Analogies & Parables in Matthew: 25. Family
Mt 12:48,49 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.
This may appear such an almost mundane comparison that we might completely miss it and therefore miss the significance of what Jesus is saying. I would suggest that these two verses above have never been identified when people have been challenged as to their most favourite verses in the New Testament, but Jesus is saying something most significant.
This picture, this analogy, is being provoked by the fact of Jesus biological family coming to see him and wanting to talk to him: “While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him.” (v.46) Mark records of what was possibly the same incident, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (Mk 3:21) On another occasion John records, “when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.” (Jn 7:2-5) Thus we find that Jesus’ relationship with his biological family (mother, four brothers and at least two sisters – see Mk 6:3) was not always easy as they struggled to understand who he was and why he was doing what he was doing.
So the family come to see him but the house is crowded so they cannot get in and so “Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” (v.47) It is in this context that Jesus uses the opportunity to teach: “He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (v.48) Up until that point the listening crowd would have thought, “Well that is obvious, they are outside, the family of the carpenter Joseph.” (Many think Joseph had probably passed away by now because he is never mentioned.) It is possible that they might have thought he was trying to identify himself with a real family of Israel, identifying himself with the ordinary people, but if they thought either of these two things, they would have come short of what was in Jesus’ mind. Here is an opportunity to speak about relationships.
“Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers.” (v.49) What? This bunch of men who are always with him are his family? Well, actually, yes. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (v.50) Family relationships, when it comes to the kingdom of God, come first by outlook, by thinking and then by obedience to God. We enter into a relationship (which is more than just knowing information about Him) with God when we realise we are helpless and hopeless sinners and that Jesus, the Son of God, has come to save us. Then we surrender our lives to him so that from now on, our focus is what the will of the Father is, and our desire becomes wanting to not only know what that will is, but to participate in it by obedience to all He says and to His leading of us in our daily lives. When we enter into this relationship, we come to realise that His side of it is to bless us and that comes by Him providing for us, protecting us, and teaching and guiding and leading us. i.e. He is there for us in every way.
Later in the New Testament teaching we are referred to as “God’s household” (see Eph 2:19, 1 Tim 3:15) When we speak of a household, we tend to refer to the family unit, their domestic life, and what goes on within the home of a particular family. It is the same thing that Jesus is implying in the verses above.
The same sort of language crops up all over the place, e.g. “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God– children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” (Jn 1:12,13) There is the making of the family – belief in Jesus, decree of the Father and empowering of the Holy Spirit. Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father who is in heaven,” (Matt 6:9) and constantly referred to his ‘Father’, all of which is language of the family.
There are various analogies for the church in the New Testament – the ‘body of Christ’ which refers to the church that continues the ministry of Jesus, the ‘temple of the Holy Spirit’ which emphasizes the presence of God within us, and then briefly later on, the ‘bride of Christ’ that speaks of the eternal relationship with Christ. But here we have ‘family’ or ‘household’ which seems to home in more on the relationships that we have been given, within this family. Family enjoy one another, share life with one another and look out for one another. These are the things that come out in this particular analogy and so we might ask, as a closing question, do we see those three things I’ve just mentioned, in our life together as a local church?