9 February 2018Luke 8:19-21
“But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.’” (v. 21)
Psalm: Psalm 19
In this short passage, Jesus shows that the kingdom of God creates a new kind of family. This is not a simple biological family, but a family united around the person and teaching of Jesus. Those who are part of God’s family are those who are open to God’s word.
The passage begins with Luke noting that Jesus’ mothers and brothers came to him. Whilst there is no reason given for their visit, the same passage in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 3:31-35) follows an attempt by Jesus’ family to “restrain him” having heard the rumours that he had gone out of his mind (Mark 3:21). It is not surprising that neither the Gospels of Luke nor Matthew include this incident, but it suggests that his family didn’t always know what to make of Jesus. As Jesus puts it in another context, a prophet is seldom welcomed in his home town (Luke 4:24).
Given the size of the crowds, Jesus’ family couldn’t enter the building, and so Jesus is told that his mother and brothers were waiting to see him. In response, Jesus explains that “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it”. Jesus’ point is not that the biological family is worthless; his mother Mary, after all, was at the foot of the cross (John 19:25) and his brother James became a key leader in the early church (Acts 15:12-21; Galatians 1:19). Rather it is that the family of God is made up of those who hear and respond to God’s word.
This word, as Luke’s Gospel has been telling us, is the ‘message of the kingdom’, a message that draws people into company with Jesus. And as the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-8, 11-15) has recently made clear, it’s not always easy to hear this message. We need to prepare our hearts for it.
- In what way is the church like a ‘new family’?
- How can we encourage other Christians, and find ourselves encouraged, in hearing God’s word and doing it?