Have You Heard the Word (6): All in the Family
Intro –Chuck Swindoll mustered out of the Marine Corps in Berkeley. He went church hunting on foot, not having a car. He found a great stone structure with massive doors and a vast narthex. Hanging there were huge pictures of great people in panorama. Mahatma Gandhi, Abraham Lincoln and Jesus. Socrates and President Eisenhower. Above them was a great bronze engraving with the words, “You are all the sons of God” then an ellipses indicating everyone was included. It referenced Gal 3:26. He had run head long into one of Satan’s most deceitful doctrines the Universal Fatherhood of God.
Is it true that everyone is a child of God? Is that right? Chuck looked up Gal 3:26 and found, “ for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” That suggests it is those who are in Christ Jesus who are children of God. It’s for sure not everyone wants that. Acts 17:29 suggests we are all God’s offspring by virtue of Creation. But not everyone makes a decision for Christ. John 1:11-12 is so clear on this: “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Clearly not all are God’s. In our text today, Jesus’ earthly family comes to try to save Him from Himself. They fear for his sanity. But in their attempt and His response, we learn a lot about family connections and family conduct in the family of God.
Vv. 19-20: “19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” This takes place early in Jesus’ ministry. Luke puts it here because it continues his theme of “hearing the Word”. Turn to Mark 3:20 for Mark’s account: “Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.” “Home” now is Capernaum – 25 miles NE of Nazareth. The family has come up to see him. But it’s a bizarre visit. They think He’s out of His mind. That is an amazing statement. It’s hard to believe Mary thought this, but clearly His brothers did – and maybe His sisters.
Why did they think this? Did they object to the miracles? I doubt that. The crowds? Some say they were concerned that not even having time to eat, He was going to wear out. But I doubt that. We get a hint by the event that Mark puts in between the statement that they think Him out of his mind in v. 21 and their insisting on an audience with him in Mark 3:31. Look at v. 22, “And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” The scribes are now suggesting Jesus is empowered by Satan. He responds by suggesting that it would be foolish for Satan to cast out his own underlings, but He further says that to attribute to Satan work this is actually done by the HS is to commit an unpardonable sin. Wow! These rulers were apoplectic.
That’s what worried Jesus’ family. It is clear by now that Jesus’ concept of salvation is totally opposite to what everyone has been taught all their lives. And He opposes the scribes at every point – healing on the Sabbath, calling for repentance, demolishing the traditions the Pharisees have cultivated for generations. He steps on toes every time He preaches, and the family is beside themselves. He is bringing shame on the family by opposing everything Judaism stood for, and He’s about to get killed. Yes, they’re concerned. They have come for an intervention – to try to save Him from Himself. And they claim the family connection as their right to do so. Note Mark 3:31-32, “And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” Of course, Jesus’ response puts them off completely. He says, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lu 8:21). So, let’s stop here to ask, what does this teach us about family connections in the family of God?
A.They are Spiritual
Realize this is Jesus’ true earthly family. The idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin and had no children other than Jesus is simply not biblical. Some suggest these were cousins, but the word αδελφος always means “brother”; another word is used for cousin in the NT. Others suggest Joseph had children by a first marriage, no such is ever mentioned. And had there been one, they would have been Joseph’s heir and in the kingly line ahead of Jesus. Undoubtedly these were half-brothers of Jesus – children of Joseph and Mary.
But that physical relationship held no advantage when it came to being part of the family of God. God’s family is those who hear the Word and do it. While that was undoubtedly the case with Mary, though she somehow became party to this incident, it was certainly not the case for His brothers at this time. John 7:1-5 shows their spiritual condition: “After this Jesus went about in Galilee. He would not go about in Judea, because the Jews were seeking to kill him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Booths was at hand. 3 So his brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. 4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For not even his brothers believed in him.” Jesus’s brothers so hated His ministry by this time, that though they know He is No. 1 on the “Most Wanted List” in Jerusalem, they urge Him to go. They’re not believers. Thankfully at least two (James and Judas), and probably the others too, became believers and foundational to the church after His resurrection convinced them of His credibility. But not here.
So, we learn that we don’t get into the family of God by physical connections. It matters not whether your parents were believers or reprobates. The question is what have you done with Christ? It doesn’t matter what country you were born in or what church you grew up in. Physical connections are meaningless when it comes to being part of God’s family. Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:6-7, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” Jesus says this to someone he calls “the” teacher – the Billy Graham of his time, and Jesus says, “You must be born again.” You must choose for Jesus.
Film producer Joseph Levine once presented actor Marcello Mastroianni a magnificent gold watch. Problem was, the actor was already wearing a gold watch. But on seeing the gift, Mastroianni took off his own watch and nonchalantly dropped it into a nearby wastebasket. That’s what it is to come to Christ. We take any perceived advantages we think have, throw them away like the trash they are and accept Him. That’s how we get in the family.
B.They are Submissive
God’s family submits to His will – enthusiastically! Just as Jesus submitted to His Father, so we must submit to Jesus as God. Jesus’ family was judging Him rather submitting to Him. They thought they knew best rather than trusting His judgment. Failure to submit to Him as Lord shows we’re fake!
