Matthew 12:46–50: The Family of Jesus
As Matthew brings chapter 12 to a close, he turns in a surprising direction. Most of this chapter has been taken up with Jesus’ conflict with the Pharisees; here, however, Jesus suddenly asserts that serving his heavenly Father is more important than responding to the demands of his earthly family. Since the next chapter begins a new section where Jesus teaches through parables about the kingdom of God, it is clear that Matthew intends for this chapter to provide resolution and clarity to the entirety of Matthew 12. Why, then, does Matthew give us these words of Jesus here? As we will see, Jesus teaches us here to seek first the family of God.
1. What kind of connection between this passage and the previous passage about unclean spirits does Matthew indicate by the transition in v. 46a? If the connection is temporal (i.e., based on time), what is the thematic connection between the two passages? Furthermore, why does Matthew see fit to close the entirety of chapter 12 (which has been taken up with Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders) with this passage?
2. Why do you think Jesus’ family might have sought to draw him aside to speak to him (v. 46)? What would the culture of that day have expected Jesus to do in response to the request of his family? What would our own culture expect Jesus to do in this situation? What is good and bad about the culture of Jesus’ day in regard to the family? What is good and bad about our own culture in regard to the family?
3. What does Jesus say about his earthly family? What does Jesus say about his heavenly family? Why does Jesus identify his disciples as his “mother and…brothers” (v. 49)? What does Jesus mean when he says that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (v. 50)? How, then, is Jesus’ heavenly family constituted? Are you a member of Jesus’ heavenly family? What does that mean to you?
4. What are the pursuits that might tempt us to ignore Jesus’ heavenly call today? What factors have reduced our culture’s regard for the family? What does God want from the family? How did your family growing up live up to that standard? How does your current family live up to that standard? In our culture, how might Jesus’ challenge here lead us back to a higher compassion for our own families?