We’ve just come through a blog series on the Five Capitals, a discipleship tool that helps us make wise decisions about how we invest our time, energy, and money in the things that truly matter. Our new book on the Five Capitals, called Oikonomics (get it? The economics of our oikos) will be released in May (sign up for our newsletter to get three free chapters from the book today!).
At the same time, we’re going to be releasing a book called Family on Mission, which will outline much of what Sally and I have learned over the years about being a family on mission. Lots of stories from our experience as well as in-depth teaching from the life of Jesus on the topic!
Many of us don’t realize that Jesus was actually showing us a new way of being family in his ministry. I know I certainly didn’t for many years. But he really did have a lot to say about it, and the result of his disciple-making was a family on mission that multiplied and changed the world within a few hundred years.
But it all started with an act that would have likely infuriated most families today (and indeed, back then!). Sometimes I think we read the Gospels with rose-colored glasses on, not realizing how truly shocking some of the actions and words of Jesus truly were. There’s an especially scandalous scene that happens shortly after Jesus begins his ministry that gives us a picture of what he was doing in terms of building a family on mission.
Because of Jesus’ miracles and teaching, large crowds are following him. People are beginning to ask whether he might be the Messiah, the one who will save them from their enemies. Jesus is upsetting many in the religious establishment by performing many of the functions people would normally need to go to the Temple for, like forgiveness and healing. All the same, multitudes were following him, hanging on his every word.
So it was more of the same when one day Jesus went to someone’s household (oikos) and a huge crowd gathered to listen to him. “He and his disciples were not even able to eat,” Mark’s Gospel says. “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”
Imagine the scene for a moment. Jesus has begun his ministry, but it’s so unexpected and controversial that his own family are somewhat embarrassed about it and concerned for him. They thought he had gone crazy. In the language and culture of the day, they were voicing what many of the Jewish leaders had begun saying, that Jesus was being influenced by a demon. He needed help, and his family had come to take charge of him.
Jesus’ mother and brothers arrive outside the oikos, but they can’t get in because of all the people. They send a message in, and someone tells Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” Jesus’ response is utterly shocking: “Who are my mother and my brothers?” He looks at those seated around him in a circle and says, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
This would have been so astonishing to a first-century Jew that they would have never forgotten it. They would be telling this story for years. It sounds a bit shocking now, but back then it would have been utterly mind-boggling to think that anyone would say such a thing. He tells his mother and brothers that he has a new family now. Can you imagine telling your own mother such a thing if she wanted you to come home for Christmas? So much for focusing on the family!
In one fell swoop, Jesus overturned everything they thought they knew about family. His disciples weren’t just his roadies or work associates, they were his family. For Jesus, making disciples was about building a family. In one sentence, he completely redefines what family is, how it works, and what it’s for.
For Jesus, family meant something much bigger than what we normally think of. So how did he arrive there? And what was his process for gathering this new kind of family? What can we learn from Jesus about leading a family on mission? That’s part of the story we tell in Family on Mission.
For now, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment below to continue the discussion!
- Have you ever thought about this scene from the Gospels this way?
- What are the implications for your own leadership and ministry?