What Does Jesus Do to the Family?

At times Jesus seems very pro-family.

  • He advocates a stricter standard for divorce than any of the prevailing views of the day (Matt 19:3-9).
  • He elevates the status of children, women, and widows (Matt 19:13-15, Luke 8:1-3, many others).
  • He emphasizes the fatherhood of God, comparing him to good human fathers (Matt 7:7-11).
  • He shows compassion on parents by healing their children, raising them from the dead (e.g. Luke 7:11-15, where he raises a widow’s only son from the dead).
  • He makes arrangements for his mother’s care after his death (John 19:26-27).

But at times he says and does things that mess with our family-friendly assumptions.

  • He tells a man to follow him instead of burying his father (Luke 9:59-60).
  • He encourages his disciples to leave their families to follow him (Matt 4:18-22, Mark 10:28-31).
  • He leaves his own family, and “disowns” them when they don’t believe in him (Mark 3:31-35).
  • He specifically says he’ll tear families apart, and that you must love him more than your family (Matt 10:34-37).

What does Jesus do to the family? He gives it a place of great importance: more important than almost anything on earth, but not more important than doing the will of God. Gospel trumps family for Jesus; obedience trumps family. So yes, honor your father and mother. But if Jesus calls you to follow him, don’t use the family business-or your father’s death-as an excuse to disobey him. Love, enjoy, cherish your family members. But don’t count pleasant family relationships as more important than the Gospel.

God grant that I will love my family more than anything else on earth-but never more than you. And grant that, by your mercy, my family will be one that’s united, not divided, by the Gospel of your Son.

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Comments

  1. I’ve been looking at Mark 3:31-35 for some days now and it’s a tough passage. However much of what we find hard is really just us reading between the lines. We think he’s dissing his mother and leaving her outside but in reality he’s using the opportunity to show his followers that they’re his family now too.

    Mary was certainly obedient to God and aware of Jesus vocation and thus included in the spiritual family by his definition. We know Jesus prized the 5th commandment and would surely have gone out to his mother out of respect. We need not think he did not do that just because the Bible is slient on the matter. I have no doubt that the eyewitness of this account knew the ending (which was the climax either way) but remained silent so that we could all think about it.

  2. Jesus certainly never broke the fifth commandment, but I think it’s pretty clear that in this case, honoring God trumped honoring his mother. He’s saying that obedience to God, not flesh and blood, is the determining factor for being in his family.

    And he is leaving his mother outside, because at this point his entire family doesn’t yet believe in him. They think he’s crazy, and they’re coming to take custody of him. At this point, even though Mary knew he had some sort of divine calling, she didn’t believe enough to let him go about fulfilling it.

    This evidently changed pretty early on for Mary, and changed later for his siblings, at which point they were in his family by virtue of “doing the will of God.”

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