Series Theme: Short meditations through Marks Gospel
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Notes: These meditations are particularly short for easy digestion. To go to a chapter use the table above. To go to a verse use the contents on the left of each page which has been simplified by showing only every third meditation. Please go to nearest number and scroll up or down.
49. Sad Cynics
Mk 3:1,2 Another time he went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath.
We have a continuation in ‘Mark's studies of the Pharisees'! When he says, “Another time” he is simply giving another example of the sort of opposition Jesus had been receiving from the religious people of the day. How tragic that sometimes Jesus' activity is opposed by the very people who ought to be the most open to it!
Again it is a Sabbath incident. As was his habit he went to the synagogue. This time there is a man there who has a shrivelled hand. Already the opposition to Jesus has hardened so that they are actively looking for reasons to criticise him. No what is interesting about this is that there was no question about Jesus' ability to heal people and so even the opposition expect it to happen now, and that fact puts them on the alert to see what he is going to do today. Today is a Sabbath and work is forbidden on the Sabbath. Yes, I know we've been through that but they haven't got the message yet!
So here they are watching, knowing there is a man in their synagogue with a shrivelled hand and knowing Jesus has the power to heal people. Will the two things come together? Now there are obviously two sad things about this. First there is the matter of Jesus' power. Surely he wouldn't be able to do what he is doing in this whole healing realm if it wasn't God at work in and through him. These religious people are cynically watching for him to step out of line but can healing a person ever be stepping out of line? So secondly, here is the man with an obvious infirmity and these religious people appear to have not a jot of compassion for him and so when the possibility of him being healed walks through the door, all they are concerned with is that it is the Sabbath.
Now this only goes to show us how easy it is for people who live by rules to lose perspective. I always remember a story from the early days of House Churches of a group meeting in a sitting room when an elderly person upstairs was taken ill and had to be stretchered out through the meeting in the sitting room, which steadfastly continued as if nothing unusual was happening! The order of Sunday morning was not to be disturbed. That is the same spirit as appeared here in this synagogue and it appears in churches today! How crazy!
50. Jesus Unbowed
Mk 3:3,4 . Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Stand up in front of everyone." Then Jesus asked them, "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they remained silent.
We have to learn something: Jesus, the Son of God is not intimidated by human beings! Today, it doesn't matter whether it is military dictators seeking to suppress the church, antagonistic world religions demon and man energised, or political dogma that is threatened by the Church, Jesus is not intimidated and will not veer off the course his Father has set him!
One thing the Gospels show us is that Jesus always knew what was going on in the minds of those around him, so when he enters this synagogue he knows straight away that there are those there who are thinking hostile thoughts about him. He knows the challenge is not to heal on the Sabbath.
Now we aren't told what went on in his mind; we are just left to surmise that. We must assume that Jesus was moved by compassion for this man and that compassion overcame any doubts or questions about upsetting the Pharisees. But it seems to go further than that because Jesus doesn't quietly go over to him and heal him. No, instead he makes this a very public issue. He gets the man to stand up out front so that everyone can see him. He knows what he is going to do for this man and he wants everyone there to clearly see it. After this happens they will never be able to say that they had doubts about Jesus' ability to heal.
But he goes a step further. He actually challenges the Pharisees. Now we must assume that it is them that he is challenging because they are the ones mentioned at the end who were so upset. This is not only an opportunity for healing; it is also an opportunity for teaching. So, he challenges them, is it lawful to do good or evil, save life or lose it on the Sabbath? i.e. are you forbidding the doing good on this day simply to conform to your rules? That is what this boils down to!
Now I think this often arises in good churches, churches that even seek to do God's will and maintain order. The trouble is that sometimes doing good means disorder. Does a little disorder matter if God is given space to bless and move in power and bring salvation? God is more concerned for people than for our sense of order. Think on it!
51. Jesus Distressed
Mk 3:5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored.
