Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get to him because of the crowd. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, and they want to see you.”
Jesus replied, “My mother and my brothers are all those who hear God’s word and obey it.” (NLT)
At first glance, Jesus seems to be dismissing his earthly family, not bothering with them because he had more important things to do. But as with many such episodes in the gospels, we are not getting the whole picture.
We can safely assume Jesus loved and valued his earthly family. From other readings we can safely assume that at times they weren’t in entire sympathy with what he was doing. So his love for them was tempered with recognition that he was not on earth to satisfy their normal family expectations.
Jesus is not devaluing his own family but urging us to recognise there is a wider meaning to that word, ‘family’. We become part of God’s family by receiving Jesus and his Spirit. This doesn’t mean we neglect our earthly family, but that we have entered yet another family. And as some experience, sometimes the priorities of these families clash.
We are not to cut ourselves off from our human families because we rightly believe we have an ultimate allegiance to Jesus. Then again, we are not to make idols of our own families so that they become barriers to our service of Jesus. Our lives in Christ leave room for us to embrace and enjoy both families.