Matthew 12:46-50

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Matthew 12

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In an article entitled “My Family Thinks I’m Crazy,” NSight and Addiction (which “provides inpatient and outpatient treatment options for people struggling with mood disorders”) psychologist Gerald J. Grosso offers the following three pieces of advice to people whose families think they are crazy:

  • Always come from a position of love and respect. Remember that everyone typically has similar goals of compassion and agreement.  That being said, goals may be different but continued conflict is not the solution.
  • Clearly identify and state your needs, here well-developed communication skills are necessary. Ultimately it is up to each individual to get their needs met on their own but good communication and cooperation can help lessen the gap.
  • Accept that individuals are different which may include the perspective in which they see things. Emotions in their true form are not arguable, if I have certain feelings advising me not to have them doesn’t make sense.  For example, if I told you I felt physically ill and I was going to vomit telling me not to feel that way is not going to help.

Work together instead of against each other.  Focus on agreed upon outcomes and acknowledge feelings.  You may think differently but that doesn’t mean you can’t find common ground. Remain supportive with a solution focused mindset and it will bring you closer to the desired result.[1]

It is interesting to read this advice and, for all I know, it is good advice! But what do you do if you are the Son of God sent by God to save the world and your family thinks you are crazy? Well, that article has yet to be written, but we know what Jesus did when His family thought He was crazy!

Jesus’ Family is Concerned

Let us begin with the rather self-evident fact that Jesus’ family was, to put it mildly, concerned about Him.

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.

In Matthew’s rendering, this sounds fairly innocuous. Jesus’ family comes to see Him. At this point it will be necessary to make a brief comment about Jesus having siblings. Simply put, there is no reason to take “brothers” here as anything other than the children of Mary that she had after Jesus was born. Contrary to Roman Catholic teaching, Mary was not “ever virgin” nor was she to have “perpetual virginity.” In Matthew 1 we read:

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Joseph “knew her not until…” That is, they had a normal marriage relationship after the birth of Jesus. Mark 6 gives us a little more detail about His siblings.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joseph and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

So Jesus had brothers and sisters. These were not cousins and this usage of “brothers” and “sisters” is not being used the way Baptists say it of non-relations in the church, i.e., our family in the Lord. No, these are Jesus’ siblings, or, to put it more precisely, half-siblings.

Mary and Jesus’ brothers come to see Jesus. Why? Mark gives us more information here as well. In Mark 3, after Jesus called the disciples and crowds begin to follow Him, His family is alarmed.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

Well, there you have it. Some see this as Jesus’ family hearing the crowd say, “He is out of his mind.” Some see this as Jesus’ family saying, “He is out of his mind.” Regardless, Jesus’ family is alarmed and they come “to seize him.” This is a surprising image! There is an intensity to their visit. It seems to be beyond even what we call “an intervention.” They want to take Him home, take Him away. This verb is unfortunate: “seize him.” It is used later in Matthew to describe the arrest of Jesus. Consider the way this word is used repeatedly in Matthew 26.

48 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.”

50 Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him.

 55 At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me.

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered.

In other words, the other usages of this word point to the plot and work of the devil to destroy Jesus. And this raises an interesting question: was the devil working against Jesus in sending His family to confront Him here? To be sure, from the family’s perspective, they were coming in love. I certainly do not mean they were knowingly doing the devil’s bidding. No, they were a concerned and confused family, just as we would have been, I hasten to add! But was there something diabolical behind the scenes about which Jesus’ mother and brothers did know?

The unknown author of the 5th century commentary on Matthew, the Opus Imperfectum, argued that Satan was behind prompting Jesus’ family to come to Him because Satan wanted to blind the crowds to the divinity of Christ by highlighting His earthly family.

The devil saw that Christ was persuading the people that he was the Son of God…The devil feared that he would be abandoned by everybody if Christ, who was thought to be a man, would be recognized as the Son of God. He secretly introduced Christ’s parents in the flesh in order to refute his discourses, so that he could obscure the nature of Christ’s divinity by getting people to contemplate on them.

            And so someone (like the devil’s advocate) comes, who speaks diabolical words with a human mouth, saying, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak to you.” It is as if he should say, “Why do you boast, Jesus, and say that you came down from heaven, when you have roots here on earth? Behold your mother and your brothers. He cannot be the Son of God if human beings begat him…”[2]

This is an intriguing point. Did the devil seek to use the presence of Jesus’ family and the announcement of their arrival to persuade the crowd that this Jesus was certainly not the Son of God? I believe this is a valid point.

So likely this story should be read at two levels: (1) the surface level of a concerned family seeking, in their minds, to protect a wayward family member from Himself and (2) the plottings of Satan to confuse the crowd.

Jesus Redefines Family

In His response, Jesus does something astonishing: He redefines what “family” means.

48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

If you read Jesus’ words carefully, you will find two components of Jesus’ redefinition of family:

  • the devaluation of blood as the exclusive definer of family;
  • the elevation of obedience to Christ as the primary definer.

First, blood or biology is devalued. Family can no longer be limited to one’s biological family. John the Baptist did something very similar in John 3 when he chastised the religious leaders.

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.

We might say that Paul did something similar when he said in Romans 2:

28 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29 But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.

Your family identity is more than flesh and blood. It is deeper. It is a matter of the heart. And here is where we see Jesus elevate obedience over blood.

49 And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Who are Jesus’ mother and brothers and sisters? “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven”! Obedience is what matters! Faith is what matters! The family of God consists of those who have trusted in Jesus. These are His mother and brothers and sisters. Concerning “sisters,” Michael Wilkins observes:

Jesus intentionally broadens the gender reference to include women as disciples by stating “sister.” This was a unique form of discipleship in Judaism at that time, especially among the rabbis, because only men could become a disciple of a rabbi and study Torah…But with Jesus, any person—woman or man, young or old, Gentile or Jew—who responds to the gospel of the kingdom and believes on him for eternal life is his disciple and will be taught to obey all that Jesus commands…[3]

What a beautiful truth this is! This is the family of God: all who call on the name of Christ and follow Him! This is why the New Testament depicts the church as the family of God. We are to be the people who follow the Lamb. The New Testament actually speaks of the church as a family in a number of different ways. Consider:

  • The usage of “Father” for God. (Matthew 6:9, “Pray then like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.’”) We know that we are a family because we all have a Father: God!
  • The usage of “brother” for Jesus. (Hebrews 2:11, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers.”; Matthew 12:49; Romans 8:17, “and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ”; Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”)
  • The usage of “brother” and “sister” for fellow Christians. (Many passages throughout the New Testament!)
  • The usage of “household” for the church. (Galatians 6:10, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”; Ephesians 2:19, “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”)

Yes, the church is a family. At Central Baptist Church we say that the church is “an authentic family around the whole gospel for the glory of God and the reaching of the nations.” We are Christ’s brothers and sisters if we follow Him, if we trust in Him.

Are you in the family of God?

Thou art giving and forgiving,
ever blessing, ever blest,
well-spring of the joy of living,
ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our brother,
all who live in love are thine;
teach us how to love each other,
lift us to the joy divine.[4]



[2] Thomas C. Oden, ed., Incomplete Commentary on Matthew (Opus imperfectum). Ancient Christian Texts. Matthew, vol. 2. Trans. by James A. Kellerman. Ser. Eds., Thomas C. Oden and Gerald L. Bray (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2010), p.240.

[3] Michael J. Wilkins, “Matthew.” Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary. Gen ed. Clinton E. Arnold. Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002), p.82.


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