Friday, October 28, 2011

Jesus' Family

In our progression through the Gospels, we saw how Jesus was accused of working for Satan when He cast out demons, how the one unforgivable sin is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, and how the story of Jonah was twisted into a metaphor for a sign which would be given to this generation. Mathew 12:43-45 then talks of how this generation will be like an exorcised man who subsequently gets re-possessed by that same demon and seven more wicked ones. Luke 11:24-25 also references the re-possessed man, but without the condemnation of this generation, and before Jesus had told the Pharisees about the sign of Jonah. Also interesting are the two verses which follow that, Luke 11:26-27, because they probably make Catholics shudder in denial as Jesus turns the focus away from His mother, but that pales in comparison with what Matthew and Mark cover next, and what Luke covered long before that...

Jesus' Family
In the popular version of the Ten Commandments, the fifth commandment in Exodus 20:12 states:
"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." NIV
This “honor” appears to be in the sense of respecting and obeying your dad and mom, as opposed to the sense of bestowing them with accolades. As you can see, there are no qualifiers. It does not say “if your parents are good, then honor them.” Nor does it say “honor your parents until you have your own family.” This is a lifelong duty you owe your parents. Considering that it appears as though the Law was only fully in effect when children reached the full age of culpability, 20 years old, this commandment was intended even more for adults than for children. With Jesus being God, and carrying out God's will so perfectly, we might expect Jesus to have set a shining enacting example of this fifth commandment. If so, our expectations will be seriously unfulfilled.

Matthew 12:46-50, Mark 3:31-35, and Luke 8:19-21 all record an event where Jesus' mother and brothers arrived to confront Jesus, but they could not get to Him because of the crowd. So they sent someone to let Jesus know that His mother and brothers were outside and wanted to talk to Him. Jesus' reply is recorded essentially the same in Mark 3:33-35, Luke 8:21, and Matthew 12:48-50:
[Jesus] replied to him, "Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?" Pointing to His disciples, He said, "Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in Heaven is My brother and sister and mother." NIV
To the believer, this is just a proclamation that fellow followers of Christ are to be like family to one another, and that may be true, but that is not the complete picture.

Jesus says that whoever does the will of God is His family, and so at the same time it appears as though He is disowning His own biological family, presumably because they are not obeying God's will. Thus it appears as though Jesus is dishonoring his biological mother's request to speak with Him, and thus breaking God's commandment to honor your parents.

That is a bold claim, I know. Right now I am sure any believers reading this reject the notion completely. However, the truth is revealed when you look at the motivation of Jesus' family's visitation. This motivation is only captured in the earliest-written Gospel, in the usually ignored verses of Mark 3:20-21:
Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples were not even able to eat. When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, "He is out of His mind." NIV
If you do believe your Son is the Messiah, on a mission from God, you probably are not going to think that He is crazy, and you certainly would not try to “take charge of Him.” Clearly, despite angels from God proclaiming to both Joseph and Mary that their Son would be the Messiah (according Matthew and Luke only), Jesus' real family had issues accepting Him as the Messiah. So from that perspective, it makes sense that Jesus was dishonoring and disowning His family for not heeding God's words, even if it does not make sense for Him to break a commandment and somehow remain sinless.

Consider how well this meshes with Jesus' earlier statement about how He had come to set family members against each other. Consider also how well this aligns with later statements where Jesus encourages leaving parents and children to follow Him (Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29-31, Luke 18:29-30).

But that is not the whole story, because there are examples, primarily in the Gospel of John, where Jesus does seem to promote honoring your biological mother. Jesus (begrudgingly) made miraculous wine at His mother's request, hung out with His family (John 2:12), and entrusted the care of His mother to John before His crucifixion (John 19:25-27).

It just does not add up. It is as if Jesus has multiple personalities, or as if there is some fabrication involved in these stories.

The Order of Events
As covered in a previous post, one of the easiest ways to prove the fallibility of the Gospels is just to look at the order of events. The Gospel writers, despite the supposed ability to consult with hundreds of eyewitnesses to get the story correct, could not agree on when things happened. Of the three synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, usually scholars will claim that Luke spent the most concerted effort to write everything down in the right order, while Matthew and Mark only concentrated on remembering the most important details and cared less about chronology. The problem is that you cannot give Luke the crown for an accurate timeline without completely ignoring some of the text in the other Gospels.

For example, this episode begins with Matthew 12:46 stating:
While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, His mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to Him. NIV
“While Jesus was still talking to the crowd” is a phase of sequential conjunction. It unequivocally ties this event into Jesus' last message according to Matthew, which was in Mathew 12:43-45 when Jesus spoke of how this generation will be like an exorcised man who subsequently gets re-possessed by that same demon and seven more wicked ones. Preceding that, according to Matthew, Jesus spoke about the sign of Jonah, which was preceded by Jesus being accused of using Satan's powers.

Luke give us an entirely different, incompatible timeline across multiple chapters. Even the setup is different. According to Luke, Jesus gave the parable of the Sower. (Luke 8:4-15, which Matthew places right after this on the same day in Matthew 13:1-23) Then Jesus gave the parable of the lamp on a stand. (Luke 8:16-18, covered by Matthew in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:14-16) Then Luke 8:19-21 parallels the account from Matthew regarding who Jesus' mother and brothers are.

From there, Luke covers lots of ground, including these highlights:

Then, finally, Luke gets to where Jesus is accused of using Satanic powers to cast out demons (Luke 11:14-20). That is followed by the Pharisees asking Jesus for a sign, to which He replies that they will get the sign of Jonah (Luke 11:29-32). According to Luke, this was followed by the parable of the lamp of the body (Luke 11:33-36) and Jesus playing the ultimate rude house guest by condemning the Pharisee who had invited Him to dinner because of his good sanitation practices (Luke 11:37-53).

So the next time someone comes to you and claims that the Bible is infallible and inerrant, ask them to produce a timeline of Jesus' life which is in perfect harmony with the four Gospels before you will believe them. Then, do not be surprised if you never hear from them again. ;-)


  1. Sounds like the Gospel authors weren't comparing their notes! :)

  2. @Ahab
    No kidding! It's amazing to think that these are the four Gospels that "made the cut," and there are still such glaring inconsistencies. :-)