Have you ever found yourself muttering, “Wow. Rude!” under your breath as you read a passage from the Bible? Then you immediately catch yourself in horror as you realize that the person whose character you are questioning is NONE OTHER THAN JESUS HIMSELF.
Confession: I have done this. It happened in Matthew 12.
(Now, before we delve into my terrible instincts and the passage in question, I have to first say that Chapter 12 covers a LOT of ground. I’m just touching on a tiny segment of it here, but this chapter is rich. Read. Ponder. Join in the full message and discussion this Thursday here.)
The part where I apparently felt the need pass some knee-jerk dismissive judgement begins in verse 46. In this passage, Jesus’ family comes to see him and His response is, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”
All I could think was, “I would be heartbroken if I was waiting to talk to my son – whom I never see anymore! – and he publicly rejected me so heartlessly in favor of these other people.”
And isn’t that the most flawed and human reaction possible? I summarily dismissed Jesus’ words at a glance because I made it ALL ABOUT ME. I was still completely embarrassed to realize that as a believer of over 20 years, I can still be susceptible to thoughts like that.
So what do you do with those type of thoughts when reading the Bible? If you are looking for an excuse to reject Jesus, you can use your own filter on passages like this as grounds to walk away and not pursue “someone like that” for another second.
But although I may not yet be successful in halting these self-centered observations altogether, I now respond to that instinct differently. If something that I read seems contrary to what I know of Jesus’ character or his overall message, it’s a giant flashing sign that I probably need to look a little closer at what is actually happening in the passage. I refuse to blow past those things in favor of parts that better align with my own expectations.
If we take the time to read the parallel passage in Mark 3:20-35, we get a much more complete picture of what is happening here. This interruption on behalf of His family comes during an important message that Jesus is preaching to the crowds. But Jesus isn’t, in fact, just arbitrarily ignoring his birth family in favor of a shinier new family he has made for himself. (I should have known better, of course.)
Rather, we see that his family is assuming Jesus is hungry and out of his mind, amidst the press of a crowd so thick that He and followers cannot break to find sustenance. So they send word to Him, interrupting the message to call Jesus to them and extricate him from the situation.
It’s somewhat like the “emergency” phone call your best friend makes to get you out of a bad date that’s making you crazy, but it turns out you were actually having a great time and are completely lucid.
Jesus does not need “rescued” from his ministry. He has let the people who are hungry for His teaching come to him. He doesn’t want to be called away from them. What He has to offer them is so much more important than food. And instead of using his family’s message as an excuse to dismantle the assembled crowd, he turns that interruption into a beautiful opportunity to paint a picture of how God accepts us into His family.
“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
It’s not a message of callous exclusion toward his mother and siblings at all. Instead, it’s a message of poignant INCLUSION for those who choose to be his disciples. We all can choose to share in the richness of His family. And I almost missed that bigger message of love because I was projecting my own feelings onto the Son of God.
Lesson learned: when I find myself judging Jesus’ actions, odds are pretty good that I’m the problem, not Him.