Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’
Who Belongs to Whom?
At first reading this short passage seems to hold an astonishingly callous saying of Jesus. Is he disowning his own mother and his brothers? Is he writing them off? In fact Luke softens this saying, which in Mark is presented in even harsher tones following Jesus’s challenge against blaspheming the Holy Spirit by calling God’s work, the work of Satan!
Luke’s version still packs a punch though, coming after a series of parables about the Rule of God and telling us Jesus’ family are “outside”. The message here is clear. The Jewish people assumed that they belonged to God’s kingdom by birthright. They were Abraham’s children – nothing more to be said then. This isn’t the only place Jesus challenges that view. It is those who hear God’s word in and from Jesus – and do it – that belong to Jesus’ family. In other words, there are no second generation disciples, only first generation. Many of our churches are grappling with what it means, therefore, to share the Good News of Jesus with their neighbourhoods and wider; that wrestling must go on.
Church tends to elevate “Family” to a high degree, but let’s become more aware of those for whom the words “mother, father, brothers and sisters” are not good news. And let’s, as a Christian family, do all we can to nature and care for each other in ways that some folk have never known in their childhoods. Let us never make assumptions but listen and embrace and be those open communities that those seeking Jesus find easy, not difficult to join.
O God greeting us, holding us with warm embrace, and releasing us in love to live and serve you faithfully, we pray today for those for whom family, was, and is, a damaging experience. We pray too for the people who you are drawing to yourself, may we never be a stumbling block in their way, but show an open door of welcome. We pray in the name of our elder brother, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Rev’d Peter Meek, Moderator, East Midlands Synod