It is easy, when we are focusing on just one or two verses a day, to forget what has gone before. Mark has left us in no doubt about Jesus' ability to heal people. First there had been the demon possessed man ( 1:23 -26), then Peter's Mother-in Law ( 1:30 ,31), then mass healings ( 1:34 ), then the leper ( 1:40 -43), then the paralytic ( 2:10 -12) and now a man with a shrivelled hand. This one is slightly different though, because Mark is showing us this healing in the context of the conflict with the Pharisees.
Previously we had seen him moved by compassion ( 1:41 ) and we have already seen him arguing against the opposition before healing (2:8-10), but this incident involves his emotions more than any one previously in this Gospel. This time it is not compassion that moves him but an angry challenge to the hard hearts that surround him – in a synagogue of all places!
Yes, this seems to be the main issue here – it is in a synagogue in the midst of the apparently faithful people of God who gather week by week to hear the word of God read. These are supposed to be the people of God, the people who have given themselves to the will of God; that is why they are there, and yet their hearts are hard and stubborn and resistant when God Himself turns up in the form of His Son with the power available to alleviate this suffering.
Surely the people of God should be reflecting the character of God? Haven't they realised that God is a God of love and compassion and grace and mercy? All those things ARE revealed in the Old Testament – and they listen to it week by week, and still they don't take it in and still they don't live it out and still they don't apply it!
Surely a godly community, hearing of all the wonderful things that Jesus had been doing, would welcome him into their synagogue and basically line up everyone with a physical need? But no, they are more concerned to object to him and oppose him because he doesn't come out of their mould and he shows them up. There is not an ounce of care and compassion there; it has been lost in legalism and in their unrighteous negativity towards Jesus because he reveals the emptiness in their lives. No wonder he is upset.
52. Evil grows
Mk 3:6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.
It is easy with hindsight to condemn these foolish Pharisees but if I am honest I know there have been times in my life when I have been caught up in hostilities and, without realising it, have been driven along in spiritual warfare by what can only be the enemy playing on sin that has not be dealt with. I have watched others similarly apparently standing up for truth but doing it ways that should not be in the same bed as truth. Yes, we are sinful beings and sin blinds to the truth.
Really there can be no other explanation for what we now read happening. These Pharisees are self-appointed (because no one else would) custodians of the Law. They are concerned for God's name, but somewhere along the line they have lost sight of the truth, of the reality of God in their lives (if He ever was). The outcome of that is that now they seem completely blind to the reality of this teacher-healer who is in their midst.
He is a man who calls people to repent and come back under the rule of God ( 1:15 ), a man who overthrows the power of the demonic ( 1:25 ,26) and heals multitudes ( 1:34 ). His preaching theme is excellent and his power and authority is unlike anything any of them have seen before. Why should all of this evoke such hostility?
The answer has to be twofold: it is gradual and it is focused on something other than the things we've just noted, so much so that it has managed to completely forget these things. Surely their attitude should have been, if only we could preach like this and operate with this sort of power and authority! But instead, they focus on the fact that he seems to disregard some of the things that they hold dear and they hold them so dear that they have lost all perspective! They have made more of the Sabbath than God did, so now they even forbid doing good on this day.
The trouble about this sort of thing is that once we start with a wrong premise, the enemy seems to be able to lean on us so that there is a gradual rising in us of hostility to defend ‘our cause', and if we do not get challenged on it, gradually it gets worse and worse. For these Pharisees the ‘worse' is actually contemplating killing Jesus, killing this preacher who calls people back to God and who clearly exercises the power and authority of God. How crazy!
Mk 3:7 , 8 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem , Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon .
These verses seem to stand in stark contrast to the verses that have gone before, in that previously Mark has been considering the opposition and criticism Jesus has been receiving from the religious groups of the day. Now, very simply, Mark shows Jesus' immense popularity with the ordinary people. Whatever the Pharisees and other religious groups might be saying, the truth is that Jesus had a tremendous following among the ordinary people who had no worries about the law, they just knew that what he was doing was good.
Jesus withdraws from the area of conflict in the town and goes down by the lake only to find a large crowd follow him. Now we are not told in these verses why, but a few verses later we read, “ For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.” (v.10) so he clearly was continuing to heal people. The result of this was that the word spread like wildfire across the country and people started flocking to him from all the surrounding areas.
