This week we have been looking at a curious verse, one which has provided lots of questions and thought over in our Facebook Community. Last week Naomi spoke about how Mary had to endure a motherhood of anticipation, knowing that her son was capable of amazing things but not knowing when he was going to use that power. This week our verse has been:
“Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.” He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Luke 8:19-21
What’s the story?
We have now skipped forward into Jesus’ time in ministry. He has gathered his disciples and is travelling around preaching, teaching and healing – showing people that he is the son of God. Jesus’ family suddenly turn up in the narrative, and they are a bit peeved by the sound of it. I wonder if they had been hoping he would return from this “escapade” to support the family. As the eldest brother, and with Joseph not in the picture anymore, Jesus should have been the one to step up and look after his mother and younger siblings. But instead he has abandoned them to do his own thing. As a mother, Mary must have been a bit upset that Jesus didn’t think about her when he left. I mean she is his mother!! I am sure she would have expected him to put her as a priority given the 30 years she had invested in him.
His brothers also seem a bit peeved, and they have obviously caused a stir as message has passed through the crowd all the way to Jesus about them being there. In a passage in Mark (which seems to be of the same story), it says “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said “He is out of his mind” (Mark 3:21). His family aren’t convinced that he is the messiah, and they want him back home where he should be, looking after the others and not making a fool of himself.
Jesus, however, doesn’t bat an eyelid. He knows he is right where he should be, doing the work that God had set out for him to do. As much as he loves his mother and brothers, he has come to earth to do something greater than just be a carpenter. His reply seems quite curt really in regards to his biological family – “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”
in Mary’s shoes
How would that sentence make you feel if your son said it to you? In our Facebook Group some of us shared that we would be gutted to hear those words, to know that we weren’t even slightly more important than the others gathered there. I mean, Mary had gone through a lot at the beginning of Jesus’ life – angel appearances, giving birth in a stable, becoming a refugee in Egypt to escape her son being killed. Surely she deserved a bit more respect? Jesus’ words seem like they are excluding his biological family from what he is doing. But is that really what he is saying?
inclusive not exclusive
The big message of this verse that has kept coming back to me this week is that Jesus’ words were meant to be inclusive, not exclusive. Jesus came to earth to save EVERYONE. Yes Mary was the vessel through which God used to make him human, but actually he has no more connection or love for Mary than for every single one of us. His words did not mean to exclude Mary or degrade his affection for his family, but to show how great his affection is for all of us. He loves us ALL as if we were as close to him as his mother and brothers. Just think about how much you care for those close family members – Jesus has that level of love for you too.
an undocumented reaction
The reaction of Mary and the brothers isn’t documented in the bible, so we have no way of knowing whether they understood and accepted his answer or if they were angry. I think some of us would like to think that Mary was always that “mother mild” we sing about at Christmas, and that she took it all in her stride and accepted the news graciously. But I am not so sure. I think the initial shock would have hit her emotionally. All we do know is that it wasn’t enough for Mary to disown her son or abandon following him. She was there through other parts of Jesus’ story, and we will find out more next week.
It is our last week looking at the character of Mary, Jesus’ mother, and we come to the scene of the cross. I hope you will join me and Naomi in thinking about this poignant verse during the week:
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to her, “Woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home” John 19:25-27
Naomi will be leading the discussion in our Facebook Group and posting a summary over on her blog next Sunday. Do sign up below to take part, as next week we will be announcing the next woman whose shoes we will be stepping in to!