Charles Templeton was a close friend and preaching associate of Billy Graham in the 1940s. He was very effective. But he craved recognition by the intellectual community and began to doubt the truth of Scripture and core Christian beliefs. He went to Princeton and learned to stand in judgment of Scripture rather than the other way around. He finally abandoned his faith and tried hard to persuade Billy to do the same. He felt sorry for Billy, saying, “He committed intellectual suicide by closing his mind.” Templeton became a novelist and news commentator. He also wrote a critique of the Christian faith titled Farewell to God: My Reasons for Rejecting the Christian Faith. Interviewed when he was 83, Templeton was asked what he thought of Jesus Christ. He refused to acknowledge Him as God. Rather, he responded: “He was the greatest human being who has ever lived. He was a moral genius. His ethical sense was unique. He was the intrinsically wisest person that I’ve ever encountered in my life or in my readings. He’s the most important thing in my life. I know it may sound strange, but I have to say I adore him! Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus. He is the most important human being who has ever existed. And if I may put it this way, I miss him.” Then he began to weep freely. Amazingly, he couldn’t see the gross inconsistency of his own logic. Jesus could not have been the extraordinarily wise and moral person that Templeton acknowledges and still claim to be God if it were not true. Tragic inconsistency usually attaches to standing in judgment over Christ.
So, how do you know for sure you’re part of the family? Lu 8:21, “But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” We’re down to basics here. Two things characterize the conduct of those who part of God’s family. They hear the Word and they heed the Word. This has been Luke’s theme throughout this passage. By now we should be getting the message – it matters how we hear the Word.
A.Hear the Word
Hearing the Word is critical in the first place because it is the means of salvation. Paul tells us in Rom 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” We must never underestimate the power of the Word.
Jeanette Clift George is an actress, raised in a Christian home, but testimony to the fact that physical connections matter little when it comes to the family of God. Though her family was Christian, she arrived on Broadway having jettisoned her Christian background – all except one thing. She had a small white Bible, wrapped in cellophane, that she always placed on her dressing table when a new show opened. She seldom read it, but she would panic if she couldn’t find it. When she did begin to read it, she got bogged down in Leviticus and sarcastically asked the Lord “to show her if he had any message for her other than what to do should her neighbor’s ox fall into the ditch.” A few weeks later, she got drenched in a sudden burst of rain. She ducked into an auditorium where a man was speaking. Jeannette, disinterested, stepped back onto the street under an awning. Someone rolled up the awning. Jeannette dashed back into the auditorium just as the speaker, Major Ian Thomas, was getting warmed up. Despite herself, she felt her heart start to open. Soon afterward, Jeannette discovered Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Instantly she saw herself as a sinner whom God loved and for whom Christ died. Alone in her apartment she cried out, “All right! Jesus Christ, whoever you are, you take over.” And He did. Some of you may remember her for her role as Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place. There is power in the word, Beloved.
But the Word not only brings us into the family; it sustains the relationship. Jesus prayed the night before He died for His followers to come, including us, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). It is just as important to hear the Word after salvation as before. That’s what the Spirit uses to sanctify, grow us. That’s why we give such high priority to the Word in our church. It is what God uses to help us act like who we are – children of God. But we have to keep right on hearing it.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a bold pastor in Nazi Germany who gave up the chance to come to the safety of America so that he could continue ministering to people in Germany. He was eventually imprisoned and executed days before the Allies arrived in Berlin. He ran an underground seminary for theological students. Despite his great theological wisdom, when his novice students preached, he always set aside his pencil and gave himself to the sermon with Bible open before him – no matter how poor the sermon. He believed any presentation of the Word was an opportunity to hear God. And he was so right. So we must always come to church expectantly. We must always come to the Word expectantly. We are responsible for how we hear.
B.Heed the Word
But the rubber really meets the road in the second part of Jesus’ statement. “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Those in God’s family are doers of the Word. The doing does not save them, but the doing shows that they are indeed saved. Jesus says in John 14:15, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Where do we find His commandments? In the Word. What is our reaction to them? We will keep them. It’s automatic. Certainly that does mean we will get it perfect. We won’t in this life. But that will be the trend of our existence. As we learn, we do. And as we do, we want to learn more. Jesus’ brother James got this. He later wrote in James 1:22-25: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.” Note that it is in being a doer that we find true liberty and blessing. It is not only automatic to want to obey; it is the place of blessing. Are you a doer? Not just outwardly, but inwardly?
In Safely Home by Randy Alcorn, he tells an ancient Chinese story. Many years before Christ there was a state in China called Qi. The king was particularly fond of music play on a Yu – a wind instrument. So he convened 300 of the best players of his time and at teatime, they played for him. Among the players was Mr. Nan Guo who actually knew nothing about the instrument, but since he was in the orchestra, no one ever knew the difference – that is until the old king died. The new king did not like the orchestra. He enjoyed solo performances. He had each musician play alone for him. This time there was no hiding. Nan Guo was shown up for what he was.
Conc – Do you now beyond a doubt that God is your Father today? Does your life demonstrate that you belong? If not, the Word you need to hear is simple: “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” Believe in Him today. Trust Him for now and for your future. Exchange all that you are for all that He is, and you, too, can be a child of God before you leave here.
For those of us who claim the name Christian, the question is how real the Father is to us. Theologian J. I. Packer says, “If you want to judge how well a person understands Christianity, find out how much he makes of the thought of being God's child, and having God as his Father. If this is not the thought that prompts and controls his worship and prayers and his whole outlook on life, it means that he does not understand Christianity very well at all.” I pray that like Christ we are driven to see the will of the Father done on earth as it is in heaven – and that we are doing our part to make it so. Let’s pray.