THE GOSPEL IS A FAMILY AFFAIR
Dr. Chuck DeVane, Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
September 3, 2017
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." 21 But he answered them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."
— Luke 8:19-21, ESV
This brief narrative is Luke’s third consecutive message on the importance of hearing and obeying the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Such faith is a trait found only in the good soil (ref. Luke 8:4-15), the lamp on a stand (ref. Luke 8:16-18), and in the true family of God (ref. Luke 8:19-21). In this three-fold emphasis, the gospel is made as plain as dirt, it is a shining light, and, now, it is a family affair.
Jesus’ Earthly Family
The Gospels give an honest, if not exhaustive, view of Jesus’ earthly family. Though God was His Father, through the mystery of the Trinity and the miracle of the Incarnation, Jesus had a biological mother named Mary and half-siblings who were sons and daughters of Joseph and Mary. Two of the brothers became famous Apostles and authors of Holy Scripture, James and Judas (known as Jude after the other Judas’ betrayal).
You would think that after spending decades with Jesus before His public ministry, they would have been on board from the get-go. But this is not the case. Mary had doubts, and the brothers lived in mocking unbelief until Christ’s death and resurrection. When they approached Jesus at this early stage of His mission, they were crowded out by the faithful and blinded by their own lack of faith.
Mark’s Gospel inserts this insight into the moments before Luke’s narrative unfolds: “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind’” (ref. Mark 3:21, ESV). At this point they did not think Jesus to be the Messiah, they thought He was mad. What could explain their doubts and denials? It was either a case of familiarity breeding contempt, or the curse of false comfort.
In the first case, Jesus may have seemed so human to Mary that His divinity diminished. She nursed him, changed his diapers, and fed and clothed him into adulthood. As for the brothers, they were probably just jealous. How would you like to grow up with a perfect brother in the house? On the other hand, they may have thought that if Jesus really did turn out to be the Messiah, they would be taken care of no matter what, whether or not they personally repented, believed, and followed Him. Either way, at least at this time, their family connection to Jesus gave them a prideful rationale to tell Jesus what to do, rather than hearing and obeying His word.
Please know that no external connection to God can save your soul and give you eternal life. Your parent’s or grandparent’s faith cannot save you. Your formal membership in a church cannot save you. Only Jesus saves, and salvation comes by hearing and heeding the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ Spiritual Family
Jesus’ “other” family was there that day, too. It might have seemed insulting to Mary and the brothers at the time, but when Jesus was notified that His earthly family had shown up, our Lord declared His true spiritual family was already there. They were seated at His feet, listening to His every word, figuring out how to put it into practice.
Luke records in this key section of his Gospel is our Lord Jesus Christ planting His church. He sows with the seeds of His word, gives the light of His grace, and turns it into a true spiritual family. The seeds produce fruit, the light shines, and the family gathers regularly to hear and respond to God’s word. This is the portrait painted by the parables and plain teaching of Jesus, teaching that tells us how to enter into the kingdom of God and the family of our Lord Jesus Christ.
In God’s family, water is thicker than blood. Specifically, spiritual water is more important than biological blood. There is the spiritual water of baptism, that symbolizes regeneration, the new birth that comes from rightly hearing and believing the word (ref. 1 Peter 1:23), the entrance into the church. There is the sanctifying power of Christian preaching and teaching, the “washing of water with the word” (ref. Ephesians 5:26), which the church enjoys each time she gathers. And Christ could not have been any plainer than He was with His words here, stating that His true family consists of “those who hear the word of God and do it,” the regenerate, active, obedient members of Christ’s church.
The kingdom of God redefines the family. Where Jesus Christ is Lord, Jesus Christ is loved. Where Jesus Christ is loved, Jesus Christ is listened to. Jesus Christ is listened to when we read, hear, and participate in a church committed to the authoritative and inspired word of God, the Bible. Those who do this, and obey what they hear, make up the true family of God.
Your Spiritual Family
Human beings come into the world by the miracle of birth. Christians come into the family of God by the even greater miracle of the new birth. You and I need a biological family with all of the necessary components, and our society is suffering greatly today because of the breakdown of the nuclear family. However, what a persons needs more than anything is to be born again into the family of God, otherwise known as the church.
Jesus declares in this passage the controversial conviction that your spiritual family is more important than your earthly family. The commitment you should have to your church — where the word of God is heard on a regular basis, where brothers and sisters love one another, where the blessings of fellowship are balanced with the responsibility of service, where Jesus Christ is Head and Lord — should be greater than any other commitment in your life.
According to the Old Testament prophet Isaiah and echoed by the New Testament Apostle Peter, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (ref. Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25). This entire section of Scripture teaches that our lives’ greatest goal should be receiving, believing, obeying, and sharing the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is best done through responsible membership in one of Christ’s local churches, your spiritual family.
Your Earthly Family
In establishing this priority, Jesus is not saying that other people and endeavors are not important. We should love our country, but if our country outlaws the gospel and the church, I will become an outlaw. We should love our jobs, but if a job hinders me from sharing the gospel and attending church, I must find a new job. And of course, we should love our earthly family and friends. But may they never lead us away from Christ and the church. Rather, may we be used of God to lead them to Christ and His church, if they are not already members.
Jesus gently rebuffed Mary and the brothers in this episode. But the Lord knows, literally, how much He loved them. He not only loved them, He lived with them for a long time, continued to spend holidays with them, ate with them, drank with them, spent time with them. But His greatest longing was to spend eternity with them. So, Jesus took his stand on the primacy of His word, on hearing it and doing it, and on the people at His feet who would become His body, His family, His church.
Mary would soon cast aside her doubts and cling to the cross of Jesus. The brothers would blaze a trail for the gospel, after the light of the gospel became fully visible to them in the death, burial, and resurrection of their brother and Lord, Jesus Christ. It took some time for the Lord to win them over, but at last the earthly family and spiritual family of these Nazarenes became one.
If your earthly and spiritual family are one, you should give the greatest praise to God imaginable, for there is no greater blessing on earth than to know that you and your family members are saved. If there are signs of unbelief in your immediate family, pray hard and practice your faith even harder. Remember Mary and the brothers did not believe for a while, but they came around. Pray for the gospel to surround your family so that the circle will not be broken.
God encourages us to find and maintain the right balance between your earthly family and your spiritual family. As a pastor, I have always trimmed the amount of activity at official church services because I thought they interfered with the quality time families should spend together. But as a pastor and a Christian, I agree with Christ that the most important family on earth is spiritual. Love your church. Gather with them to hear and obey the word of God and the gospel. Then, go forth and share with everyone, especially your earthly family, and hope that the two will be one, both now and forever.
Copyright © 2017 Lake Hamilton Baptist Church, All rights reserved.
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org