Jesus and Family

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Matthew 12:46-50 (My brother and sister and mother)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called Mission and Conflict, and today is the last in our series of messages from Matthew 10-12. Throughout this series we have seen that mission and conflict go together. Jesus experienced conflict as he went forward in mission for God, and we can expect conflict when we go forward in mission for Jesus.

We have seen various examples of conflict throughout these three chapters, but today we come to probably the most painful way we experience mission and conflict for Jesus. And that’s when conflict comes from our families. What does the Bible have to say about Jesus and family? (Read Matthew 12:46-50 and pray.)

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So, what does the Bible have to say about Jesus and family? We know that family was designed by God to be a blessing. But unfortunately, when families don’t serve God together, family can create conflict for those seeking to follow Jesus.

It’s hard enough when opposition to your faith comes from the outside, but the toughest opposition is always that which comes from within. It’s been said the hardest place to live out your Christian life is in your family, and when your family does not believe, it only makes it that much harder.

It is one thing to stand up against those who are in direct opposition to you. But it is very challenging to stand firm in your faith when those closest to you, those you love the most, your own family seeks to pull you away from Jesus.

Jesus himself experienced this conflict between mission and family. Jesus was in the middle of teaching a group of people when his family arrived. Matthew just tells us they wanted to speak with him, but the gospel of Mark tells us the rest of the story. They thought he was out of his mind and they had come to take charge of him. (Mark 3:21)

And so, Jesus has to choose between his mission and his family. How do you even make a choice like that? Well, that’s what we want to learn as we study this passage together.

I. Your physical family here on earth (46-47)

Let’s start by talking about your physical family here on earth. The passage begins by drawing attention to Jesus’ physical family: his mother and brothers who have come to speak with him. Look at Matthew 12:46-47:

While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” (Matthew 12:46-47)

Most people know Jesus had a physical mother, Mary, but many are surprised to learn he had siblings as well. There are several passages in the gospels which speak about Jesus’ brothers and his sisters. (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3) Some people try to explain these passages as talking about Jesus’ cousins or that Mary’s husband, Joseph, had children from a previous marriage, but the most natural explanation is that Joseph and Mary had children of their own after Jesus was born. Of course, that would make them half-brothers and half-sisters because Jesus had no earthly father.

And so, Jesus had a physical family here on earth. He was born of the virgin Mary, but he had Joseph as an adopted father, and he grew up with younger brothers and sisters in the family.

   A. The importance of family
      – Genesis 2:24; Exodus 20:12

The Bible speaks everywhere of the importance of family. God created the family as the basic unit of society, and the family precedes and undergirds all other institutions in society.

We can go straight to the creation account and the Ten Commandments to see the importance of family in the Bible. For example, we read in the creation account in Genesis 2:24: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24) Here the marriage relationship is revealed as the most important relationship on earth, a physical relationship so close that husband and wife can be called one flesh.

Or we could go to the Ten Commandments. We read in Exodus 20:12: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12) This is the fifth commandment, and it establishes the importance of the parent-child relationship.

   B. Your responsibilities to your family
      – Mark 7:11-13; 1 Timothy 5:8

The Bible not only speaks of the importance of family. It also speaks about the responsibilities you have to your family. Because the family is primary, we all have unique responsibilities and commitments to our physical family here on earth.

For example, Jesus says to the Pharisees in Mark 7: “But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is … a gift devoted to God’, then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God.” (Mark 7:11-13)

The Pharisees said it was okay to neglect your parents if you were giving the money to the temple instead. Jesus strongly condemned this practice saying that rather than pleasing God, they were actually nullifying the word of God which said to honor your father and mother.

Or we read the following admonition from Paul to Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:8: “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8) Paul writes this particular instruction in the context of taking care of widows, but the general principle applies to all our family relationships here on earth.

And so, the Bible is clear about the importance of family and your responsibilities to your physical family here on earth.

II. Your family and mission for Christ (48)

And yet when someone tells Jesus that his mother and brothers are outside waiting for him, instead of dropping everything he was doing and running outside to his family, Jesus responds by distancing himself from his family. Look at Matthew 12:48:

He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48)

By asking this question, Jesus is drawing attention to the conflict that can arise between family and mission. Jesus is teaching the people. He is on mission, and he refuses to be interrupted. The mission comes first. Yes, his family has a claim on him as family, but God and the gospel have a greater claim.

This, of course, raises the question for us. As a Christian, how does your family relate to your mission?

   A. Jesus comes first
      – Matthew 10:37; Mark 10:29-30

And as important as family is, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus must come first.

This is not the first time that the subject of conflict with family has come up in these chapters. For example, we read about family and conflict earlier in Matthew 10 where Jesus says: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37)

We already saw the importance of family from the creation account and the Ten Commandments. Your physical family here on earth is of primary importance, but Jesus still comes first. Yes, you must love your husband or wife. You must love your father and mother and sons and daughters, but Jesus comes first. Jesus says anyone who loves their family more than him is not worthy of him.

Jesus told his disciples in Mark 10: “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age … and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:29-30)

Jesus is not advocating abandoning your family in these verses. As we’ve already seen, you have a responsibility to your family. But he is talking about priorities here. He is not talking about leaving family for selfish reasons. No, he talks here about those who leave family “for me and the gospel.” That is, those who leave family for Jesus and the mission.

So yes, your family is important. But when it comes to family and conflict, Jesus and the mission come first.

