Click here to watch this sermon:God’s Family 1/25/16
The other week on January the 12th at 12:28 pm my good friend Trevor sent me a picture of his tiny little newborn daughter with the caption “God is very very good.”
About fifteen minutes later I replied: Who is this child?
Minutes and minutes passed. At 1:00 I replied again :You’re still scrambling for a name aren’t you?
Four minutes later he replied: I’m working on it!
Hahaha! So naturally I told him Devon is a pretty name. You know the usual baiting to have a child named after you. One day it will happen.
At 2:25 almost TWO hours after that picture I got the text: PIPER!
So everyone meet Piper Muir.
New life may be the most beautiful thing constantly added to this world. Whether it’s puppies or elephants or trees. New life captures us.
The addition of a brother, a sister, a son, a daughter. There is great joy that comes with building a family. I maybe like many of you cannot wait for the day I have a child of my own. And you think what are they going to be like? What traits will they get from dear old dad? How will I raise them? Or maybe the most fascinating thought; who will they be?
The first commandment that God gives to mankind is to be fruitful and multiply and the Jewish people, they absorbed themselves in the power of this command. In the power of a family.
From ones birth to ones death the Jewish family invested itself deeply in every right of passage of life. A Jew will experience many Sabbaths, many Passovers, many festivals, they will teach their children the family trade, they’ll see new moons, marriages, births. Children. Brother’s, sisters. Mothers. The Jewish family is at the heart of all of these moments. To them family is sacred. The family was strength. The family was unity. You succeeded as a family and you failed as a family. You were praised as a family and cursed as a family. You were in everything together.
The home shared a societal view equal to that of the synagogue as a central institution of the faith. The home is known as a minor sanctuary for the Jewish people. It’s where a child is born. It’s where meals are had. Children are raised. Work is labored.
After the destruction of the Temple in the year 586, the home and the synagogue they rose in their prominence. With the Temple gone the home and the synagogue became the new locations of Jewish practice. It was in these places that the values of the faith would be handed down from generation to generation. The home is the place where a Jew would receive their most important training in “Jewishness”. Your mother, your father, brothers, and sisters would all work as one to live for Godliness.
It is in the home, the family, that the entire life-cycle is celebrated. From birth to death and everything in between.
One of these celebrated moments in a Hebrew males life was the “brit milah” which included the covenant of circumcision but let’s just jump over the fine details of circumcission.
After a child is born, family and friends visit to share the Torah, to sing songs and to feast. New life is celebrated in the home. Typically on the eighth day the male is circumcised and it is at this moment, after upholding their covenant with God, that the baby is given his Hebrew name. It is then that the Father and Mother would tell the significance of this name. They would tell their people why they have chosen this name for this child.
For the Hebrews a name was everything.
You see the name was meant to be the essence of the child. It was to be a description of his personality; an interpretation of his traits. It even was meant to show a glimmer of the person’s future or a prayer that would bring the person into the purpose a parent desired for their child. To name a child properly was to define their very nature. And so for the Jews there is a spiritual connection between the name of an individual and his soul.
When Moses asks for the name of God he’s asking so much more than what should he call God. He’s asking what is your nature? What is your purpose?
So Moses says suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you, and they ask me, ”What is his name?”
God replies: You tell the Israelites the nature of God, the essence of God is this: I am who I am. I will be what I will be. God’s purpose is his to decide. God has authority over his name in his name. I will be, what I will be. The nature of God is up to God.
Now that is an authoritative power. That claim would have dumbfounded the Israelites.
For the Jews there’s a spiritual connection between the name of an individual and his SOUL.
To tell you what I mean by that, let’s look at some more examples.
In the Hebrew Bible there’s about 2,800 personal names. Today, if you pick up any bible and you read a name for the first time, there’s almost always a small little letter “a,b,c, or so on” next to it. And if you go to the bottom of your page you will see something like “Eve probably means living” or “Cain sounds like the Hebrew for “brought forth or acquired.”
There are people out there that think it very important that you know what these names mean.
So go to Genesis 5 where we first read Noah’s name. Which if you read your small little notes means “rest”. Noah means rest. In fact often the scriptures tell you why some people are given their names. So in Genesis 5:28 it reads” When Lamech had lived 182 years (which…woah) he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, “Out of the ground that the LORD has cursed this one shall bring relief (rest) from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.”
In Genesis 17:5 No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations. Abram means exalted father, but Abraham means father of a multitude.
So we can look back and see how even God himself named people into their purpose. From the nation that would struggle with God, that God named Israel to the angel telling Mary and Joseph “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save people from their sins.” Yeshua or Joshua the name of “Jesus means savior.”
So you shall call his name Savior, for he will save people from their sins.
