Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? …Look! Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does what my Father in heaven wants is my brother, my sister, and my mother.
Chapter 12 seems to end with Jesus in a really bad mood. Here’s the lead in to this scripture:
Jesus was still talking to the people when his mother and brothers arrived. They stood outside, asking to speak with him. So one of the people there said to him, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside, and they want to speak with you.” (Matthew 12:46-47).
Yikes. First of all Jesus snaps at the person announcing his visitors with rapid fire questions – “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Ummm, maybe the people standing over there waiting to talk to you, Jesus? The person in the scripture was probably trying to be helpful. He probably thought Jesus would be happy to see that his mom & brothers were there to see him. Why didn’t Jesus just say thanks? Then he points to the disciples and says that they are his real family. He renounces his family. How rude is that? What the heck, Jesus! Why do you reject them like that?
Maybe his family is staging an intervention. Maybe they are trying to talk some sense into him, calm him down, keep him out of trouble, and save his life. Maybe they are there to talk him into coming home, finding a wife, and settling down into a normal life. Maybe that’s why he’s so testy. If this is the case, what does it say about Mary? Maybe she wasn’t the sweet, compliant little goddess some people have made her into. Maybe Jesus didn’t get along that well with his family. Maybe that’s why he is always making all those negative family statements (See Days 89, 96 & 97). And if it is indeed an intervention, where the heck is Joseph. He just drops out of the Bible. Maybe Joseph and Jesus aren’t speaking. Maybe he’s mad because Jesus is out running around instead of getting a job. Maybe he ran off with another woman. The traditional explanation was that he died young, but that’s just convenient. If that’s true why isn’t in the Bible? Well whatever, no point speculating. Maybe Jesus had a good reason for being so rude, but I can’t imagine what that could be unless there’s something here that they have left out of the story. Hmmm….perhaps some shocking family secrets?
My husband John informs me that Chapter 12 (and its counterpart scriptures in the other books of the Gospel) are not used in the “lectionary,” the scheduled of Sunday morning scriptures used by the church that enables them to cover most of the Bible in a 3 year cycle. Chapter 12 is challenging to study because Jesus is pretty harsh and contentious. Throughout the whole chapter it seems like he’s provoking everyone, so this seemingly abrasive scripture is just one or many.
Well let’s assume that Jesus has his reasons for rejecting his own family and try to look for a positive side. I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Let’s just assume he’s saying it all with a smile on his face and that he looks at this as a “teachable moment” about some of the things he has already said. In the last “family” scripture on Day 97, Jesus says tells his disciples that they can’t love their families more than they love him. On that day I theorized about how he wants people to love everyone as much as they love their own families. In this scripture he redefines his family to include all of his disciples. Maybe he’s just demonstrating to his disciples that he meant what he said. Maybe he really is really glad to see his family and is just using them to make a point. Still not sure I’d be real happy about this if I was his mom. I think I would remind him about the commandment to honor his mother.
But I understand what he’s saying about how he considers his spiritual buddies to be like family to him. At our church in Chicago everyone loved hanging out together. I remember one year Christmas fell on a Sunday, which presented a problem because we usually ate a full dinner after church. I thought maybe there might be a couple of people who didn’t have a place to go on Christmas so I volunteered to cook a dinner at the church. Lo and behold more than 50 people signed up to come! Even people with big extended families! They all said they would rather have Christmas dinner with their church family than their biological families. Many of them said there was too much drama and bad behavior at their family dinners and that no one really cared whether they were there or not. It turned out to be a great time at the church and we had a lot of fun. I will always remember that dinner as a sign of what the church can be. So good that people want to get together with their church friends on Christmas Day, not just for worship but for fun and celebration. Just because they love each other.
So Chapter 12 is completed. In Chapter 13 Jesus calms down and returns to a greater level of civility. The next time I get cranky I think I’ll be a little easier on myself. I will remember Jesus yelling at everybody and calling them names and rejecting his family. Getting irritated is just part of being human, I guess. Anybody can have a bad day (or in this case a bad chapter). Apparently even Jesus found it hard to be kind to people on certain occasions.
What does this scripture say to you?