The passage from John would have created a rather large stir in the culture. Jesus publicly equated non-blood relations as equal to familial relations.
The family was first in the culture. A good way to think of it is how a person is called in many Asian countries. The family name comes before the personal/individual name. One only calls another by their individual name by permission (accepted into a close relational circle) or by blood.
Americans and other Western cultures might tend to equate this with Mr., Mrs., and Ms. However, that is not the same, nor are they intended to be. Modern Western cultures (except for the remaining nobility, perhaps) do not hold the family in the same way. That is not a knock against Western Culture, just merely a reflection of differences.
It should was highly likely that mom and brothers had one of two responses, 1) there goes the crazy kid again, 2) WE are his family, not THESE people.
It’s not that Jesus was disrespecting his family, and certainly not his mother. Jesus was redefining what it meant to be a member of his family, which was not exclusive to his mother (and father) and brothers. This new family included them; it just included a bunch of others (like you and me).
As Jesus was completing his final discourse with his disciples, he told them that they were not orphans, nor were they abandoned. This is, again, family language. How severe their separation was from their families at that point or later is conjecture.
The use of the family language tells us that something was happening there. The concept of what is family was changing. The boundaries of familial blood were replaced with the boundaries of God’s saving work on the cross.
Lord, we thank you that you have called us into a family larger than we can imagine. Help us remember that we are indeed family, despite our many differences. May our lives together be ones of love that draw more into your family. Amen.
1) Have you ever been party to the breaking of family bonds (either by you or others)? What were the various reactions?
2) If you were Mary or Jesus’ brothers, what would your response have been, especially as Jesus’ response was so public?
3) Why is the concept of family (not the stereotypical “nuclear” family) so critical to the church and its people?