Thank you for joining us for the Foundations Daily Podcast this Thursday. It seems like the weather forecasters have got it right and we are indeed basking under clear blue skies. I hope you have been enjoying this autumnal sunshine over the last few days.
Our Bible reading today is Matthew 12: 38-50, and our focus will be verses 46-50:
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’ He replied to them, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 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.”
Family means different things to different people – nuclear family, extended family, step family, single parent family. The word ‘family’ will stir different responses in people’s hearts and minds – love, joy and support or perhaps anger, isolation and abuse.
As I have spoken about in a previous podcast, I was adopted by my mum’s husband at the age of 10, and have experienced the joy that a blended family can bring. Alan and I have quite a large family – we have 13 nieces and nephews currently, and that number is still growing! Within our own home we operate as an extended family, and at the last count we have had 34 people live with us over the past 14 years!
Whatever our past, current or future family looks like, it is vital that we take some time to understand the importance of these verses in Matthew, where in just a few sentences Jesus radically re-defines what family is all about.
The Old Testament talks a lot about family as we would recognise it. There are chapters where we read verse after verse of names ‘who was the son of, who was the son of…….. whose mother was, whose father was’ etcetera, etcetera. This is family based on lineage and descent. Identifying family in this way was particular important in Old Testament times, as it was the channel through which property, land and money was passed on, and it was the place where people would submit to authority and be disciplined.
In Matthew chapter 12, Jesus’ mother and brothers are only mentioned at the end of a long speech Jesus gave to the Pharisees and the gathered crowd. However, in Mark’s Gospel it is clear that they have actually been present all along. In Mark Chapter 3 v21 we learn that they had gone to “take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.” In other words, they had come to tell him off, to get him to stop talking nonsense and to take him back home where they could control him! By refusing to speak to his mother and brothers, Jesus is saying that he will not submit to their authority nor be disciplined by them.
Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t include this moment in Jesus’ ministry in order to give every teenager from then on the permission to ignore their parents, and refuse to come home when they turn up at the door of a friend’s house late at night. Nor does it give us as adults the license to just walk away from our family if they don’t agree with something we are doing. We know this because back in verse 25 Jesus said, “a family that’s in a constant squabble disintegrates” and we saw yesterday that his call to us a soldiers of Christ is to commit to one another.
But this conversation is included in the Gospels because it is another example of Jesus being powerfully counter cultural, and wanting to transform society. And this time he wants to transform our understanding of family.
This is really important for us to hear and understand; particularly if our blood family are not Christians, or we have a tendency to be a lone ranger or self sufficient when it comes to relationships.
Even when Jesus is rejected at Nazareth by his blood family, and when he takes himself out from under the authority of his nuclear family, he doesn’t then decide to go it alone.
Instead he points to his disciples and says that his family is “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven.”
Jesus replaces the Old Testament view of lineage and descent with that of oikos. In the New Testament there is very little use of words to describe the type of blood related family that we spoke of earlier. Instead, a different word – Oikos – is more commonly used. It means the household, or the dwelling. In the King James Version of the Bible ‘oikos’ is translated as ‘at home.’
Jesus is ‘at home’ with those who do the will of God, and these people will be his family. Jesus intentionally builds relationship with and invests in a group of people, alongside whom he will live out his relationship with God and his calling to the world.
Jesus had the 12 disciples, plus other close friends, for example Mary, Martha and Lazarus, who he ate with, lived with, cried with, and rejoiced with. He also modelled the fact that building and creating oikos family is not something that can only be done when you are married with kids. Jesus had neither a wife nor children.
On so many levels, Jesus totally transforms our image and understanding of who or what family is.
In their book ‘Family on Mission’ Mike and Sally Breen write, “You can’t actually function without an oikos…….Even the Son of God needed a family to function fully in his calling.”
And every Christian needs to have an oikos like this – a family network around you, who enable you to live out the calling of God upon your life. If the Lord of all Creation needed oikos in his life, then we most definitely do!
Whether you are single, a married couple without kids, an empty nester, or a widowed pensioner; God’s plan is that you would live out your life of Christian discipleship with an oikos family.
As we reflect on this, let’s ask ourselves the following questions:
Who are my oikos? Who am I ‘at home’ with?
Do these people help me to grow in my relationship with God and encourage me to step into the things that he is calling me to do?
How can I build up or invest more time in my oikos relationships?
Lord God, thank you that we get to call you Father, and that family is at the heart of our relationship with you. Help us to follow the example of Jesus by investing in an oikos family who will help us to live a life of faith, and grow in our relationship with you. Amen.
READING: Matthew 12:38-50
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, ‘Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.’
He answered, ‘A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.
‘When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, “I will return to the house I left.” When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.’
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.’
He replied to him, ‘Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?’ 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.’