We repeat again, for it is so important, the ordinary people did not worry about whether Jesus was keeping or breaking the minor details of the Law; they were only concerned with what they heard and then saw, that he was moving with the power of God to heal all who came to him. Was it any wonder that his preaching has been, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” ( 1:15 ). The power of God through him was clear evidence of the kingdom of reign of God being manifest and this surely was good news.
Oh yes, at the most basic of levels, this was good news. Yes, how much more wonderful to know you are forgiven and are drawn into a living relationship with the loving and wonderful God, but as a precursor to that, Jesus just came bringing good. If you doubt or question that, imagine that you have a most debilitating disease and then Jesus heals you. Is that not good? I suggest you would be over the moon about it! Note in all of this there seems little indication in the Gospel records, that Jesus seeks to get them to repent before they are healed. He loves them and heals them and then, if there hearts are open to God, that will be all that is necessary to melt them and restore them to the Lord. A different form of evangelism!
54. Coping Measures
Mk 3:9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.
Popularity brings its problems and for Jesus the large numbers who came flocking to him from all the surrounding countryside, brought a particular administrative problem – how to speak to such large numbers and how to hold them back when they were all wanting to get to him to receive healing from him.
Now the fact that Jesus instructed his disciples to get him a boat indicates that healing people wasn't the only thing he saw as important; teaching them was equally important. Yes, it is wonderful to be healed but actually that isn't THE important issue in life, it is God's love for us and His desire for us to enter into a living relationship with Him and that comes as the truth is declared and we respond to that. Thus it was necessary for Jesus to literally step back from the crowd to bring order and the ability to speak to them without being crushed.
Now whether this was a one-off situation or it happened a number of times is not stated in Scripture. Luke has such an incident early in his accounts (see Lk 5) as a time when Jesus preached from a boat and then shocked Peter by the provision of fishes when he was sure there were none there. It is probable that it happened more than once though because this was an ongoing problem and if they were by the lake, this was an obvious way to deal with it. If they were in the hills, Jesus simply stood on a higher spot than the crowd and spoke like that (see Mt 5). It was merely a matter of good administration, a means of coping with the fruits of his popularity.
Now I have to say that it is verses like this, as simple as they are, that have helped convince me of the veracity of the Gospel accounts and accounts that we find in Acts. If the Gospel writers were simply making up a story, we would not get these little details for in one sense they do not add to the story. Yet in another, their very simplicity confirm and strengthen the story.
Possibly THE story that I find this true about is that of Peter being released from prison (see Acts 12). Without a doubt it is a supernatural intervention of an angel and a miraculous releasing, and yet throughout it there are little practicalities, one after another, that say that this was a very down to earth thing that required Peter to do real life things, and the Gospel accounts are full of such similar things.
55. Power Unleashed
Mk 3:10-12 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God." But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.
As a long-term reader of the Bible, I fear. I fear that those of us who have been around a long time take for granted the wonder of the things we read and therefore no longer have the thrill of being part of the most wonderful movement in the world, a movement that allows for the power of God to come and change helpless and hopeless lives.
We noted in the previous meditation, Jesus' mechanism for dealing with difficult circumstances, and how he used to speak from a boat to reach a wider audience and avoid being crushed by those who wanted to reach him. Any why was it like that? Because of what we read here. He healed MANY and he also dealt with the demon possessed. There was a power being unleashed here that brought wholeness and freedom, and it was wonderful. There would have been hundreds if not thousands who would be going around telling how they had been healed or set free. The world was on fire with an excitement which had never been seen before and has only rarely been seen since.
Oh yes, it has been seen since, in what we call revivals, when God turns up in power and people are saved in large numbers and healed in large numbers. These things do happen and have happened in this period of two thousand year that we call Church history. But why, we might ask, don't they happen all the time? Why doesn't God move in sovereign power all the time?