   B. Ministering to your family
      – Ephesians 5:22,25, 6:1,4

Now what we must understand here is that part of being on mission for Christ is ministering to your family. In fact, in many ways your family is your most important mission. For example, we read Paul’s instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5: “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord…. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” (Ephesians 5:22,25)

And we read these instructions to children and parents in Ephesians 6: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right…. Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” (Ephesians 6:1,4)

Part of serving Christ is serving your family. Family and ministry are not supposed to be in competition with each other. Jesus comes first, and part of putting Jesus first is ministering to your family. But putting Jesus first also means you can never let your family become more important than Jesus.

So, what do you do if your family asks you to stop following Jesus? What do you do if they ask you to do something that would be displeasing to Jesus? What do you do if they don’t want you to spend time reading your Bible anymore or being involved in church or ministry? You love them, you serve them, you pray for them, but you make it clear that Jesus and the gospel come first. And you show them by your actions that following Jesus actually makes you a better husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son or daughter.

The good news is that Jesus and family do not have to be in conflict. Part of putting Jesus first is ministering to your family.

III. The family of God (49-50)

Finally, Jesus points us beyond our physical families here on earth to the family of God. Look at Matthew 12:49-50:

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.” (Matthew 12:49-50)

If your physical family here on earth rejects you for your faith, you have another family, and you can take comfort and refuge in the family of God.

Notice Jesus says, “Whoever.” In other words, this family is open to all who will come. But notice Jesus also says, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven.” This family is open to all, but it is also restricted to a certain set of people. The family of God is restricted to those who do God’s will. Jesus points to his disciples as family, but then he extends the family principle to a much larger group, that is, everyone who does the will of his Father. We’ll talk about what that means in just a moment.

Notice also that Jesus calls those who do God’s will his mother, sister and brother. But he does not call them his father. Jesus has many brothers, sisters and mothers in the family of God, but he only has one Father. And that’s because Jesus stands in a unique relationship with God the Father. Jesus is the eldest brother of all believers, but he is the one and only divine Son of God.

Jesus said, “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” So, what is the will of Jesus’ Father in heaven? It is simply this – that you would believe in Jesus his Son! What does it mean to do God’s will? It means to repent of your sin and put your faith in Jesus as Savior. And then to follow Jesus and seek to serve him with your life.

   A. Redefining the family around Jesus
      – Luke 11:27-28; Hebrews 2:11

In these verses Jesus redefines the family around himself. Yes, we all have a physical family here on earth. But there is an even more important family we can belong to, and that is the family of God.

Jesus said something similar in the gospel of Luke. We read in Luke 11:27-28: “As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, ‘Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.’ He replied, ‘Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.’” (Luke 11:27-28)

Yes, Jesus’ mother Mary was blessed to be the mother of Jesus. That was an amazing blessing. But Jesus says there is an even greater blessing for those who hear the word of God and obey it, that is, those who believe the good news about Jesus and become a part of the family of God. Being a part of God’s family has nothing to do with your physical birth. It has everything to do with faith in Jesus and obedience to God’s word.

Hebrews 2:11 says this: “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” (Hebrews 2:11) Jesus redefines the family around himself. He is not ashamed to call us brothers. Jesus welcomes us into his family when we put our faith in him. And so, “both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family.” Jesus’ supreme passion is to make you holy. And your supreme passion should be to follow Jesus.

Now everything we learned earlier about the importance of your physical family is still true. Loving your family and taking care of your family is all part of following Jesus. It is part of hearing the word of God and obeying it. It is part of doing the will of God in your life.

But your spiritual ties in the family of God are more important than the blood ties of your physical family here on earth. Blood is thicker than water, but the Spirit is thicker than blood. Your physical family is for this life only, but your spiritual family is for all of eternity.

Doing the will of God means believing in Jesus and following Jesus. And when you do that you become a part of the family of God. Jesus redefines the family around himself.

   B. Finding your place in the family of God
      – Ephesians 2:19; Galatians 6:10

And so, as Christians, each of us needs to find our place in the family of God. Once you put your faith in Jesus, you no longer belong to this world but to God. For example, we read in Ephesians 2:19: “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household.” (Ephesians 2:19)

Paul says in Galatians 6:10: “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians 6:10) Yes, we are to do good to all, including our families, whether they are believers or not, but Paul says we have a special relationship with the family of believers. We have a special place in the family of God.

Church is a family, and therefore we should function as a family. That means church should be a place of love, forgiveness and acceptance. Church is a place where every believer belongs, where each person has a place, where each member has a purpose or role to play.

Church is a microcosm of the family of God in heaven. We sing a song in our church every communion Sunday:

   Blest be the ties that bind
   Our hearts in Christian love
   The fellowship of kindred minds
   Is like to that above.

Once again, as important as your physical family here on earth is, the family of God is even more important. Jesus redefines the family around himself. And part of following Jesus means finding your place in the family of God.

CONCLUSION: Nothing in this world is more important than your family – except Jesus and the gospel. And we can also say this – nothing is more important for your family than Jesus and the gospel. You may experience conflict in your family because of your faith in Jesus, but you won’t be doing your family any good by choosing family over Jesus when the conflict comes. Jesus comes first.

Family is important, but Jesus is more important even than family. We need to learn how to serve our families well while never allowing family to come before Jesus and the gospel. We need to grow in our faith so that we may be loving servants of our families and faithful followers of Christ.

My wife, Rosi, is the love of my life. Our three boys are my pride and joy. But Jesus is my Lord and Savior. And as much as I love my family, my first loyalty is to Jesus and the gospel. That’s the way it needs to be for all of us.

© Ray Fowler

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