Imagine if the powerful religious leaders of your day journeyed to find you so they could confront you. Men from the Temple in Jerusalem in the South of Israel had travelled all the way to the North to do just that. Jesus had a lot of choices that He could have made.
He could have hid from them…and then gossiped about them for the next 20 years. He could have groveled at their feet or apologized and changed His message. He could have insulted them or used His miraculous power to give them debilitating diseases. He could have become violent. He could have walked away when they insulted Him and accused Him of being the servant of Satan. But Jesus only did the will of His Father, and His Father’s desire was for Jesus to talk with these men. He argued right back with great logic and showed them how wrong their accusations were. And when they still remained stubborn, He gave them a fierce warning. Their power did not stop Him from speaking. Their faithlessness did not stop Him from giving them another chance.
After they left, Jesus continued to preach to the crowd. How they must have marveled at the Carpenter who wasn’t afraid to confront the rulers of the land! Meanwhile, His family had been journeying from Nazareth to Capernaum. They heard that Jesus had returned from His last preaching tour of Galilee, and now He was in the home of one of His closest friends. It was the perfect time. They were going to get Him. It was clear to Mary and her other sons that something was not right in Jesus’ head. Their plan was to seize Him and bring Him home before He got into any more trouble.
Why? What had Jesus done that was so crazy? And why didn’t His own family understand that Jesus was doing the will of God? What was dear Mary thinking?
Had they heard about how the leaders were coming up from Jerusalem to question Him? Had they heard that the Pharisees wanted to have Him killed? Did they know that even though huge crowds still followed Him, the cities all over Galilee had refused to repent? Did they think He should only do ministry that would keep Him safe and popular? Did they imagine they could control Him? Whatever was going on in their minds, their thoughts were not set on doing the will of God. What would Jesus do when His own mother and brothers came against Him?
When Mary and her younger sons arrived at the house, it was so crowded that they couldn’t get inside. Word got to Jesus that his family was standing outside the door. Everyone probably expected Him to stop everything and go to them.
But the Lord knew why they had come. They were not following the will of God. They were in a moment of great weakness in their faith. So He said, “‘Who is my mother, and who are My brothers!’” Then He pointed to His disciples and said, “‘Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’”
Wow! There are a lot of very important statements in those few sentences! In the Jewish culture, family was very important. Your whole identity and sense of what was possible for yourself was wrapped up in your role in your family. Most of your energies and goals would be about how to take care of them. In many ways, it was quite beautiful.
But now, Jesus was declaring that His blood relatives weren’t His true family at all. He was defining a whole new understanding of family altogether. True ties did not come from heredity and birth, but through the spiritual ties between those who were devoted to God’s will. This family included people of all ages, and men and women were both treasured members.
Mary and the Lord’s brothers were welcome to be a part of God’s family, but they had chosen another way. Did you notice that none of their names were listed in the tight group of men and women who went everywhere with Jesus? They had left everything to follow Him. They surrendered their lives to join the work of His Kingdom. They were learning the will of God with their minds and their actions.
But Jesus’ own family were not a part of that group. They weren’t following Him. And now they were treating His words and actions with tremendous contempt. His family was not only standing outside the house, they had been standing outside of the circle of those who supported and loved His purpose. And now they were trying to exercise authority over the Son of the Living God.
Because He delighted in His Father’s will and trusted His care, Jesus would have none of it. Jesus took the painful path of letting go of His family’s support and approval so that He could honor His Father. And in doing so, He did the most loving thing possible for His family because He was showing them the way to respond rightly to their God.