[Jesus’] mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd. And it was reported to Him, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, wishing to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21)
Every account of this incident makes us cringe.1 We get the impression that Jesus’ family were kept waiting, and that seems rude. Healthy humans give their best to their loved ones, don’t they? Many of us would have asked the crowd to step aside so we could respond to mother and brothers.
It’s not the only time that Jesus behaved differently to us. He does not run after the rich young ruler to offer better terms of discipleship (Matt. 19:22). Super-loyal Peter is rebuked but Judas slips out unconfronted (Matt. 16:22-23; John 13:27-30). Admiring fan clubs ready to make Him king are ignored (John 6:15). Jesus’ relationships are different.
So, if we want to become more like Jesus, how do we deal with the cringe factor? We don’t want to be uncaring about people, uninvolved, disrespectful, aloof and detached—Jesus never was. Habitual isolation is a bad thing. Self-centeredness is a sin. If we think they are the result we prefer to avoid this part of Jesus’ life.
If we are honest, the way we relate to other people is not entirely selfless and healthy anyway. We pattern our relationships around a mixture of motives: fears of being alone or rejected, a need for affirmation and acceptance, a longing for companionship, a need to meet other people’s needs, and a fear of straying from cultural norms. All those motives can go to another level: What will other people think of me if . . .? Will they think I am rejecting them or another person? Will they perceive me as unloving, selfish, aloof etc.? Bottom line: we want to be known as someone who relates well within our circles (never mind the social misfits that so many people dismiss). We think that, to be a good person, we must follow the relationship rules of the groups we are part of. But Jesus was no social rebel. What makes Him different is the “group” that He most identified with. The key is His attention to doing the word of God. Jesus was so thoroughly submitted to God that God’s rule colored every aspect of His own life—including relationships. Obedience is the mark of friendship (John 15:14). Those who hear and do God’s will become closer to Jesus than ordinary friends and family.
What would life be like if we viewed our friends and spiritual family in the same way as Jesus?
- See also Matthew 12:46-50; Mark 3:31-35. [↩]