Thursday, October 29, 2015

Mary and Her Family Rift

Jesus had brothers--James, Joseph, Simon & Judas.  Brothers who didn't believe he was the son of God.  (John 7:5)  Mary knew what it was like to have division in her family. 

First of all, Mary was convinced Jesus was the son of God.  She'd given birth to him in an extraordinary way--and then there was just one confirmation after another!  In fact, God used her to initiate Jesus' public ministry.  Had he done private miracles in their home?  We don't know.  Maybe the Spirit of God just revealed to her it was time for Jesus to start his ministry.  And maybe she'd been in embarrassing situations herself and wanted to prevent that kind of humiliation for her friends.  But when the wedding party was about to run out of wine, she came to Jesus with the problem.  She knew who he was and what he was capable of doing.

Enter Jesus' four brothers.  They were there when the water was turned into wine.  And maybe they'd seen private miracles in their home.  We don't know if Joseph & