Jesus' mother and brothers

Then Jesus' mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, 'Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.'

'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.' (Mar 3:31–35)

In the last study we learned that when Jesus' family heard about what he was doing they went to take charge of him, thinking he was out of his mind. This passage tells us what happened when they arrived at the house where he was staying.

Interpreting prophecy

I find it surprising that Mary had come with her sons to take charge of Jesus after all that had been said about him when he was born. She knew she was a virgin when she conceived and that he was no ordinary child, so you would have thought she would have been expecting something unusual to happen to him.

Let's remind ourselves of some of the events that took place at that time:

We don't know how Mary interpreted these things, but we're told that she marvelled at what was said about him and treasured them up in her heart, pondering on them (Luk 2:33,19).

John's Gospel tells us that she was present when Jesus performed his first miracle at Cana (Joh 2:1–5). She appeared to have had faith in him at that stage in his ministry, but perhaps she felt that what was now happening to him was not in accordance with the prophecies that had been made about him.

If that is true then it highlights one of the difficulties of interpreting prophecy: we know what is going to happen, but we don't often know when it will happen, or what will happen before.

Opposition

It wasn't as if Jesus had done anything wrong; the Bible tells us that he only did what he saw his Father doing (Joh 5:19). His family, however, didn't see it that way.

And, as Jesus received opposition from those who were closest to him when he walked in obedience to his Father so we, too, may receive opposition from those who are closest to us when we walk in obedience to him (Mat 10:34–36).

When we commit our lives to Jesus Christ and tell our family and friends about it, we may not receive the reaction we would have liked, or expected.

Reactions can vary: some may be interested in what we say, some may be indifferent, and some may become hostile. But whatever happens, it should not stop us from following the Lord or obeying him.

Confessing Christ

'Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.' (Mat 10:32–33)

The Greek word translated 'acknowledge' in that passage means to relate in words; to speak about. So Jesus is saying:

'If you tell other people about your relationship with me, I will tell my Father in heaven about my relationship with you. But if you deny knowledge of me before men, I will deny knowledge of you before my Father in heaven.'

I don't have to emphasize the seriousness of those words. Can you imagine the Father saying to Jesus: 'Who is that?' And Jesus saying: 'I don't know; he's nothing to do with me.' That is why many Christians have gone to their deaths rather than deny Christ.

It is true that when Peter denied all knowledge of the Lord on the eve of his crucifixion (Mat 26:69–75), Jesus reinstated him and gave him further opportunity to confess his name (Joh 21:15–17). But if we Christians deny the Lord, we may not be treated so leniently.

We have to remember that the disciples had not received the Holy Spirit at that time. The Holy Spirit wasn't given to them until after our Lord's resurrection (Joh 20:19–22), which means that Peter was trying to follow the Lord in his own strength.

From what he said in Luk 12:47–48 it seems that Jesus expects more from those who are indwelt by his Spirit. Indeed, at Pentecost, Peter preached Christ with great boldness and was later crucified for him (Joh 21:18–19).

Confession is essential

The Greek word translated 'acknowledge' in Mat 10:32 is also used in Rom 10:9 where it's translated 'confess':

That if you confess [acknowledge] with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That means that in order to be saved, we must not only believe in Jesus, but also confess him to others, as Rom 10:10 confirms:

For [because] it is with your heart that you believe and are justified [declared righteous], and it is with your mouth that you confess [speak about your belief] and are saved.

So, if you've received Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord but have not told anyone about it, tell someone today. Confession is essential for salvation.

The family of God

When Jesus was told that his mother and brothers had come to see him he seemed strangely unconcerned.

I don't believe for one moment that our Lord had no feelings for his family. The fifth commandment tells us to honour our father and mother and Jesus, while he hung on the cross, made sure that his mother would be cared for after his death (Joh 19:25–27). Rather, I believe that in acting this way, Jesus was demonstrating a spiritual truth.

In every area of our lives spiritual things are more important to us than natural things. Natural things are from the world and pass away, but spiritual things last for eternity.

When we receive Jesus Christ into our hearts, by faith, we are born again into a spiritual family that will last forever. The love we have for the members of that family should be greater than the love we have for the members of our natural family, because it's the family of God.

We feel close to our natural family because of blood ties. How much closer should we feel to our spiritual family when the blood that unites us is the blood of Christ?

As we've already seen, Jesus demonstrated his love for his spiritual family when his mother and brothers came to see him. 'Who are my mother and my brothers?' he asked. And then, looking at his disciples, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother (vs33,35).'

Jesus clearly showed a greater affection for his spiritual family than for his natural family.

A happy ending

However, despite the opposition he received, this story has a happy ending. In Act 1:12–14 we are given a list of some of the believers who gathered together to pray after our Lord's ascension. Among them was his mother and his brothers.

I don't know about you, but those words bless my heart. No mention is made of Mary's husband or of our Lord's sisters, but at least his mother and brothers, who had opposed his ministry so vigorously, had now come to believe in him. One of his brothers later became an apostle (Gal 1:18–19).

Rom 15:4 tells us that everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.

The Word of God does encourage us; and if the members of our natural families don't react favourably when we tell them about Jesus, that doesn't mean they won't be saved. In the meantime let's continue to pray for them, love them, honour them and care for them. Our God is full of surprises!

Michael Graham
May 2003

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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