Jesus has been immersed in a heated conversation with the Pharisees and scribes in our readings from Matthew the past few days. They have accused him of getting his authority and power from Beelzebul. Jesus in turn has called them a brood of vipers, that they should learn from the story of the people of Nineveh, and that they represent an evil and adulterous generation. Pretty heated words back and forth. And today Jesus finishes with his chat with the scribes by saying that attempts to clean "their house" has proved fruitless. He is then told his mother and brothers are outside and can't get in to see him. Jesus redefines who his family is, by pointing to his disciples and saying anyone, anyone who follows him and helps make God's kingdom a reality now is part of his immediate family.
I have always felt sorry for Jesus' mother and brothers being utilized by Jesus as a metaphor of what Jesus opens up to all of us. Were they insulted? Hurt? Disappointed when they heard Jesus point to others and say "here is my family"? We know that his family stayed with him to the bitter end, with his mother watching him die on the cross, and his brothers becoming leaders in the post-resurrection communities that developed following those bitter and magnificent events. So, taking these words too literally, as with all things scriptural, can get us immersed in a barrel of sour pickles.
By redefining who his family is, Jesus is telling us to rethink all of our definitions, reshape our world view of who and what "church" is meant to be, who can be included, who is "in". Narrowly constructing our world, our ability to be accepting, is anathema to the point at which Jesus is driving. Just as Jesus didn't disown his mother and immediate family by his declarations today, he also widened the definition of who is part of this church family being established by his presence on earth. Widened to include everyone. A place where all are equal, all are understood to be made in the image of God and need to be equally loved. All being granted the same rights, no matter: the color of a person's skin, the color of their eyes, from where they arrived, their socio-economic position in society, their gender, the person they love.
All are part of this redefined world, all are equal and deserving of the same rights as the one standing next to them, all focused on our God-head, Jesus, at the center of who we are as a people.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.
Photo: Christopher & Scott's Wedding, 2011.