Then [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
The wall between Jesus and his family tells the story as much as their words. Others had found a way to get to Jesus when they were blocked by a crowd. However, those men wanted Jesus not only to continue his work but to help their friend as they believed only Jesus could. There is some debate over whether Jesus’ mother and brothers were trying to stop Jesus from teaching, but we know that at this point they did not believe in him.
Jesus’ family could not get to him through the all the people, so they needed to wait for him in one of two places: inside or outside of wherever Jesus was teaching. If they were to come inside, there would be only one thing for them to do: sit and listen to what Jesus was saying. However, they would then be acting as if they believed in what Jesus was doing. It took humility to come inside, because inside there was only one place they could be–at Jesus’ feet. Instead, Jesus’ mother and brothers stay outside and call him to come out. But Jesus refuses, saying that inside is where his Father wants him to be.
Jesus makes this point with a very interesting definition of family: The members of a family hear and do the will of the head of the family–in the kingdom of heaven, this is God the Father. You can see this in other institutions. Those in the military view their comrades as “brothers” and do the will of their commanding officer. Some corporations, even, refer to their employees as their “family,” and even provide family-like benefits in cases. But of course an employee needs to do what his/her manager says. These are by no means perfect analogies to a family, but they are at least echoes of the idea that to be in God’s family means to do His will.
By standing outside of the building, Jesus’ mother and brothers also stand outside of the will of God at that moment. But it’s not that Jesus wants his earthly mother and brothers to stay outside; he’d rather his earthly family join his heavenly family. There seems to be an unspoken question in Jesus’ statement: “Why don’t you come inside?” But he knows that for them to come inside they need to recognize that they are outside and change their mind about who he is. (Thankfully, we know that they did just that later on.)
When we “stand outside” in our own lives, one of (at least) two things happens. Either we “stand in judgment” against the things that are happening inside, or we sit on the front stoop, staring wistfully out at the world while Jesus is asking us to come in and listen. I have done both of these. There are lots of things that I scoffed at when I was a young Christian that I realize now were truly great things that God was doing in people’s lives. And my natural self finds too many things about the world fascinating, and they can steal my attention from the One who made everything.
Where do we “stand outside?” When do we look at something that is happening in someone else’s life, and think, “that’s crazy,” when in fact God may be doing something wonderful? Or what’s so fascinating to us that it simply draws our gaze from the wonderful things God wants to do in our own lives?