I don't have a definitive answer because the Bible doesn't give one, but as I have wondered about this over the years, I have concluded the following. First, it happened as recorded in history in the Gospels, because it was God in the flesh on the earth and there was nothing to hinder Him. Second, He did it like that to anchor a testimony in history – this is what He is like! Given the freedom, this is what He does – bring good! Third, He comes in revivals to stir the church again and again and to show that He is the same. Fourth, He doesn't continue to do it all the time, because the history of revivals show that we become complacent about it and even in the face of miracles fall back to our foolish attitudes. No healings are wonderful but life-changing salvation is so much better and it seems that so often that happens and flourishes better in the absence of the regular miraculous!
56. Establishing the Future
Mk 3:13-15 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve--designating them apostles--that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons.
There is a danger, I find in myself when reading the Gospels, and that is to see every incident as a one-off thing that just happens at the moment. I am aware whenever I am studying the letters of the New Testament that there is a flow and one thing flows on from another, but in the Gospels it is easy to get caught up in each marvellous thing and not see any continuity, However when we read these verses today, that is exactly what is here: it is Jesus setting up the flow of history so that things will happen in the future which won't happen unless he does things now.
He specifically chooses twelve men, and we'll consider them in the next meditation, but for now we simply note why he chooses some men. They aren't merely disciples because that is what they are already. He designates them apostles – sent ones. These are men who are going to be sent out to continue what he was doing. Jesus didn't come to just reveal the glory and goodness of God for thirty three years and then leave it at that. No, he came to START something and that something would continue until he would return to wind all things up. Therefore he needs the first group who are to start the ball rolling and there would be many who would follow in their footsteps.
But note what they are to do. First of all they are simply “to be with him.” These twelve will be unique in this respect, for they alone will have walked the earth for three years in the company of the Son of God and in so doing they will learn from him. They are not to go out and do their own thing; they are to go and CONTINUE to do exactly the same things as Jesus had done. They are to copy him as the Holy Spirit leads them.
But there are two other things they are being sent to do: preach and have authority over demons. In other words they are to convey the truth and they are to demonstrate the power or expression of the kingdom of God . In that they do this, they are to be the forerunners for the rest of the Church that will follow them. As they do this so they will draw others to God and His kingdom will grow and grow. It was never to be static; it was always to be doing these things and then, as a result of God blessing this, it would grow.
57. Motley Crew
Mk 3:16-19 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
So here are the twelve for which the whole of Christian or Church History depends. They are the sent ones with a mandate to preach and resist the works of darkness; what a bunch of giants these men must be. But no, they are far from that. There's not a ‘professional' man among them. They are all remarkably ordinary. Some we know where they came from, some we don't. Several were fishermen, one at least had been a tax collector and one a political activist.
The first named, Simon is going to prove a big-mouth who constantly puts his foot in it and eventually denies his master three times. The next two, James and John are also known for putting their feet in their mouths and sounding ungracious and arrogant and self-seeking. And these first three become the central core of this group. One of the others, Judas Iscariot is going to end up betraying Jesus and being the cause of his death. Surely Jesus knew that from the outset? There's not an educated man in sight among this motley crew! None of them really showed any great spiritual potential and none of them had a religious background.
So what does this all say to us, I wonder? It says first of all that Jesus takes what are apparently ordinary people and takes and uses them in amazing ways – for all of these go on to perform miracles of healing and ten of them literally give up their lives for their faith. So it also says that Jesus knows what he can achieve out of these apparently ordinary men, he knows their potential. But a third thing is even more incredible: he knows we are prone to getting it wrong but nevertheless he calls us and uses us.
Judas Iscariot was used as a preacher-healer before he betrayed his master. Simon Peter did the same before he denied his Lord three times. In fact he used all of them, granting all of them his Father's power. Many years ago the Lord said to me, “I use you not because you are right, but because you are available.” It is good to be right but the Lord doesn't wait for that. Here are a bunch of twelve available men who will travel with him for three years. Enough!
58. Misc. Problems
Mk 3:20-21 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
Life with Jesus was never dull! The good side of it was that you witnessed amazing healings and deliverances. Joy must have been the currency of the day. But then there were the problems that accompanied all that.
