Jesus and His Family (Luke 8:19-21)

Jesus and His Family

19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him but were unable to join him because of the crowd.

20 He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and they wish to see you.”

21 He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and act on it.”

Our culture understands that genetics defines lineage.  For the first century Jew, lineage was defined by the Jewish law, not genetics.  (Recall that we addressed this in our reflection on Luke 2:1-7, The Birth of Jesus.  Furthermore we can look at Dt 25:5,6 to read about a particular kind of lineage that is defined by the law.)

However, for Jesus Christ, lineage is defined by hearing the word of God and acting on it.  Jesus isn’t saying that the people outside are not His mother and brothers.  Instead he is saying that His family is defined not by genetics or even by the law – His family is defined by acting in fidelity with God and His Word.  Jesus will make this point again in Luke 11:38 when he defines for us what true blessedness is.  He says “… blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.”

Notice also that this pericope builds upon the theme from the previous two parables.  The Parable of the Sower tells us to receive the word of God with a fertile heart.  The, the Parable of the Lamp tells us that upon receiving the Word of God we are to share it.  Finally, in our most recent passage we learn that upon hearing the Word of God we are to act on it.

Our prayerful response should be to ask for the grace to receive, share, and live by the Word of God so that we too may someday be full-grown brothers and sisters of Christ.


Did Jesus Have Brothers?

From time-to-time we’re going to run into some people who insist that the passage we’ve just looked at dictates that Mary was not always a virgin.  They will assert that the “brothers” are Mary’s children and therefore Jesus’ siblings.  A quick search of the internet will turn up many well written articles on the perpetual virginity of Mary.  Part of the argument that we find in support of Mary’s perpetual virginity brings our attention even closer to the word “brother”.  In Semitic cultures the word “brother” has a much broader range of meaning than our typical use.  In their cultures, the word “brother” could mean genetically related siblings, just as one might expect.  However, it could instead refer to step-brothers, cousins, or even brothers in spirituality.

Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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