The Family of God (Luke 8:19-21)
This follows Jesus’ teaching on the parables (the Sower and the Lamp). In both cases, the emphasis was upon how people respond to God’s Word. There are many inadequate ways to receive God’s Word (road, rocks, thorns). It is only the good soil that hears God’s Word and does it who will produce fruit. Along the same lines, the lamp is the light of God’s Word that illuminates the truth for those in darkness, exposes false teaching, and enlightens those who seek to understand it.
In our passage this afternoon, once again, Jesus will emphasize the value of hearing and responding to God’s Word. Several commentaries combine this whole section (vv. 4-21). However, this time Jesus connects the idea of hearing and doing his Word to our union with him and other believers.
Read Luke 8:19-21.
I. Jesus’ Physical Family (19-20)
What do we know about Mary? Mary was never antagonistic toward Jesus and his ministry. Jesus had sympathy for her while he hung on the cross (John 19:26-27). She believed in Jesus and his mission. But, as his mother, she was concerned for his health. She saw the burden of ministry as being too much to bear at times.
What about Jesus’ brothers? Apparently Mary did not remain a virgin the rest of her life. Although, the term “brothers” can be used in a broader sense to speak of half-brothers and cousins, these were probably sons of Mary and Joseph born after Jesus. Luke has already said Jesus was their “firstborn son” (Lk. 2:7).
Mark tells us their names were James, Joses, Judas, and Simon (Mark 6:3). He also had sisters. They might’ve been among the family members who questioned Jesus’ sanity (Mark 3:21). In fact, his brothers didn’t believe in him and his ministry (Mark 7:5). However, nothing indicates they were being disingenuous here. Later on they became believers (Acts 1:14). James and Jude became church leaders. So at some point their perception of Jesus turned positive.
Where’s Joseph? None of the gospels mention Joseph after the birth narratives. The most plausible theory is that Joseph died before Jesus entered ministry. If Joseph were still alive, there would be no need to commend Mary to John’s care (John 19:27).
We aren’t told why they came, but after Jesus’ rejection in Nazareth, their concerns for his safety probably grew. They understood the dangerous nature of his ministry. Out of natural concern for him, they might’ve been seeking to discourage him from continuing on (cf. context in Mark 3:31-35).
However, the focus of this text is on…
II. Jesus’ Spiritual Family (21)
Although the text is ambiguous, Jesus’ response probably shouldn’t read as a rebuke. He was probably using their presence for illustration.
He does make it clear that his covenant family was more important to him than his natural family. He will confirm this several more times, in more explicit and shocking fashion (Luke 9:59-61; 14:26).
Our primary loyalty belongs to the family of God.
Our role in God’s kingdom work is more important than our roles within our homes. That doesn’t mean we should neglect our responsibilities as spouses and parents. And in most cases, those roles will overlap. But, no matter what hat we’re currently wearing (at work, church, or home) we remain under the authority of Scripture. We are a child of God above all other earthly relationships. And that naturally connects us to others who operate according to those same standards.
Who belongs to this family? Those who hear and do the Word of God.
Kent Hughes points to the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who taught a homiletics class in an underground seminary in Nazi Germany.
…as he listened to his students preaching, he always set aside his pencil and listened intently with his Bible open before him-no matter how poor the sermon was. He believed that the preaching of God’s Word ought to be attended as if he were listening to the very voice of God.
But we aren’t hearers only. We must also do the Word of God. We obey, however imperfect our obedience is. That’s what a disciple does. This requires faith. Those who believe continue to hear God’s Word in faith and then apply it with faith. They are trusting that God is going to work through their stumbling efforts. Justification is necessarily followed by sanctification.
Our Bible Study is not complete by simply reading it, we must also apply it. We must be doers of God’s Word.
In light of that, let’s consider the commitment we have to our church vs the commitment we make to our physical family. It’s a difficult balance to find, and this passage may make the conflict in your mind even more painful.
For many of us, we see a culture that has essentially abandoned the family. We see the consequences of those decisions in our own personal history, and we are striving to break that cycle for our children. All of that is good. In Jesus’ own time, family was far more important than it is now. However, Jesus deliberately escalates the spiritual family to an even higher priority.
We should ask where the church fits into our lives. Is it merely a few hours on Sunday mornings or are we active members in what will be our family for all eternity?
There can be no doubt that Jesus loved and cared for his physical family. He entrusted the care of his mother to his most beloved disciple. Many of his brothers also adopted roles within the church to carry on Jesus’ mission.
But Jesus never compromised his Messianic role. He was faithful to fulfill the law of God perfectly so that we might all be adopted into his family. And that’s our primary motivation to submit to him.
Let us hear and do the Word of God because we belong to the family of God.