Early in Jesus’ ministry as He was teaching in the region of Galilee He was confronted and opposed by the Pharisees. They charged Him with violating the Sabbath day laws and then they accused Him of being in league with Satan. Then while Jesus taught from a house in Capernaum his mother and brothers stood outside. They sent a messenger inside calling him to come outside to them. Jesus’ response to their request is shocking to us.
Jesus answered the messenger with, “Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35) This seems surprisingly callous. How can the perfect Son of God disregard his mother and insult his brothers?
The events leading up to that moment are important. Matthew 12 presents a series of confrontations with the religious leaders. Every interaction in that chapter reveals the attempts of skeptics to shut Jesus down. The call of Jesus’ family to interrupt His teaching and come outside takes place after multiple attempts by the Pharisees to discredit Jesus.
Jesus replied in the way He did because the call of his family is interfering with His ministry. Their actions, whether intended or accidental, were in opposition to the will of God. This was not an interruption to the personal ambitions of Jesus. He was not being petty and peevish because they were inconveniencing His own plans. They were asking Jesus to stop doing the will of the Father. Jesus would not be deterred from the task given to Him by God the Father.
His commitment to the will of God was evident early in Jesus’ life. At the age of 12 Jesus stayed in Jerusalem after His parents began the journey back to Nazareth. His parents finally found him after three days of searching. When they found Jesus He was in the temple discussing the Word of God with the teachers of the law. His mother rebuked him because she and Joseph had searched for him with sorrow. Jesus’ response was, “Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?” Jesus’ commitment to doing the will of God was unchanged twenty years later. Nothing was going stop Him from being preaching the message of repentance.
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry He taught His disciples, “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matthew 10:37) Jesus’ taught that serving the Lord must be most important, even more important than family. Everything must take second place to God. Jesus modeled that attitude when confronted by His family. He made clear that the work of the Lord was most important to Him.
Jesus’ response seems a bit harsh. When seen in its proper light it is understood as a faithful response to a distraction from the work of preaching the message of His kingdom it. Jesus was not being unkind. He was refusing to be turned aside from the most important task. He was showing that nothing is more important than the message of salvation. Even family.