I’ve already written about the passages where it talks about Jesus’ siblings, but one Scripture passage also deals with family – where he talks directly to Mary, his mother. The relevant text is: And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it. (King James Version). ALSO: As he said this, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, "Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that you sucked!" But he said, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!" (Revised Standard Version)
In the time of Jesus, family was important. More important then strangers, more important then neighbors – you would give everything for your family, and they would give everything for you. Jesus is here teaching that following him means letting go of the genetic family bonds and holding close to your new spiritual family bonds – your new family in Christ. In other areas of the Gospels he does the same thing: he heals a Canaanite woman’s daughter even though they worshipped false gods. He heals a Roman centurion’s daughter even though they worshipped false gods. His stories put Samaritans as “good guys” even though they had mixed their Jewish faith with that of their pagan neighbors. He touches lepers, forgives women caught in adultery, and welcomes killers, tax-collectors and doubters as his closest followers.
In all of these instances Jesus is trying to break his disciples free of their narrow, sectarian, close-minded view of family and form their thoughts to see every single human being as their new family. They were called to love everyone without judgment, showing mercy as God showered mercy on them. It is not an indictment of his mother, but an indictment of Jewish ways of thinking about family life.
It now becomes an indictment for all Christians down through the ages – anytime we start to make lines (we’re over here, they’re over there) Jesus reminds us that we are called to love and serve everyone, especially the poorest and voiceless among us, and especially those that are the hardest for us to love.
Blessings & Peace,