Who are my Mother and Brothers?

“Dad, I’ve become a believer.” There was a long silence on the phone. “What does that mean, Judy?” “It means I believe in God. I believe the Bible is the Word of God, and (long pause) I believe Jesus is the Messiah!” I was speechless. Many parents might have welcomed those words, but they absolutely crushed me! I mean, we’re Jewish! To mention the name of Jesus is awkward enough. To consider Him as the Messiah is something we just don’t do. For any of us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah is to betray our people, to join the enemy. How could Judy do this? Rage started to well up within me. My first reaction was to blast her over the phone. The words were aimed when another voice within me said, “Don’t retaliate. Keep the conversation open. Don’t let this end in anger!” And that’s what I did. “Look Jude,” I said, “There is no way we can resolve this thing tonight. You’re coming home in a couple of weeks; we’ll have time to talk. For now let’s just let things cool off. Okay?” I heard a sigh; a long pause, then a deep breath. “Okay, Dad. I love you. Goodnight.” * 
Families of various religions can react quite differently to the news that one of their members has become a follower of Christ. Fundamentalist Muslims in certain Islamic countries will seek to have you executed. Some strict Jewish families will cut you off and treat you as dead. Many secular families will simply consider you deluded and try to prove you wrong. And of course, a genuine Christian home will rejoice that you finally saw the light!
Jesus once said to his disciples, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn, a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Mt 10:34-39).
When Jesus said he ‘did not come to bring peace but a sword,’ he was not advocating violence. The sword he was referring to is ‘truth’. Truth is naturally divisive, separating those who believe the truth from those who don’t. In this verse Jesus is warning his hearers that the truth of the gospel will divide families. At the time he was speaking to Jews who put a very high value on family relationships. He was telling them that if they follow him things could get tough, and if need be, they must be willing to make a stand and put the truth of the gospel above their families. He says, “Whoever finds his life (compromises) will lose it, and whoever loses his life (and family) for my sake will find it” (39). When we compromise to accommodate our families we often end up watering down our faith to the extent that we are a weak witness to the very family we want to reach.
Jesus faced this test with his own family. But like with his temptation in the wilderness, he passed the test with flying colours! Mark 3: 20-21 says, “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, ‘He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons…’” Clearly the Jewish community had been talking about Jesus. The teachers of the law were not happy, they even wondered if Jesus was operating by an evil power. He was also getting big crowds and the leaders may have been concerned that the Romans would see it as a political uprising against Rome. Knowing that the community and its leaders were talking this way, Jesus’ family probably found the situation a bit embarrassing. When they realized that the crowd had got so demanding that Jesus and his disciples could not even eat, his family concluded that he was ‘out of his mind’ and went to take charge of him. Mark 3: 31-35 continues, “Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
Jesus’ family did not enter the house, they just sent someone in. Their aim was not to join the meeting, but to get Jesus out of it! The messenger told Jesus that his mother and brothers wanted to see him outside. Jesus could sense what they were up to and would not play the game. Instead he said “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And then looking at those who were seated around him and listening to his teaching, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” This was both a swift rebuke to his family and a lesson to all who were listening. Jesus refused to allow his family to get in the way of what the Father had called him to do. We can learn a lot from the stand Jesus took that day. Sometimes we are a bit soft when it comes to family. We can easily allow family traditions and values to hinder us from getting into the things of God in the way we should. Sometimes we think that compromise will in fact help our family come to faith, but Jesus proved that the opposite is true.
In Acts 1 after Jesus had ascended to heaven the disciples gathered for a prayer meeting; and verse 14 tells us that Jesus’ mother and brothers were there – inside the meeting! What changed them? Well, Mary had already started following Jesus before he was crucified, but James, the oldest brother, was changed by a resurrection appearance. 1 Co 15.7 tells us that Jesus made a special appearance just for him! James later went on to become a prominent leader of the church in Jerusalem, to write the epistle that bears his name, and to die a martyr for his belief that his half brother was the Son of God! That’s quite a turn-around!
If Jesus’ response to his family that day teaches us anything, it teaches that an uncompromising attitude pays off. The truth divides, but it also saves!

*Excerpt from the book ‘Betrayed’ by Stan Telchin (some words have been changed to assist readability)

Other Scriptures used: John 7:2-7 – Jesus’ nominal brothers.

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