Jesus taught a hard lesson in Matthew 12:46-50 that I’m wrestling with today. In that passage it appears the immediate members of Jesus’ family, his mother and brothers, are learning about Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God right along with the rest of the world. They hear he’s teaching, preaching, healing, casting out demons and making all kinds of outrageous claims to divinity and so they travel 20 miles to “seize him” (That means take his butt back home to Nazareth). His family thinks he’s out of his mind (Mark 3:20-21). I guess back then you couldn’t call the guys in white uniforms when your relative goes coo-coo on you. Upon arriving at a packed residence and waiting crowd outside, they send word inside they’d like to see him, but his response is the reason for this post today. He said,
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And slooking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 tFor whoever udoes the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”
Huh? Did Jesus just elevate what would become the Church over his own flesh and blood? Even his mother and brothers and sisters? If so, what are the implications of that for us today? For me? How can I follow His lead on this?
I’m wrestling with this today because of what happened yesterday at church. A new Christian (I’ll call her Mary) I’ve been discipling was there with me in small group Bible study, I guess maybe there were about 20 of us in the room. Mary is 31 years old, has 8 biological children that have ALL been taken away from her due to terrible worldly decisions. The list of those decisions is long and tragic, and they all began when her father left her mother for another woman when Mary was 14 years old – that’s when Mary’s life began to completely unravel emotionally. Within a short time, her mother had kicked her to the street. Neither Christianity nor the church were ever a priority in this home. Fast forward to 2018 – Mary currently is married to a dangerous man who enjoys controlling her. Both have spent time behind bars.
Anyway, it was that time in the class for prayer requests and praises. You’ve been in that same situation, I’m sure. Much of the time that 20 minutes is spent on discussing who’s sick or who just had a baby or some other tragedy in the world. Don’t even get me started on how we’ve twisted and distorted the content of that 20 minutes from what it seems we should be discussing (you know – spiritual things. How are we advancing the gospel in our daily lives? What are our obstacles? How are we growing spiritually?). Anyway, my friend didn’t know about the “mask” most of us wear in this setting and she proceeded to request prayer because just this week a judge had terminated all of her parental rights for 3 of her kids. Forever. The room went silent. Hearts were filled with compassion and maybe confusion.
Our teacher was very tenderhearted and loving in that moment… forsaking all other prayer requests he turned the prayer totally to Mary.
At some point thereafter, I spoke up. I explained how I’d “sold” Mary on the church on a couple of months earlier. I had told her she would be getting a forever family (in place of not having the unconditional love of a mother, father, and siblings that most of us enjoy). I then begged the group to help me be that family she needs so desperately because I can’t do it alone.
This is the part I’m wrestling with because frankly, somewhere along the line, we have dropped the ball on being a family. Our own families take up all our time and we shuttle off the orphans like Mary to professional or charitable or governmental organizations for care. But Mary is a new Christian, she needs warmth and milky discipleship. She needs to be held. She needs us. When we shuttle off baby believers like her it feels to me like adopting a child and then turning them over to a cold, drafty orphanage. What happened to FAMILY – THE CHURCH – GOD’S FAMILY? What happened to WE? Is caring for Mary the job for just one person? How can we gather around and make a plan to help her? Who has the time for that anyway? We’re busy, important people with mortgages and careers and kids’ sporting events and dinner tonight.
At this exact moment, I can hear Jesus say to his disciples regarding throngs of hungry people trying to follow Him,
“YOU feed them.” Mark 14:16.