I hope you found this a good exercise to do. This is a very interesting passage content wise but it is also very interesting to see the way Luke has used it. He has put it out of order. Did you pick that up? Notice that Luke places this pericope after the Explanation of the Parable of the Soils in Luke 8:9-18. Luke follows that section with this unit about “My mother and my brothers”. The other writers have this pericope too but not here. We can use all three accounts to investigate Luke’s use of these percicopes because Matthew, Mark and Luke all include it, but the writers don’t all put it in the same place. Matthew has it in 12:46-50 and Mark places it in 3:31:35. Both of them place this story at the end of the chapter before the Parable of the Soils and the explanation. They both have it following the talk about evil spirits and the accusation that Jesus is possessed by Beelzebul, there is discussion about the spirit world and then the family come seeking Jesus and he makes the comments in our segment above. Following that Matthew and Mark start a very different segment related to the series of parables. It is most likely that Matthew and Mark’s positioning is in chronological order. Luke doesn’t care so much for time sequence but is more intent on the logical sequence, glueing the ideas together.
What is interesting is that Luke includes the line “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside wishing to see you”. This is clearly lifted from the synoptic thread and is part of the oral tradition. But it doesn’t fit the context Luke places it in. In Matthew and Mark’s account it is related to the discussion which took place in a house. Matthew informs us in 13:1 that Jesus went out of the house (where the spirit discussion took place) and went down by the sea (Sea of Galilee). This venue is clearly outside; why then do these stories have the statement “your mother and your brothers are standing outside”? In Matthew and Mark this element fits the story but in Luke it is ill-fitted. Simply because Luke has lifted it from it’s temporal position and placed it in a logical sequence. There is debate among the commentators about what Luke means by “they were standing outside”. Luke adds the clause “unable to get to him because of the crowd”. As the action is taking place outside already, clearly in Luke the sense is they are on the outside of the crowd and because people are swarming him, it is hard for the family to get close.
Notice the other statement Luke adds here is “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Both Matthew and Mark have the standard synoptic reading “whoever does the will of God (My Father in heaven) is my brother and sister and mother”. Luke’s change has matched it to the discussion of hearing the Word of God (and doing it). It fits with the Parable of the Soils now. Luke has also shortened the account to make it punchier which he often does. Notice he also removes “the sister”. Rather than “my brother and sister and mother” (after Matt and Mark) Luke throws the sister away and shortens it to mother and brothers to match the earlier reading. Interesting isn’t it that Joseph is omitted. Now why is that? Most commentators feel it is because Joseph had died by this time and no longer features after the birth narrative.
A little side study into Jesus family would take you down a track to John 7:5 which tells us that his brothers didn’t believe Who He was. But later on something happened to them because we are told in Gal 1:19 that his brother James was a leader in the church in Jerusalem. In 1 Cor 9:5 we learn his other brothers were traveling for the sake of the gospel. But these are side eddies to the main point.
The main point of this pericope being positioned where it is, is to close the parable of the soil. You see when we hear the Word of God with GOOD SOIL it repositions us much like Luke repositions the story. The Word of God cuts across all human relationships to bring its truth. Our church (JPCC) calls the cell groups: our Second Home. The idea being, the necessity of meeting together in small groups to bring reality to our lives over and above going to church with a larger body of worshippers is like being part in a second family. Of course to a degree that is true because the reality of being a Christian and being part of the body of Christ is to bring our faith into our everyday world – where the rubber meets the road so to speak. But I have news for you, which is contained in this passage today. Cell group, church, the reality of our human relationships go far beyond our family relationships. This relationship level is our first home. I am sure you have all experienced to one degree or another how the spiritual link to a person with whom you share oneness of heart mind and soul seems to transcend blood relationships. We end up feeling closer to brothers and sisters in Christ than we feel to our blood relatives, especially if they don’t know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. There is something in all this which rewrites the story.
I believe that is why Luke has taken this story and put it at the end of the Parable of Soils. When you really hear and take the Word of God deep within you it transforms relationships. It can bring someone who is not your family closer than a brother or sister, or conversely it can make a family relationship that much stronger again. It also sets brothers and sisters who share faith in the Lord apart from their other siblings. Or it can bring the sword and divide our human relationships because we begin to realize we are really in opposing camps, the difference between light and dark. Hence the saying “My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it” is a powerful thing to say at the end of the parable of the sower and soils. But I don’t believe Jesus said it like that at that time. I believe Luke positioned it there to make a stronger close to the Parable of the Soils.
What do you think? Talk to me about it. Furthermore I think there is a deeper level of meaning in “these are my mother and brothers” linked to all this but I am not sure I understand it all yet. I will continue to ponder on that one. That’s enough for now. If you are willing share with me what you got out of this passage. Please do so, I would love to hear from you.
Desiring God exists to spread the truth that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.John Piper
Jesus taught profound truth in simple ways. We do the opposite. Many “deep” teachers are actually just muddy!Rick Warren
Our world is in trouble because we are too serious about trivial matters & flippant about things of eternal significance.Rick Warren
A smile is contagious; be a carrier.Anon
Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future.Kezia Debora