Study: Hope Church Triad Program
Today’s Chocolate: Green & Black’s Organic Milk Chocolate with Almonds
Today’s Passage: Matthew 12:46-50
Whoops, I seem to have fallen into the hole again. It’s time to catch up on posts, starting with this one.
Welcome back to the last five verses of Matthew 12, in which Jesus may or may not dunk on his own family. The Triad study workbook suggested that on day one we read the passage with its context, which we did, and for day two it suggested we read the passage from the perspective of its first-century Jewish listeners, which we did not, because we are a rebel who doesn’t play by the rules. For day three, it recommends we read it from the perspective of Jesus’ family themselves. And we’ve got a post to write, so why not?
Your gut instinct may be to think Mary and her progeny would feel miffed or slighted. After all, Jesus has just declared the houseful of disciples surrounding him to be his mother and siblings, without even stepping outside to speak to his Actual Family Who Is Looking for Him. I halfway think the Triad study anticipates such a response, maybe even endorses it, and maybe it’s true that the family felt some resentment. After all, we’re imagining and speculating here; after the scene, the text jumps to Jesus’ seaside sermon later in the day without noting their reaction. Why wouldn’t Jesus’ brothers feel put-out when he’s all but declared that bloodlines don’t mean anything to him? What human being wouldn’t walk away from that incident at least wondering if Jesus had meant his words as a sick spurn?
Well, I honestly don’t think Mary would. Time and time again, it seems like she gets it; just check out her Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55) or when twelve-year-old Jesus pulls a Reverse Home Alone to talk with the rabbis in Jerusalem and Mary, amazed at his wisdom when she finds him, “treasure[s] all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:51). Or how about when she tells the servants at the wedding in Cana after they run out of wine, “Whatever He says to you, do it?” (John 2:5). Mary trusts her son, and through the course of the gospels seems to develop a sense that he’s God’s Son. I think she’d pick up on the sentiment behind Jesus’ words here. It’s not a jab at his biological family, but an expansion of what family means when God becomes your Father.
But how about the siblings? Initially, I was set to say we don’t know how they reacted. But on further reflection, if I said that, I’d be wrong. In the long game, we do know how at least one of them reacted: James. It’s not clear to me from my Biblical and extra-Biblical studies whether he signed on as a disciple during Jesus’ terrestrial ministry, and John 7:5 would suggest he didn’t. But after Christ’s death, James took on a role as a prominent member of the early church and wrote the canonical epistle that bears his name, the book of James. Like many early Christians, he was willing to die a martyr’s death for his faith, likely stoned to death around A.D. 62.
Initially, James might have bristled at Jesus’ insinuation that blood doesn’t make a family in any lasting sense. But over time, it seems that it dawned on him: my brother doesn’t mean to exclude me from his family, and if I do God’s will as he’s doing God’s will, he welcomes me with open arms. James even came to understand that his brother was the prophesied Messiah and the Son of God, the one who brings human beings into the will of the Father, who offers them salvation from sin and death. It was apparently a slow burn, but James got it.
Who is Jesus’ mother? Who are his sisters and brothers? He who does the will of the Father is Jesus’ mother and sister and brother–and that includes his mother Mary and his brother James.