The first time that Jesus talks about the kingdom of God in terms of family is found in Matthew’s record: “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’” (Matthew 12:46–50).
Not everyone’s experience with family is positive, and in our current culture, it is becoming to be more the case. But most everyone has at least an idea of what family should be like and can comprehend something of the beauty of family as God intended it.
Being part of God’s family is by far the most important relationship possible. This brief story of Jesus’ encounter with his mother and brothers gives us some insight into how he views that relationship and how we may enter it.
Jesus’ own experience taught him that human family relationships can be less than perfect and fulfilling. His own family seemed to consider him to be out of his mind, or at the least, delusional. His brothers didn’t believe in him at first (John 7:5). But Jesus’ concern used this opportunity to teach two important truths about the family of God.
First, he indicated that the spiritual family of God is more important that the most precious of human relationships. “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? ... Here are my mother and my brothers.” In saying this, he referred to those who had followed him to hear his teaching and witness his miracles.
This wasn’t intended as a slap at his family, in spite of the lack of faith they had demonstrated. Rather, it showed the superiority of the spiritual and eternal over the physical and temporal. This is a hard lesson for us to accept, yet it is the very essence of the nature of the kingdom of God. It is a lesson sometimes learned only through hard experience. Only in learning to give ourselves completely to God can we understand fully what Jesus meant. Hopefully, we will not have to learn it through the bitter choice between God’s family and our human families. But Jesus did say, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters — yes, even his own life — he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:26).
Second, those who are claimed by Jesus as members of his family are those who do the will of the Father. Jesus’ comment was made as he pointed to his disciples. A “disciple” is first a learner and then a follower. But the term is used most often in the New Testament of those who are following the Master.
Jesus told Nicodemus that entering the kingdom of God requires a new birth (John 3:3, 5). A person is born physically by a natural process. But sinners can be “born again” through obedience to Christ by being born of the water and the Spirit by baptism in obedience to the will of God.
Being recognized by Jesus as part of his family is the most precious of blessings. If you’re not a part of his family, you can be by doing his will.