And His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Lk. 8:19-21 NASB)
This statement of Jesus has always confused me, so I’ve spent more time than I probably should thinking it through. I’m going to provide both the surface thought, which is probably more important, and a “subsurface” thought which can be easily disposed of if you disagree.
The surface thought that occurs to me is that this is really Jesus making a point that His family is made up of those who, like Him, follow obediently the will of the Father. So, to be counted among the “family of Jesus Christ, Son of God, my Savior” I need to be obedient to the will of the Father. Once again, in an age of grace, I’m confronted with the need for obedience. I don’t want to be a wayward son, so I need to be obedient. That’s the surface thought, and it’s the one that is obvious, lying about for all to see, and therefore the most important truth.
The Subsurface Context
The subsurface thought I reach by following the context of this statement of Jesus, specifically the parable of the soils. From the context of this parable I get the impression that the crowds (those keeping Jesus’ family at bay) are nothing like obedient. He speaks to them in terms that obscure the truth, that prevent understanding, and then explains Himself to only a few. So, those around Him are not necessarily in the category of the “obedient ones” doing the will of the Father. So, what is it that includes this rabble but excludes His siblings and mother?
The Subsurface Family Problems
In pursuit of some sort of answer, I find two things of interest. First, how does a message reach Him through a crowd which His siblings and mother cannot penetrate? Second, where have they been all this time? I’m intrigued by the need for Jesus to stop what He’s doing, leave the crowd to speak with His siblings and mother. If they were truly “followers” of His, if they had the “will of the Father” at heart, then why would they want Jesus to stop? What I’m confronted with by their request is that they want the Savior of the world to give them some time on their terms.
There have been plenty of suspicions about their motive, and Mark includes a statement that they thought He was crazy. But regardless, the problem of what they ask remains in any of the gospel accounts. “Stop what you’re doing and pay attention to us.” Honestly, what sort of family turmoil was created when Jesus left off the carpentry business and pursued ministry is unknown. Perhaps this is a glimpse into that turmoil. We’re not told, so that must not be the point. The point remains that Jesus’ siblings, and even His mother really were not counted among His followers, at least not yet.
The Subsurface Family Distance
That’s troubling. Of all the people who should have known what sort of man He was, they should have. Jesus goes back to Nazareth, and we don’t even read about any contact between He and His mother and siblings. Nor do they seem to have any impact on His rejection. It’s as if they considered themselves cut off from Him, and resented Him for it. Now I don’t know that, and there’s little evidence to support such a claim, only circumstantial tidbits. But if it’s true, or close, then there’s another lesson here for me (and maybe you?). I must be very aware of how much I believe and act like I believe that I deserve more of my Master’s attention. Be cause I don’t deserve His attention. And I need to be interested in what He is interested in, not my own interests and not myself.
The Subsurface Application
The way this plays out in my life is particularly acute at the point of being “judgmental” of others. When I think I am more acceptable, or more important, or more worthy of His attention than those around me, I fail this test. And this is especially true when dealing with those outside the faith. If my Master has my devotion already, then my attention should be on what matters to Him, which would include those who wander aimlessly without the Shepherd. There are “soils” out there needing sowing. I’m supposed to be more concerned about sowing than being “paid” for it. I’m supposed to do what I can to be “good soil” rather than looking at the rocks and thorns of others. In fact, if I can help others remove the thorns and rocks, that’s a whole lot better use of my time than doing “soil analysis”! In doing so, in focusing on what’s important to my Master, I remove the logs and planks from my own eye, and live as a functional part of His family.
Those are my thoughts, surface and subsurface. What do you see through the knothole?