Why Would Jesus Ever Say Such a Mean Thing?

by Kathy Collard Miller @KathyCMiller

“Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Matthew 12:48 NIV

This passage can be perplexing. A messenger comes into the packed house and interrupts Jesus. “Your mom and brothers want to talk to you.”

Jesus responded to the messenger with a question: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Why would he not be responsive to his family? Family is important. In the cultures of the middle east like Israel, the family especially takes precedence over everything.

Exactly. Jesus is zealous for the family of God, his spiritual brothers and sisters. They take precedence over every other person or group and will last into eternity. God intends the earthly family to be a representation of the forever family in heaven, even if humans on earth can never be a perfect model. Jesus’s response points to his zealous nature. He is fervent, ardent, devoted, and diligent.

On the golf course, I saw a mother quail grow twice as large in defense of her babies hiding in the bushes. A road runner came by, and she strutted out with a fierce determination to protect her children. The road runner knew this was a mean mama and quickly scurried away. I knew I was watching zealousness in action.

As we think again of Jesus’s reaction to his family, we must look at the evidence of their attitudes about Jesus and his ministry. Over time, they become true followers, but they didn’t understand in the beginning.

The first mention besides Jesus’s childhood is when Jesus, his disciples, and his family spend a few days together in Capernaum (John 2:12). The brothers try to tell him what to do (John 7:3-4). The brothers don’t believe in him (John 7:5). The family wants to take custody of him thinking he is out of his mind (Mark 3:21). His mother is at the cross, and Jesus arranges his apostle John to care for her (John 19:26-27). The family is in the upper room after Jesus ascends into heaven (Acts 1:14). James, his half-brother, is a prominent leader in the early church (Galatians 2:9).

In this particular event, when his family arrived and sent in a messenger, some commentators wonder if his family wants special favors. We can also easily imagine they feel ignored, replaced, and unimportant. Over time, how often did Mary reflect on the angel’s words and the wonder of Jesus’s birth to help her in all the uncertainty and especially at the cross? But obviously, at certain times, she is a typical mother desiring her son make the right choices.

Jesus uses this situation to teach a new idea. His human family represents his “old” family, Israel. But the disciples and followers are his “new” family, who will become a part of the church starting on the Day of Pentecost. “Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49-50 NIV).

Just as a zealous God is passionate about all goodness and righteousness, Jesus is zealous to develop, protect, and control his spiritual family which will bring himself glory. If you know Jesus as your Savior, then you are a part of the Body of Christ, and God is zealous about you.

This article is brought to you by the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA).

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About the author: Kathy Collard Miller is zealous about studying God’s Word and getting to know God better.

God's Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus's Nature by [Kathy Miller, Larry Miller]

Her most recent book is study of the many characteristics of God: God’s Intriguing Questions: 60 New Testament Devotions Revealing Jesus’s Nature. She is the author of over 55 books and has spoken in 9 foreign countries and over 30 US States. Reach her at: Facebook: www.facebook.com/KathyCollardMillerAuthor
or Pinterest/Kathyspeak. Youtube: https://bit.ly/2SwiL03 Instagram: @kathycollardmiller

Join the conversation: What aspect of being cared for by a zealous God is most meaningful to you?