Formations 06.21.2020: The Family of God

John 19:25b-30

The scene with Jesus’ mother and the Beloved Disciple at the cross is unique to the Fourth Gospel. In the Synoptic Gospels, however, there’s another story with a similar them. Here is how this story is told in Mark 3:31-35:

Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Both stories involve the question of membership in Jesus’ family: Who are his mother and his brothers? In both stories, Jesus expands the definition of “family” to include not merely those connected by blood but those connected by faithful discipleship.

At the cross, Jesus tells his mother, “Woman, here is your son” and tells the Beloved Disciple, “Here is your mother” (vv. 26-27). From that hour, the Gospel writer tells us, the disciple took Mary into his own home. Jesus effectively forges the two into a new family, a “son” and a “mother” to take care of each other when Jesus is gone.

Jesus speaks, and a new family comes to be.

As we have seen in this unit, though, there is rarely one level of meaning in the Fourth Gospel. The Beloved Disciple isn’t merely a first-century follower of Jesus. He is the example for us all. If he is welcomed into an enlarged vision of what it means to be part of Jesus’ family, then so are we.


  • Why do you think Jesus entrusts his mother to the Beloved Disciple rather than his own brothers (see 7:3-10)?
  • How do you perceive church as family?
  • What favorite hymns explore the idea that all believers are siblings in Christ?
  • What are some of the values of Jesus’ family?
  • What does it mean when a church family displays immaturity or dysfunction?

Darrell Pursiful is the editor of Formations. He is an adjunct professor at Mercer University and an active member of the First Baptist Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia.


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