Matthew 12:38-50 Part 4

According to the record of all the Gospel writers, Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters – maybe more.  Of course, genetically, these are half brothers and half sisters, since Joseph was not His seminal father.

Incidentally, Joseph doesn’t show up in the narrative of Scripture past the family’s trip to Jerusalem at Passover in Jesus’ twelfth year!  There’s a lot of speculation about why, but we really don’t know why.  Every time Jesus as an adult has parental or sibling contact (that’s mentioned in the text) His father, (earthly father) is never mentioned.  Mary is a frequent figure, and His siblings are seen a few times, but His father is always excluded.  Perhaps he had died (early on).  And perhaps Mary had even remarried.  And maybe Jesus’ siblings were the children of another father!  That’s not very likely since Joseph was present in Jerusalem with Jesus in His twelfth year.  More than likely other children were born in to the family in those twelve years of marriage.

But we do know that Joseph was completely absent from the scene at the crucifixion, because Jesus told John to take His mother into his own home – which the Scripture affirms that he did.

Now, the question might be asked, just as a side issue, here, why didn’t Jesus assume that His brothers would take care of His mother?  There were four!  At least four.  And, again, we can’t answer the question.  Perhaps they were dead, although that isn’t likely, since they appear fairly often in the Gospel accounts.  Or perhaps He didn’t consider them suitable, for some reason, to care for her.  We just don’t know.

We do have one account, in Mark chapter three, of Jesus being an “offense” to His family.  That word is one that we’ve seen before – skandalizo – which means that they were “entrapped” by Him.  He was preaching and teaching in the streets and synagogues of Nazareth in the early days of His manifestation, and all He found was resistance, from the town and from His Own family.  And He said that a prophet has no honor in His Own town and His Own family and His Own home.  Apparently they didn’t then see the connection between this One of their own household and God’s Anointed King!  And His words and deeds turned them away!

There are indications in Scripture that two of Jesus’ brothers are the inspired writers of James and Jude, but that’s another story.  And that doesn’t help solve the issue of why Jesus made the apostle John His mother’s provider.

But anyway, as we come to the text here in Matthew chapter twelve, we see that Jesus’ mother and his brothers (no mention of His sisters) had traveled several hours from Nazareth to Capernaum to see Jesus – perhaps six or eight miles away.  And I suppose that all they had to do was find the great crowd of people all around Him.

Jesus was teaching and healing the people.  And the Pharisees had just accused Him of healing in connection with Beelzeboul, and the Scribes had demanded a sign that they could see so that they could verify His identity.  And Jesus had accused the Pharisees of being occultic blasphemers; and He had showed the deceitful Scribes that pagan Gentiles were to be the recipients of God’s favor rather than them!  And that a thoroughly foul and depraved, Gentile city – and a Chaldean queen – would add to their condemnation in the day of judgment!  And then He told them of the coming exponential demonic infestation in the city of Jerusalem as God brought them closer to ultimate destruction.

And, about that time, as the crowds were gathered up close to Jesus – listening to every word – shoulder to shoulder, heads were beginning to turn, and messages were being passed from the back of the crowd to the front.  And someone in the front then told Jesus that His mother and his brothers were here and they wanted to speak with Him.

One of the accounts says that a woman in the crowd cried out,


“Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts which you have sucked.”


 But Jesus said in response,


“No, rather, blessed are they that hear the Word of God and keep it!” 


And our account here in Matthew says,


“and He stretched out his hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Lo, My mother and My brothers.  For whoever will do the will of My Father – the One in the heavens – he is My brother and sister and mother.’”


Now, the Gospel writer doesn’t say whether Jesus received His mother and brothers after that, because that’s not his purpose for writing about this event!  And there is no indication from this text that Jesus had a disinclination toward His family, or a dislike for them.  And if that’s read into this account, then whoever does that would be either looking for something not quite right about Jesus, or they’re just missing the point entirely!

