4 Mini Missives
“Now when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. “Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order. “Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first. That is the way it will also be with this evil generation. While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. And someone said to Him, ‘Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.’ But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.’ On that day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea. And great multitudes gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole multitude was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables…”
Jesus explains to the people exactly what he means to them and it’s not good. Notice; “when the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places, seeking rest, and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came’; and when it comes, it finds it unoccupied, swept, and put in order.” Jesus will cast out demons, teach and show with his actions how to live but this generation will prepare themselves for the demon to return to them. The demon finds the house, an obvious metaphor of the person, unoccupied. That is another obvious metaphor made by Jesus to signify the absence of the Holy Spirit. Not only is the house unoccupied, it’s put in perfect order for the demon to return. And not only that but, “Then it goes, and takes along with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” Seven, the number representing completeness, is how many demons occupy the house now. Yes, that is much worse than before. That is how the generation of Jesus responded to Jesus.
Jesus was a very busy man–I believe that is Matthew’s aspiration to his audience by writing, ‘While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him.” Going back in Matthew to chapter 8, the conjunctions then, and, at and when are used thirty times at the beginning of paragraphs–it is nonstop action. This brings back to mind what John wrote; “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books which were written.”
The disciples were busy too. We have read that they were sent out to Israel to heal, cast-out demons and preach. We also see that when they return, they pretty-much follow Jesus wherever he goes; pretty-much. We remember how Jesus talked many men out of discipleship because it was a very difficult road.
In this scene, after Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for seeking a sign, and while he is comparing this generation to 7 demons, he is interrupted while still speaking to his audience by a man telling Jesus that his mother and brothers were standing outside, waiting to speak to him. First things first, did Jesus have brothers? The context says so, but church tradition says he didn’t. What are we to believe?
I choose to believe Scripture. It will probably not come as a surprise but the original Greek word translated here as “brother,” literally means, “brother.” And since context is king, I believe them to be his brothers. Now, many arguments are made that they were his cousins, but remember, the context says brothers. Another argument is made that they were brothers from a previous marriage of Joseph. The only problem with that is, it’s complete conjecture and diabolically dubious. Nowhere in Scripture do we see that. What’s really going on is the dogmatic approach to Mary’s perpetual pureness. Virgin at birth, yes. Perpetual state of virginity, highly doubtful. Going back to the “cousins” theory, if you read your Bible closely, you may find that the cousin theory is ripped to shreds. It appears that the apostle John was actually the cousin of Jesus, who Jesus now calls his brother, because he is one of the disciples.
Look at the context! “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers!” If “brothers” was used figuratively and not literally, how could Jesus reassign the word figuratively? It makes no sense. Let me try to contemperize: A hip, young congresswoman who hates fossil fuels, is waiting for her ride to go to the Capitol for a very important bill that would provide cows with catalytic converters. Her car pulls up as the media is watching and the valet says, “here is your car.” Realizing that she is being watched by the media and her constinsuancy, she says, “that’s not my car.” Pointing to the train passing by and a horse carriage carrying tourists, she exclaims, “that’s my car.” The car was literally a car, the horse and train were figuratively her car, in her own mind.
Jesus is not trying to get away with something or cater to his constituents, on the contrary, he’s showing love for his followers as he has shown the disinterest of his generation. In the CAGED method we search for examples. Mark 3 paints a very similar picture and gives the reason his mother and brothers were there; they thought Jesus was crazy. But the point Matthew makes is not that Jesus doesn’t care about his mother or his brothers but that he is family to all those who accept him for who he is.
I left youth ministry to focus on my family but I can assure you that they are my family too. It was a very difficult decision in many ways. But I didn’t put my blood family above my church family. I weighed all the options and determined that my blood family needed me more than my church family. Everything I did at the church could be done by other people within the church, the same was not true with my family. When I realized this, the choice was easy and I moved quickly. The scenario helps me understand that which Jesus says, “Behold, My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
At this time John says, “For not even his brothers believed in him.” Again, more proof of his brothers being brothers. But also proof that Jesus did come with a sword to divide families, his was no different. Eventually we see his brothers did believe in him but it appears that was only after his resurrection. Again, Jesus is not being hostile to his family but demonstrating that everyone who does the will of his Father is family. Application: the church may be more family than families.
And now the true Israel takes another turn away from the nation Israel and as Psalms says, “I will open my mouth in a parable; I will utter dark sayings of old.” But we will get to that. “On that day Jesus went out of the house, and was sitting by the sea. And great multitudes gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat down, and the whole multitude was standing on the beach. And He spoke many things to them in parables…” We will see that even his family of disciples didn’t understand Jesus. But as we walk through the text, notice the widening gap between true Israel and the Nation Israel.