Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"Behold My mother and My brothers!"

Much is said of the family relationship. It is said that “blood is thicker than water.” One person says, “Whatever happens, always remember that we're family.” I have also heard it said, “There is nothing more important than family.”

If any of those statements are true, then how exactly would you explain the following comments by Jesus? Taken from Matthew 12:46-50, “While [Jesus] was still speaking to the crowds, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. [47] Someone said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.” [48] But Jesus answered the one who was telling Him and said, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” [49] And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! [50] For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.””

Were the disciples of Christ REALLY Jesus' family? And was He dismissing His human mother and brothers as no longer being His family? To accurately assess the passage, one must understand that it has been God's intent from the beginning to move man to a higher order than that which is merely physical. So much of the Bible is misunderstood – or not understood at all – because it is spiritual in nature. As it is written, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Is a Bible college education valuable? Sure, under the right conditions. But if a man has a Ph.D. in theology yet does not have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, then his teaching cannot be correct or profitable. Thus David said, “I have more insight than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation” (Psalm 119:99). It wasn't that his teachers lacked education … they lacked the Spirit of God.

What does that have to do with our text? Everything. To many people, family truly is their all in all. I know those who spend an exorbitant amount of time hauling their kids to every extracurricular activity under the sun. Yet those same people will rarely spend time in prayer or Bible study. No matter what the lips say … the evidence says clearly that family is more important than God.

In our text, Jesus was making a very clear distinction between the physical and the spiritual. He was NOT saying that physical family is unimportant, but that the spiritual family relationship supersedes the physical one. When one is worldly, the family relationship can indeed be everything. But when one is spiritual, the blood relationship is reevaluated and reconsidered in light of the heavenly relationship.

Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This is not hyperbole, but truth. The physical must give way to the spiritual, because the physical is tied to a world destined for destruction. “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— [13] for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. [14] For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:12-14).

Jesus spoke frankly, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; [52] for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. [53] They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law” (Luke 12:51-53). If the physical relationship is more important than the spiritual one, then it proves a misplaced priority. How easy it is for family to become a god!

In the case of Jesus' own family, they did not correctly evaluate Him or the heavenly cause He represented. In John 7:1-5, we read, “Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. [2] Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. [3] Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. [4] For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” [5] For not even His brothers were believing in Him.”

His family gave Him good worldly advice … which was of no heavenly value at all. They believed in Jesus the Man, but not in Jesus the Son of God. They evaluated His situation only with physical wisdom, lacking any spiritual wisdom.

The same thing is true of so many leaders in the contemporary church. They raise their hands in agreement on physical issues, because the world tells them that a majority vote is a proper method for laying out a course … even though the Bible has never suggested such a method as a pattern for spiritual leadership. They think physically and act physically … and prove by their actions that they are not spiritual men.

This is also true within families. “Because I said so” was good enough for me as a child under my parent's authority, but now I have given all allegiance to a higher authority. What my heavenly Father says is of far greater weight than what my earthly father says. “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Even the physical command, “Obey your parents,” is qualified by the spiritual parameter, “in the Lord” (Ephesians 6:1).

When I was adopted into God's family, I was removed from my earthly family. In fact, if my earthly family is not also a part of my spiritual family, then I owe them nothing at all. Perhaps blood IS physically thicker than water, but it was not the blood of my parents or siblings that purchased my salvation.

God is my Father, Jesus is my elder Brother, and – according to Christ – “whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.” Thus my consideration of any real family connection is tied directly to their behavior … it is associated with their response to God … it is obligated not by the blood of my progenitors, but by obedience to the One who is “the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

The word of the Lord says that we are to “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and ... run with endurance the race that is set before us, [2] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Earthly family is such an encumbrance if they hold you back from full fellowship with the Lord. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37). And if the agenda of a physical family is prioritized over the agenda of almighty God, then it becomes a “sin which so easily entangles us.”

“But I love my family!” Do you love them more than you love God? And if you TRULY love them, will you not do whatever is necessary to save their souls from hell … even if that means sharing hard spiritual truth which might cause them to withdraw from you?

Ultimately, we will all stand before the Lord on the Day of Judgment. On that day, I will be held accountable for my actions … and for my associations. The Spirit of God has commanded, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them” (Romans 16:17) … which includes, if necessary, even my own flesh and blood.

I look forward to the splendor of heaven, in which I will have eternal fellowship with my REAL family … with my REAL brothers and sisters … with those who have placed the Spirit above the flesh … with those who have denied themselves and accomplished the will of God.

But until that day comes, I will “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1) … even if they share my DNA. “Forgetting what lies behind” (that which is earthly, even if it is family) “and reaching forward to what lies ahead” (heaven, and the real spiritual family into which I have been adopted), “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). I will let nothing – not even family – deter me from that goal.

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