And the whole point is that there is a greater familial relationship than that one which exists in the blood lines of humanity!  Jesus is in no way diminishing the value of blood relationships here, but He is subordinating genetics under its rightful place in the Kingdom!  And the fact is, that His disciples, and, by extension, the remnant of the house of Israel who are being swept out of Israel into the nations, have a greater consanguinity, a greater kinship, a greater lineage, a greater patri-filial relationship than any that can be named among humanity!

And the truth of that statement can be found in many places of Scripture, not the least of which can be found in a passage which we’ve already covered.


 “Do not think that I am come to send peace on earth:  I came not to send peace but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.  And a man’s foes shall be those of his own house.  He that loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me….”  (Matthew chapter ten)


I’ll have more to say about that in a few minutes, but first I want to say some things about the mythology which has grown up around Jesus’ mother, Mary, as opposed to the impressions (or contrasts) that we get about her from passages such as this one and others.

And I want to point out to you first that Mary’s only words that are recorded in Scripture during the public manifestation of the Son of God are in the second chapter of John’s Gospel, just as Jesus began to choose His disciples.  The situation was the marriage celebration of Cana, just a few miles north of Nazareth.  The party had run out of wine, and Mary came to Jesus with the problem.  And Jesus said to her,


“What do I have to do with you, woman, My hour has not yet come.” 


And with that statement, the ground is cut out from under any claim that Mary either had any authority over Jesus or that she had any special claim to His ears with regard to His Messiahship.  This, in addition to our passage this morning, indicates that Jesus allowed no earthly authority to interfere with or interrupt the time or the place or the means by which He was manifested as the Savior of the world.

And from this time on, during the three years of His being exhibited to men, Mary is silent and almost nonexistent.  She appears again with the disciples and the other women in the upper room to wait for the promised Holy Spirit, as we see in Acts chapter one.  And her appearance is just that – one of those whose hope was in Christ Jesus for her salvation, and for the salvation of the whole world.  Nowhere is she given special place or position or reverence – in fact, just the opposite.  All indications are that the incidents in which she was involved were designed to eliminate any worship that she might have received as a result of being the mother of the world’s Savior.

But that’s not the way it’s turned out.  For there are about a quarter of a billion people in the world who are involved, to some degree or another, in the extra-biblical worship of Mary.  And, so I’m told, it would be very difficult for us as Reformed people to realize the deep love and reverence that Romanists have for the mother of Jesus.  But a couple of examples can give us some idea.

Here’s an ex-nun:

 “No words can define to my readers the feeling of reverential love I had for the virgin Mary.  As the humble suppliant kneels before her statue he thinks of her as the tender, compassionate mother of Jesus, the friend and mediatrix (feminine mediator) of sinners.  The thought of praying to Christ for any special grace without seeking the intercession of Mary never occurred to me.”


In a book called “The Voice of the Church Speaking.” we find these things about Mary:

“And she is truly a mediatress of peace between sinners and God.  Sinners receive pardon by…Mary alone.”  “Mary is our life….  Mary in obtaining this grace for sinners by her intercession, thus restores them to life.”  “He fails and is lost who has not recourse to Mary.”

As you can see, Mary is here given the place belonging to Christ alone!  First Timothy two, five says,


“For there is one God, and One Mediator of God and men, the Man Jesus Christ.” 


Here’s another quotation:


“The holy Church commands a worship peculiar to Mary.”  “Many things are asked from God, and are not granted; they are asked from Mary, and are obtained.”


And another:


“Mary is the peace-maker between sinners and God.”  “We often more quickly obtain what we ask by calling on the name of Mary, than by invoking the name of Jesus.”  “She is our salvation, our life, our hope, our counsel, our refuge, our help.”


Again, as you can see, Mary is glorified more than, and even in place of, Christ!  But God’s Word says,


“For there is no other name under Heaven given to men whereby we must be saved.  His Name is above every name… not only in this world, but also in that which is to come.”


