Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother. (Matthew 12:47-50)
Some may think that Jesus is being cold and unfeeling to His family. After all, wouldn’t we be happy to know that our family is waiting for us, and wants to see us? But that’s not what Jesus means by this passage.
#1 Understanding Jesus’ Larger Message
Jesus was often at odds with the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. As a young and upcoming teacher who performed incredible miracles, Jesus would have been under intense scrutiny from the religious authorities of the day. What’s more, His seemingly audacious claims to be the Son of God and proclaiming forgiveness of sins led them to think that He was a blasphemer. (Mark 2:5-7)
Jesus was not affected by their condemnation, but consistently taught that He had come to save those who were aware of their need for redemption. (Matthew 9:12-13) He also confronted their dogmas about rituals and cleanliness, and instead explained the deeper meaning of those laws in order to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)
The reason Jesus seems to shun His earthly family is not because He hates them. He loved His family dearly, particularly His mother, Mary. He always showed her respect (Luke 2:51), kept her close throughout His ministry (John 2:3-5), and even ensured that she would be provided for after His death. (John 19:26-27) Clearly, He did not despise them in the least.
#2 Those That Do His Will Are Friends of God…
Jesus gives us the reason and explanation for His words Himself: “For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)
Jesus always made it clear that obedience to His words was a critical outward sign of an inward belief, and that the two can never be separated. It is one thing to hear the Word of God, but another thing entirely to actually keep it. (Luke 11:28) This is reinforced elsewhere in the New Testament, even going so far as to preach that a faith that is not lived out by obedient actions is no faith at all. (James 2:17-20, 1 John 3:16-18)
But if we are faithful to obey Him, we can be counted like His disciples as friends and family with Jesus Himself. Jesus here says that we are His family. (Matthew 12:50) Later, He tells His disciples that He calls them His friends (John 15:15) because of their obedience, and will reveal God’s heavenly wisdom and truth to them. (Luke 24:45)
#3 …and Co-Heirs with Christ
Jesus was sent to win our salvation and to pay the atoning sacrifice necessary to cover our sins. When He did that, He also paved the way for us to be adopted as God’s children. This beautiful truth is best expressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians.
He says in Galatians 3:16-17, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” He further explains that this is the reason Jesus was sent. (Galatians 4:4-5)
John also writes that God’s great and powerful love has made us worthy to be called His children (1 John 3:1) and also wrote that those who believe in Jesus’ Name have the right to carry that title. (John 1:12) Only by the cleansing power of His blood is this possible!
#4 Answering the Call of God, No Matter the Cost
God created us with love and care to fulfill His purposes for our lives (Ephesians 2:10), and foremost among these is to proclaim the good news of His resurrection to every corner of the globe. (Matthew 28:19-20)
The disciples continued His ministry faithfully, even finding glory and blessing in their sufferings. (Acts 5:41) We can remember that this blessing applies to us as well: no matter what we go through in this life, God will bring about good for His children in the end. (2 Corinthians 4:17, Philippians 1:6)
As we model our lives after the example of Jesus (Philippians 2:5-11), we can be worthy of being called His children. (Philippians 14-16) For just as obedience to the One true God makes us all brothers and sisters in Christ with each other, so too are we made brothers and sisters of Christ through the favor and grace of God.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.