Barb and I recently got a chance to visit Israel. Lots of great stuff, but the Lord focused my attention on ‘oikos’. No, not yogurt! ‘Oikos’ is the Greek word for house. And also for household. Biblical society was structured around the extended family households -- ‘oikos’. This reality found physical expression in architecture. Houses were built around a central courtyard with many rooms for family members and work areas for the family business. These houses were also called ‘oikos’. A house was not just a building, but also network of people who live in that building. So when we read in Mark 1:29 that Jesus entered the house of Andrew and Peter or in Matthew 10 that Jesus sent his disciples out with instructions to enter the house of a worthy person, we should understand that they entered into the house and the household, the relationships, as well.
What was an ‘oikos’ for? Protection and Provision. Obviously there is strength in numbers, and the actual buildings formed a secure compound, usually with only one or two doors to the outside. But the ‘oikos’ was an economic unit, as well. There were no companies or multi-national corporations. People worked with relatives and close connections in a family business. Andrew & Peter were fishermen, as would have been their relatives, and they cooperated at times with James and John and the Zebedee household. Once I started looking through the lens of ‘oikos’ I began to notice how central it is to the New Testament, and it has begun to impact my understanding of Jesus’ mission -- and ours.
When Jesus called people to come and follow him he was drawing together an extended spiritual family – a new ‘oikos’. So much so that early on his natural family, not yet understanding what he was about, came to take charge of him and he said that his mother and brothers and sisters are actually those ‘who do the will of God’.
When Jesus entered the ‘oikos’ of Peter and Andrew, he took it over and transformed it! He didn’t join them in the family business as a fishermen, he changed the family business to be his – fishers of men. The family business was not just providing for itself, but now it was reaching out to others, because that is what the head of the family, Jesus, does.
This transformation of the ‘oikos’ Peter and Andrew into that of Jesus hit me profoundly when I was looking at the ruined threshold of the door to what is believed to be their ’oikos’. We are told in Mark 1:29-34:
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother–in–law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon–possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
I am sure that the folks in Simon and Andrew’s household were thinking, ‘It’s good to have the Messiah in our ‘oikos’! We get sick and he can take care of us!’ But Jesus wasn’t in THEIR ‘oikos’, they were now in HIS ‘oikos’! So that evening he told Peter to open the house/household door to the sick and demon-afflicted and the town outside so that he could heal them. The door to Jesus’ ‘oikos’ stands open. Peter and Andrew and their household were no longer about protecting and providing for themselves, but as the ‘oikos’ of Jesus were joining the new family business of seeking and saving the lost.
We are Jesus’ ‘oikos’. He is saying ‘open the door’. Are we ready? Let’s join him in the adventure.