Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
The gospels record times where Jesus called people to leave their father and mother. But Jesus in no way is suggesting that God’s people should neglect their family responsibilities. He had a high view of family and of the parent-child relationship. For example, Jesus corrected the Pharisees and the teachers of the law for their refusal to follow Old Testament teaching about caring for their parents (Mark 7:9-13; Matthew 15:1-9).
Jesus not only corrected others for their mistreatment of their parents, He set an example of how to treat parents. Even as Jesus was hanging on the cross He was thinking of providing for His mother (John 19:25-27). In spite of this event in Mark’s gospel, we find Jesus’ mother and brothers present in the upper room at Pentecost (Acts 1:4).
What Jesus is saying is that God has a prior claim on us. Obviously, God is more important than family. When we make family our “number one priority” we have created an idol by allowing something to come between us and God. The greatest blessing I can give my wife and children is to love God more than I love them. When my wife or my children become the center of my universe and I live to please her or them, tragedy results.
God is God. My wife is not. God is God. My children are not. And perhaps we should look at it from another point of view. God is God. I am not. And when I expect my family to react to me as if I am God, tragedy often results. The danger for me is that my pride tries to convince me that I am their God – that I provide all and protect all. Truth is God provides and protects and He can do so with or without me. Trouble follows when a wife begins to depend on her husband (or a husband on his wife) where she (he) should be depending on God. My wife’s total dependence on me might make me feel like a real man, but it just might be keeping her from depending on God.
Jesus expands our notion of family. As we put God in the highest place, our family grows. We have brothers and sisters and mothers in those who do God’s will. So following Jesus does not eliminate family responsibility, if anything, it increases it. But following Jesus means we have one priority above all and it’s God, not family. When God’s kingdom breaks in – everything changes, even the very fabric of our family life.