The name was the fulfillment of the child’s intended purpose to the world. And so the mother and father gave great intention into the naming of their child. Your name was how society knew you. In modern terms it was your Facebook “about me” section in concise form. Your name was your family’s prayer into your life. It’s who they hoped you would become.
Last week we left off with the Pharisees and the Herodians plotting to kill Jesus. This week word is rapidly traveling of a miracle worker in Capernaum. People began following Christ. The Bible defines it as a “great crowd.” People from all over the kingdom were coming to see this teacher that performed miracles. Because…you would too. The crowd is actually so concerning that Jesus has the disciples prepare a getaway car. Okay it was a boat. 1st century problems.
So groves and groves of sick people are storming Jesus to touch him and be healed. Kinda like pre-teens when Justin Bieber makes a public appearance. Okay, be fair you know that’s an accurate visual.
Alright well that’s where we pick up tonight. Jesus get’s away from the crowd for some private time with the disciples.
It says in Mark 3:
13 And Jesus went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Sons of Thunder); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
It is significant that is says “named apostles” and not called or referred to. Jesus names the twelve “apostolos” which means “messenger”. The apostles were to bear the message of the kingdom of god. He named to these twelve people their purpose. He designated them a new name. Messenger. This was the purpose they were to fulfill.
Now the picking of twelve was also symbolic because of prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah that point to the restoring of the twelve tribes of Israel in the Messianic age. So these twelve messengers symbolize the restoration of Israel and the kingdom of God is their message. Isn’t that nteresting.
To Simon he named Cephas or Peter which means “rock”.
In Matthew 16 it’s told this way, and this story will come up again in Mark 8. Jesus asks:
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
So for Peter, Jesus tells him who he will be. You will be the rock that I build all of this on. He gives him a calling, a vocation, a purpose. And Peter became the rock of the early church and he would remain this rock until he was martyred under the Roman Emperor Nero after the great fire of Rome. The persecution of Christians that will inspire this Gospel.
In fact the early church “before the reformation” (So before Protestant and Catholic) under orders of Constantine sought to find Peter’s bones. And it was on these bones that Constantine built a church. St. Peter’s Basillica the heart of what is now Vatican City. There’s a beauty in that. That a church was built on Peter. Unfortunately the story doesn’t stay very pretty. In fact the questionable ways of funding renovation of this church is what will be the event that sets Martin Luthor to write his 95 thesis and start The Protestant Reformation.
I couldn’t help but share that. It’s fascinating.
To James and John he names “the sons of thunder” which nobody seems to have a clue why other than there’s one incident where they ask in anger to call flames from heaven down. They get rebuked for having an attitude that was…thunderous. Literally that’s the best scholars have. Haha!
Matthew whose name means “gift of the Lord.” It’s nice that a gospel is attributed to his name.
Jesus names those closest to him. He takes on the role of Father and Mother and breathes into their identities a new purpose. A new prayer. Jesus names his disciples the messengers of God’s kingdom.
The story continues.
He goes back into the town with his appointed messengers. And the crowds storm the group. It’s so serious that Jesus and the messengers don’t even get to eat.
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
Which is honestly just a hilarious scene to picture. Jesus’ mom and brothers gossiping about how crazy they think Jesus is. “That Jesus….He’s losing it.”
22 And the scribes (the teachers of the law) who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” which you know from the Bohemian Rhapsody (and is another word for Satan) and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.”
Which fun note and side track: The Babylonian Talmud, which is the eventual collection of that commentary of Jewish Instruction; the one the Pharisees crafted it actually notes this: “On the eve of Passover [Jesus] was hanged. And an announcer went out in front of him for fourteen days saying ‘He is going to be stoned because he practiced sorcery and led Israel astray!” Jesus was remembered as a miracle worker who was opposed by keepers of Jewish tradition in texts outside of the Bible. Hmn.
I mean the Jewish people they’re going to hold onto this coming scene for hundreds (thousands) of years.
23 And he called them to him and said to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? He’s more so asking Why would Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. (Foreshadowing to the next scene) 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house.
We’ll talk about the blasphemy in our neighborhood groups.
31 And his mother and his brothers finally arrived, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
When I read that I just imagine a loud ‘Wait what now!?” from the crowd. That would have straight up offended the near majority of the room. As we said the family relationship was of the highest importance in first century Palestine. It’s where you came from it was the root of God’s first command to humans. Your family raised you in the Jewish traditions. They taught you torah. They proclaimed your name to the synagogues. Your bloodline was a covenantal relationship to God. It’s what established you as an Israelite a chosen person of God. The highest regard was given to family life. And Jesus sets it aside. He distances himself from obligations to family honor for something even greater.
Because this is the trend of Jesus that is constantly offending the Jews.
Week one Jesus sets aside the kingdom of Herod to establish the Kingdom of God.
