7 October 2016

Matthew 12:46-50

“Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (v. 50)

Psalm: Psalm 22:22-31


In this short but very significant passage Jesus goes about the work to which he is called.

If the timeline is correct he has just gone through a very stressful encounter with the Pharisees and shared some very hard words with them and then we read: "While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him" (v. 46). We know very little of his family, but it seems clear from these words that they had kept in touch and were concerned about him. They had, no doubt, heard about the way he was turning the Scribes and Pharisees against him with his teaching, as well as how crowds were flocking to hear what he had to say.

Perhaps his mother and brothers were trying to suggest that he take a break and go home with them, maybe they wanted to hear Jesus for themselves, or even to tell him to tone it down a bit because they are afraid of what will happen to him. They send a message to him to say that they are here. But rather than smile and make excuses to the crowd whilst he greets them his response is "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" And pointing to his disciples he 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" (vv. 49-50).

We can probably imagine their response when they are given this message. How rejected and even angry they must have felt - What could he mean? "What was it about this child I bore," Mary might have thought. "What is it about?" his young brother may have wondered. "That he has rejected them all for a bunch of fishermen and a crowd of seemingly hungry helpless souls." The Gospel does not spell out any such reaction just leaves the statement standing, and yet those words of Jesus have a profound message for those who sought to follow him then, and those who still seek to follow him today.

Where was their priority to lie? We know that Simon Peter at least had been or was married as we hear about his mother-in-law (Luke 4:38-39). No doubt the others had family responsibilities, but Jesus expected them to leave everything to follow the way he was leading them, just as he had been expected to leave his family and the responsibilities of being an eldest son behind to do the will of God. Here is a challenge to his family waiting outside, a challenge to the disciples seeking to answer his call, and a challenge to us as we seek to be disciples today.

To Ponder

  • Who do you make the priority in your live when it comes to your faith in Jesus?
  • How do we balance the needs of the world in our day-to-day living, with our faith in a Saviour who calls us leave everything behind to follow him?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.