and to know ever more fully that whole Word of God and seeks to live by it. No, that does not mean perfection as yet. We have perfection in the Son, but not in ourselves. It means that we are always totally unsatisfied with our imperfection. For it is precisely that imperfection that brings the clouds and disturbance, which still keeps us from the wholeness of the family of God. But we are truly sorry because these things are true, and we fight against them and seek to move on as children of God, as family.
Beloved, in this way we can say, "Come for the feast is spread; mark to the call. Come to the living Bread, offered to all. Come to His feast of wine; low on His breast recline. All that He has is thine. Come, Christian, come." Amen.