19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but
they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And
he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are
standing outside, wanting to see you.” 21 But he said to
them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear
the word of God and do it.”
The family is a basic unit of society and initiated by God, the Creator. While giving them the Ten
Commandments, one of the powerful commandments is, “Honor your parents”. In the Hebrew bible we can trace,
“כבד את־אביך ואת־אמך למען יאריכון ימיך על האדמה אשר־יהוה אלהיך נתן לך .”
meaning, “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you, so that your days may be long and that they may go well with you in the land that the Lord, your God, is giving you”.
This pronounces a blessing of longevity, and no other commandment complements its subjects
except this one. It is mandatory for children to take care of their parents, and if they dishonor
them by striking, then it is a highly punishable breach of the Torah and even leads to stoning.
In Jewish literature, the responsibility of the children is elaborated in a fascinating way, “What
is it that women (and men) are obligated to do it for their parents?” The rabbis say that
reverence involves not sitting in a parents’ place, contradicting a parent, or arguing with a parent.
Honor is defined as offering food and drink to one’s parents, helping them get dressed, and help them to go out and in (Bavli, Kiddushin 31b). The many anecdotes that the Talmud brings to illustrate honor to parents all feature old and sometimes even demented parents. The conclusion is that the Torah, according to the rabbis, is not telling parents how to keep rebellious kids in line—which is what many parents erroneously think the verse is saying—but rather telling adults in the prime of life how to deal with their aging parents. The Torah is saying that children must take care of aging parents’ day by day, meal by meal. This is surely a taxing demand. Most parents today would not dream of asking their children to look after them, and most children today could not imagine doing so. But that is how the rabbis understand the Torah. And since they make no distinction between good and abusive parents, the rabbis imply that the same rules hold for all parents.2
In such a background and context, Jesus’ new hermeneutics invites us not to evade from the
Torah, rather, it helps us to see a larger family. Here he qualifies and defines the real mother
and brother of Jesus. We never knew he visited them later, but some propositions force many
to misunderstand this text. I would like to share a few thoughts.
1. Say No to nepotism: I feel Jesus did not play any nepotism while doing the mission of God. On the other hand, he was responsible to the family, even while carrying the cross, by asking his own disciple to take care of his mother, Mary, who suffered in enacting the plan of God. Jesus always insisted on the universal family. Family of God is always inclusive, which includes the forgiver and the forgiven. The Lord’s Prayer is so self-evident about Jesus’ understanding of God’s family which is grounded in fullness for all. It never excludes anyone and anticipates the deliverance from evil.
2. Say Yes to God’s Will: In life, the self- emerging will is a contra to the general will. The general will is not the will of the majority but the will of the least, last and lost sections of the society. Philosophical realms speculate over this ultimatum of life, which envisions peace and justice for all in a broken and unjust society. Jesus was equipping the people through his passionate words to live a divine life. God’s ill will be discerned in a context which may encounter challenges while actively executing it. Persecutions and oppositions are inevitable, but faith in God will empower us in this engagement.
Let us continue as a church family to say, we are one in Christ, and we are united to the whole human bond as brothers and sisters. By living such standards, we will continue to transform the world that is divided and self-centered.
God Bless these words! Amen.
1 Hebrew Bible. Exodus 20:12