Thank you for listening to the daily podcast from STC Sheffield. Our Bible reading today is Matthew 12 vs38-50, and we’re going to focus on 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.”
In this challenging time, I wonder how your relationships with other people have been?
Has it been a challenge to be in lockdown or self-isolation with the people you live with – when it’s just you, and them, and the same 4 walls? You love them dearly, but let’s be honest, you could do with a break!
Or are you a raging extrovert who has struggled with the fact that you can only meet 5 other people at a time, and who is secretly terrified of the thought of not being able to see anyone from another household when a local lockdown happens?
Or perhaps you find it hard to feel connected over Zoom or Facetime, and therefore have just absented yourself from relationships and groups that you were previously committed to?
Whatever your experience, maintaining relationships is certainly a challenge during these Covid times.
As we saw on Monday, in these chapters of Matthew, Jesus is also experiencing a challenging time – and one of those challenges was regarding his relationships.
In today’s passage, Jesus’ mother and brothers are mentioned at the end of a long speech Jesus gave to the Pharisees and the gathered crowd. However, if we look at Mark’s Gospel, it is clear they have 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, Jesus’ mother and brothers had come to tell him off, to get him to stop talking nonsense, and to take him back home where they could control him!
I think it’s fair to say that Jesus is experiencing some challenges within his family relationships.
This account is included in Luke’s gospel as well. However, these 3 writers don’t mention this moment in Jesus’ ministry in order to give every teenager from then on 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 relationships if things are challenging. We know this because in Matthew 12 verse 25 Jesus said, “a family that’s in a constant squabble disintegrates.”
Instead what we seeis that in the midst of challenging times Jesus promotes relationship; but he does so in such a way that is powerfully counter cultural. He wants to transform our understanding of family, and our commitment to relationship.
Let’s unpack that a bit more……….
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’ et cetera, et cetera. This is family based on lineage and descent. Identifying family in this way was particularly 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.
Therefore, by refusing to speak to his mother and brothers, and not leaving with them, Jesus is saying that he will not submit to their authority nor be disciplined by them.However, when Jesus takes himself out from under the authority of his nuclear family, he doesn’t then decide to go it alone.
In the midst of challenging times, Jesus doesn’t give up on relationships, instead he invests more into them.
Jesus points to his disciples and says that his family is “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven.”In this simple gesture, Jesus completely overturns the Old Testament view of family, and replaces it 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, this 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’re married with kids. Jesus had neither a wife nor children.
On so many levels, therefore, Jesus totally transforms our image and understanding of who or what family is, and how we should invest in our relationships.
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.”
So, 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.
From the life of Jesus, we see that in the midst of challenging times he promotes relationship, and intentionally builds and invests in his oikos – people who will help himlive out his relationship with God and his calling to the world.
At this challenging time for us, when we are having to explore new ways to live out our relationship with God, and our calling to those around us, we all need to follow the example that Christ has set us.
As we reflect on this, let’s ask ourselves the following questions:
Who are the people who help me to grow in my relationship with God and encourage me to step into the things that he is calling me to do?
Have I stepped back from or distanced myself from oikos relationships due to the challenges of this current season?
And how can I build up or invest more in these relationships moving forward?
Lord, when we are feeling the pressure of this season, let us not push back from relationships, but instead press into them. Help us commit to building oikos relationships with people who will challenge, stretch, and encourage us to pursue holiness and develop a closer relationship with Jesus. Amen.
BIBLE 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.’