The worship of women, because of the qualities of the female personality, such as kindness and sweetness, and tenderness, and passion, and care, has gone on since man fell into idolatry.  The extreme devotion to female concepts gave rise to many goddesses in ancient pagan cultures:  Isis, Ishtar, Diana, Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite, and others.  And, in actuality, when Christ was introduced into those nations, the idea of Mary as a goddess caught on and replaced the statues of the other goddesses!  Some cultures, even today, have statues and pictures which combine their own pre-Christian goddesses with the idea of Mary – such as, I understand, the virgin of Guadalupe – a goddess worshipped by some Indians in Mexico.

The rosary, which is by far the most popular Romanist ritual prayer, contains fifty “hail Marys.”  This is what the hail Mary (or ave Maria) says:


“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.  Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death.  Amen.”


I don’t want to spend too much time on it, but just a couple of comments about the “hail Mary.”  First, it describes Mary as the mother of God!  But God has no mother.  The Counsel of Chalcedon mentions her as “God-bearer,” but it is very clear that that term is with reference to His fleshly birth, and that it is meant to set apart Jesus’ Divinity!  But the “hail Mary” reflects other Romanist theology with regard to Mary, which says, “Mary is also the advocate of the whole human race… for she can do what she wills with God.”  In other words, since Mary is God’s mother she, especially, has His ear!  He will listen to her!

Also, the “hail Mary” assumes that Mary can pray for sinners who invoke her name!  And that she will intercede for them before God!  And if you think hard enough about this, you’ll know that this assumption about Mary’s intercessory activities attributes to her the incommunicable attributes of God alone!  Because if she can hear the prayers of all those sinners, then she must be omnipresent!  And if she knows what they need and can intercede with God about those needs, then she must also be omniscient!  And if she stands before God as the mediatrix of men, then she must be sinless!  And if she can do what she wills with God, then she must be sovereign!

So all these are qualities of deity.  And if she is deity, then she is goddess.  And if she is goddess, then she must be the object of constant adoration and worship, which makes her an idol for three hundred million people around the world.

Now, there are a lot of other things that we could say about Mariolatry, such as the immaculate conception – the belief in all the Roman Church that Mary was born without sin; and such as the assumption of Mary, which is the belief of the church that Mary was risen from the grave and exalted into heaven, where she was made “queen of heaven.”

But suffice it to say that there is only silence from her and about her in Scripture.

In our text this morning she and her other sons traveled about three hours to see Jesus and interrupted His condemnation of the Scribes and Pharisees.  Perhaps she was upset about the very serious situation which existed between Jesus and the authorities, and maybe she wanted, with concern for his person, to talk to Him about lessening His profile in order to increase His margin of safety; we just don’t know her motives or the subject of her visit.  But it doesn’t matter!  What she wanted to say to Him isn’t the point!  And, as a result of her assuming a non-passive and mildly dominant role with regard to speaking to Him, she had interrupted Jesus as He was engaged with the Sword of the Word in cutting off this arrogant and contentious and hypocritical authority and warning them of Armageddon to come!  Apparently she thought that she, as His mother, could do that!

And, as a result, she suffered a mild rebuke as Jesus did not answer her, but continued to wield the Sword at these Scribes.  And, in essence, He said, “You don’t belong to Me; Scribes you don’t need a sign from Me; these over here are My mother an My brothers and My sisters.  I’m related to them and their fruit – not you.”

But I’m sure that you can now see the place of Jesus’ mother in Scripture.  Blessed of all women, yes – for she was honored to bear the God-Man; but also needing Him for the covering of her sin just as we need Him.

And Jesus uses the occasion of her interruption to teach the concept of the “greater” family, for the womb from which Jesus was born, and the breasts which suckled Him, are not that which is blessed; but the ones who hear and do the Word of God are the ones who are blessed!  And they are His family.