Week two Jesus sets aside the authority of the Pharisees to establish the authority of God.
Here Jesus sets aside the Jewish expectations of family to establish an eternal family.
See Jesus’ family mistakenly try and take him away from his purpose. From his name. After 30 years of living with him in this moment they think He’s lost his mind. And so he distances Himself from obligations to family honor for the sake of His greater calling. For the sake of His name.
Who are my mother and my brothers? And then he answers his own question.
To his disciples. To those following and listening to his instruction he calls his family.
Whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.
He flips the system on its head.
And this, it would have shocked the Jewish people.
So Jesus he not only encounters trouble in his own family, but He redefines the entire notion of family. There is a stronger bond than flesh and blood.
A spiritual family.
This is what Jesus is promoting to the Jewish people. He’s inviting his followers into the family of God.
And so Jesus included very specifically twelve men into his family. And as you do when a new family member enters your life he names them. Messenger. Rock. Sons of Thunder. Gift of God.
And in this eternal family, we are named with purpose.
In this eternal family we are called to stand together.
3:24 “If a kingdom is divided against itself, the that kingdom cannot stand.
- If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
- And if Satan rises against himself and is divided, he is not able to stand.
So he prefaces this eternal family with the importance of standing together. Something when his family comes to take Jesus away they were not representing.
Paul when writing about this family or the “body of Christ” he says it in this way.
14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many.
21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”
You are all members of one body. And you each help the other.
The body of Christ. The eternal family is called to stand together.
Which is far from the first description I would use to describe the church.
There’s Catholic, Protestant, Presbyterian, Episcopal, Anglican, Methodist, Bible Church, Non-Denominational. Baptist. And they each will tell you they are doing things the right way. And so we split churches. And we make new camps. And we treat people like infants tossed back and forth between the waves.
But Jesus he calls those following him, his brother, his mother, his sister.
He views the Christians as they’ll come to be called…as family.
It’s not just a heightened sense of love for one another, it’s a heightened sense of unity and sameness to one another. A call to look after your brother as you would yourself.
If you’re the older sibling then you’ve probably beat the snot of your younger sibling at least once or twice. You’ve probably called them nasty names once or twice.
But if someone else messes with your sibling? Or calls them names?
Yeah. Whatever that is. That feeling of protection. It’s as if they’ve done it to you. As so you are bonded with your family. Nobody get’s to mess with your family but you.
That’s what we’re getting at here. That unity, that bond. That sense of looking out for one another. I mean Jesus even uses these terms. What does he say of the homeless, the orphans, the widows?
He says whatever you’ve done for them you’ve done for me.
It’s that older sisters protection: Why do you treat my little sister that way? And in the same way when good is done for your family you praise it as if it were done for you.
We’re bonded together.
Listen to how Luke describes the early church in Acts:
44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Isn’t this beautiful? See we’re so consumed with our culture that we think we can’t live this way. But we can! Who here is worried about rent this month? (Give out money.) Who here is sick? (Give out cough drops) Who here doesn’t know how they’re going to eat? Who here would be set back if they filled their gas tank up?
See the early church believed in their eternal family. In the core of their being they loved their brothers and sisters as themselves. They ate together like we do in our Neighborhood groups. If someone had a need they sold possession to help give to that need. Every day they gathered together as so many of you already do.
Enjoying the favor of all people. Because of how they lived with each other.
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
You see when you live as an eternal family. Your family grows. When your eternal family is fruitful to one another….it multiplies. It obeys the first command of God. Because people will envy the eternal family. They’ll want that community. Because when we stand together we live outward rather than inward.
Because I can’t let my brother starve. I can’t let my sister be cold. I can’t let my mother suffer. The bigger and stronger our family is the more resources we have to actually shine light into the world. To actually heal. When telling a person about Christ it’s not just a desire to show them life, it’s an invitation to be a part of your family. Because there is nothing more beautiful in all the earth than new life.
Philippians 2 is one of the just absolute best chunks of the bible: It goes to great details to encourage us to carry the traits of Christ. It says in our relationships with one another, have the same attitude of Jesus. It concludes with this line: 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
The name that is above every name. I hope you now see the gravity of this. Because when Christ died on the cross he lived into the purpose of his name. Because to the purpose of this name, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is LORD. Because this brings glory to the Father. Because this name calls his children HOME.
And this is what God does to those who believe this name above all names. Identity above all Identities. Purposes above all purposes. Man above all men.
I love how this verse just brings all of this together.
John 1 it says this:
12 But to all who did receive Jesus, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
You’re children of God.
You are children of the name above all names.
Who gives new name and purpose to his children.
You are children of the King.
You are royalty.
A child of the kingdom that has no end.
A family that is eternal.
A family that stands forever.
And that’s the Good News of Jesus.