First of all, popularity meant large numbers of people. Jesus turns up and is invited into a house. The word quickly spreads that he is there and before you can blink there are people streaming to the house, wanting to meet Jesus and be touched and healed by him. The tide of human beings is at flood proportions and the house is filled with bodies. It is almost impossible to move and with the demands upon him there is no time to stop and take a leisurely meal. Time would have rushed by and a day without food became normal.
Then there was the problem of dissenting voices. Already Mark has recorded those voices from the Pharisees and other religious people but now those voices are joined by his own family. The saying is that a prophet is not honoured in his own country and it is true of all leaders. Those closest to them take them for granted and fail to see the grace and goodness of God flowing in them. Often it is that those who are closest to us know our weaknesses and our foibles and those things blind them to the good things.
For Jesus is must have been a case of familiarity breeds contempt. His family knew him, knew him to be the son of a carpenter, a carpenter himself. The thought of him becoming a spiritual leader was too much for them. They were blind to the healings and the miracles and the teaching; they could only see the man they knew. They say that prejudice blinds, but so does familiarity, for there is no other way to explain the reactions of his family who claim, “He is out of his mind”.
It is, of course, always possible that his family, despite who Jesus is, were just a part of the mass of mankind in Israel for whom a relationship with God was unreal. That some of them al least came through in the end, doesn't mean that for much of his ministry time his family was not behind him and were part of unbelieving Israel. Each individual has to believe in his own right.
59. Unkind Accusations
Mk 3:22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons."
The opposition keeps getting worse, First there were the Pharisees and the Herodians and the local religious leaders, then there were Jesus' own family and now there are these teachers who have come all the way from Jerusalem , obviously to investigate what is going on. The fact that they are from Jerusalem suggests that we are now dealing with representatives of Judaism itself for Jerusalem was still the place where the Temple was and the high priest and all his court who were the hierarchy of Judaism. It is unlikely that these men would have come all this way to the north of the country to check Jesus out without having some sort of mandate from the hierarchy in Jerusalem .
They don't at this point focus on Jesus' teaching,. perhaps they haven't been around long enough to hear sufficient of it to criticise him on those grounds. They don't criticise him for healing people because that would obviously be a petty and spiteful criticism and one that was obviously seen as such in the face of the joy of so many people who had been healed by Jesus.
No, the only thing left, which is quite obvious to any newly arrived onlookers, is his deliverance ministry and so rashly and stupidly they criticise him for this. He's of the devil, they say. That's pretty stupid because would the devil do all the healing and doing good that Jesus has been doing. Jesus has an even better answer which we'll consider in the next meditation. He's driving out demons by the power of the prince of demons, they declare. As we say, Jesus has got a good answer for that, but why should they say such a thing?
They are, I suggest, left with two possibilities. The first one is that only someone in the dominion of darkness will have power over other dark beings, because clearly human beings did not have power over them – there were obviously so many demon possessed people around that it showed the powerlessness of the religious community to do anything about it so, no, humans have no power over demons.
That left just one alternative and that was one that they dared not face – that this was the work of God, for surely God has the power to deal with demons. If this was God working through Jesus, why hadn't He worked through them? That thought they could not face!
60. Cool Logic
Mk 3:23-26 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come.
When you see it put so simply as this you wonder how the teachers of the law from Jerusalem could possibly have made that criticism. Jesus' logic is so simple and straight forward. Put in its simplest form it is, Satan's not going to turn against himself and release those in his kingdom because that would mean the end of his reign. Thus Jesus can't be acting on Satan's behalf or by his power.
So, the crucial question becomes, why did they say such stupid things, things which, if they had given a few minutes thought to, they would know were stupid? Well we have already covered this but it does bear repeating because sometimes people take sides on issues which, in the cold light of day, they should see are stupid.
It all boils down to the issue of prejudice and the fact that prejudice blinds us to the truth. Prejudice is any attitude that we hold against another person or another group of people that is really irrational and is fuelled by our fear – and that is what we have here.