And the question here is, what is the connection between hearing and doing God’s Word – and the “family” that Jesus speaks of here?  The woman in the crowd clearly saw the connection between mother and infant, and, in her mind, that connection made Mary’s womb and breasts “blessed”.  But Jesus said, “No, rather, blessed are they who hear and do the Word of God.”  So what connection did the woman in the crowd not see?  And what is it that we can’t see until He has taught us?

Colossians two, verse three says that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  And how do we get there – in that blessed place where we can participate in all those “treasures” – those “virtues”?

Well, the family of whom Jesus speaks here are those who have been freely adopted into that family, and who, together, feast upon these treasures which belong to Christ.  And He communicates all those blessed treasures by the Word which the family embraces by faith!  That’s the connection!

God’s adoption of us is the key to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the connection is made by the faithful hearing and doing of His Word!  Life in Christ, where all the treasures are, commences with the hearing of God’s Word, and it continues with that hearing.  But, as James says in the first chapter of his letter, just hearing is like looking into a mirror!  “Keeping” of the Word, which is the effectual reception of it, strikes its roots deep in the hearts of God’s adopted sons, and yields fruit!  Because that’s the connection to all the virtues in the person of Christ!  That’s where our nurture is – the feeding that’s necessary for our growth and maturity!

So God’s adopted family, which feeds off the treasures in Christ’s body, is a family which participates in the Divine nature of the Son of God.  And therefore it is a greater family than any other.  It is a brotherhood whose membership is secured by the gracious adoption of God; and it is a brotherhood whose membership is effected by the hearing and doing of God’s Word, and it is realized by the hearing and doing of God’s Word.  Because the hearing and doing of God’s Word is the faithful connection by which we receive the great benefits in that great place – the Person of Christ!

Now, lastly, Jesus says, “He who will do the Will of My Father in the Heavens, he is my brother and sister and mother.”  It is a Biblical fact that Jesus came to do the Will of His Father – in order to glorify Him.  That’s His character and virtue.

And those who are living in Him and participating in those virtues in union with Him are doing the Father’s Will!  That’s why there’s a brotherhood in Christ!  We who live in Him are feeding on the dynamics of His character!

The inspired writer James said, “Faith without works is dead!”  In other words, there’s no such thing!  “Be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.”  It’s like a man looking in a mirror, and he goes away and forgets what kind of man he is, says James.  A “hearer only” of the Word hears the Will of God preached, and he goes away and just forgets it, and the “faith” connection isn’t made with the body of Christ.  That’s self-deception!

But the doer of the Word hears the Word preached, and it sinks its roots into the heart and results in repentance and holiness – for the glory of the Father!  The brothers of our Lord are hearers and doers.  They hear the Word, and they go and do righteousness!  And as James says, they put filthiness out of their lives, they bridle their tongues, they aid the afflicted, they are no respecter of persons, they don’t withhold the necessities of life from a brother, they kill pride and self-glorification, they give full place to the sovereignty of God, they humbly confess their faults, and they put away from them partiality, hypocrisy and bitterness, and they will not make peace with the world order!  This is the synopsis of James.

Jesus’ disciples were doers, and they were His brothers.  They became rooted in Christ. And with His character they became the first-fruits of the Kingdom – doers of the Word, laying the foundation of the Church.

It’s time now to take stock!  Where is the character of Christ?  If you’re rooted in Him through faith, having heard the Word preached, then where is His character?  And where are all these things connected with doers that James mentions?  Most of what I hear about is strife and anger and bitterness and neglect and rebellion; and there’s not likeness of Christ in any of it!

And where is the Kingdom preaching and teaching and calling men to repentance?  And the relief of the afflicted, and the bridling of your tongues, and the constant reliance on the Sovereign God of Scripture?  Faith without works is non-existent!

Don’t deceive yourselves by forgetting about the Word you’ve heard preached!  Be hearers and doers of God’s Word, and be the brother and sister of our Lord Jesus Christ… “rooted and built up in Him, being established in the faith, as you have been taught….”  (Colossians two, seven)