While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward 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 12:46-50 ESV)
Today we come to an interesting passage which at first glance might seem out-of-place. But it actually fits in well as it occurred while Jesus was still speaking to the people. These are the same people who had followed Him and were wondering aloud if He was the long-awaited Messiah [Matthew 12:23].
Jesus had been confronting the Jewish leaders’ opposition to Him by speaking words against them. However, His words were spoken for the benefit of the masses who overheard the whole conversation [Matthew 12:22-45].
Jesus had told the religious leaders that they would not be going to heaven based on their external behavior. The people who heard this must have been wondering how they themselves would be able to get into heaven if these leaders – who were considered to be very spiritual – would not. Today’s passage reveals that answer.
Jesus’ mother and brothers were on the scene but at some distance from Him, asking to speak to Him. Many who had known Jesus as a boy thought He had lost His senses when He began His preaching ministry [Mark 3:21]. Not only that, but His harsh words for the Pharisees caused them to want to kill Him. It’s easy to imagine that Mary and her other sons were concerned about Jesus’s mental and physical well being. Perhaps that is why the wanted to speak with Him. By the way, notice Mary had other children besides Jesus, debunking the Catholic notion that she remained a virgin her entire life.
But Jesus uses their request to answer the doubts that were in the people’s minds. He indicates that His true family is not His earthly family but anyone who does the will of His Father. And that will is to believe in Jesus [Matthew 17:4-8]. Anyone who believes in Jesus becomes part of God’s family and lives with Him in heaven for all eternity [John 1:12].
People often think that every human being is part of God’s family. Not true. But anyone can be adopted into God’s family. The word whoever confirms that universality. God makes this offer to everyone [1 Timothy 2:3-4; 2 Peter 3:9].
No one who believes will be excluded. But, no one who does not believe will be included. Heaven is a holy place. There is no sin there. Hence, no one with any sin can enter. But we’re all up to our eyeballs in sin. The only way to remove it is to accept the forgiveness God offers through Jesus.
These comments by Jesus must have been a welcome relief to the people. They had been taught that they had to keep hundreds of exact, petty rules to please God. But God is not impressed by outward conformity to rules. He wants us to know Him [Hosea 6:6]. Upon hearing these words the people knew that heaven was just as accessible to them as anyone else.
God’s family consists of those who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins. Ultimately, it is the only family that matters.
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