I find this when I listen to the modern day crusading atheists who exhibit a hatred for the church. They try and pin it on the Bible but reveal that actually they have very little knowledge of it. So instead they focus on the silly things that human beings in the church have done or said. Now it might be fair to criticise what is clearly foolish, but they let themselves down and expose themselves because they virtually never face up to all the good Christians have done in human history since the time of the early church. They ignore lives that have been utterly transformed for good, they ignore drug addicts who have been completely cleaned up, criminals who have gone straight – all because of their new found faith in Jesus Christ.
And why do they do this? Well listen to them in their writings and again and again we find that so often somewhere in their childhood they had a bad experience of someone who they believe was a Christian and emotional upset of all those years ago has fuelled their prejudice and blinded them to the truth that is out there and obvious to see for any one who has an open heart.
Mk 3:28-30 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin." He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."
We come to those verses that have been a stumbling block to many. Is there such a thing as the unforgivable sin? Is there some sin that is so bad that even God cannot forgive it? That is how this appears to some, so let's look at it in more detail.
What does Jesus say WILL be forgiven? ALL the sins and blasphemies of me. That is the starting place. There is no sin and no blasphemy (taking God's name in vain) that is beyond Jesus' work on the Cross. Now of course we have to see the bigger picture. When does this forgiveness come? When we repent! So let's assume we genuinely repent of whatever it is we have done (sinned) or said (blasphemed) in the past, when we come to God in this manner we WILL be forgiven. There is NOTHING that is outside this promise – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! This must be our starting place and we must see everything else in the light of this.
So what therefore is this blasphemy against the Holy Spirit that Jesus then goes on to refer to? Well, when do we see reference to the Holy Spirit? We see the Holy Spirit whenever God is moving on the earth; that movement is the movement of God the Holy Spirit. Now if we are denying that what is happening is Him, we are deny Him and indeed, further, as we see in what has just been happening, we may find ourselves attributing His works to Satan. How terrible, but that is exactly what has just happened.
Now see this clearly: if we attribute anything that God does to other sources, we can never be accepting or believing in Him. While we continue to do that we are blaspheming (taking His name in vain) Him in a manner that excludes belief and faith. While we reject all the works of God we can never be in a place of faith and never be able to accept that part of the works of God included Jesus on the Cross taking our sins and our punishment. In other words WHILE we hang on to that position we can NEVER be forgiven. Forgiveness, we said, comes with repentance and repentance involves accepting the work of God as well as understanding we are sinners. If we carry on rejecting the work of God we have a sin that will go on and on and on (eternal) and while we are in that sin, we cannot be forgiven. it is that simple – and terrible!
62. Jesus' Family
Mk 3:33-35 "Who are my mother and my brothers?" he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother."
In verse 21 we read how Jesus' family thought him mad and came to “take charge of him.” Now in verse 31 we read, “ Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him.” and so the word gets passed through the crowd to him, which then provokes this teaching.
A first question we might ask of Jesus' words here is, is this a rejection of his family and the answer has to be no, because he is not speaking to his family at that point. They are not there; they are outside. No, these words are directed specifically and directly to the people who had come to see him and were seated around him, listening to his teaching. The fact that they were seated indicated that this is a teaching situation. If they had been standing this might have been a healing and deliverance situation, but the fact that they are seated suggests order and listening. Jesus is in teaching mode here, not condemnatory of his family.
It is like he elevates his listeners in the room to family status. It's like he pretends to act in ignorance and surprise. It is as if he says, “My family are outside? My family are here all around me, these ones who have chosen to become one with me, who are here to hear God's will being explained, who are here as learners ready to go out and do God's will; these are my family.”
No, he's not chiding or rejecting his family who are outside and out of hearing. He is specifically reaching out to those who have come to him and wants them to know that he values them and that if indeed they do God's will, then indeed they are part of the family of God.
True identity is always a key issue to God. Who are ‘these people' really? The people of Israel ; were they really the people of God? People who appear in a church building on a Sunday morning; are they the people of God? The measuring stick, or means of assessing them, has surely to be this matter of doing God's will. Are these people – whoever they are, Israel or modern church goers – are they truly committed to God, surrendered to Him to do His will? Is that the most important issue in their lives? That is what determines their identity.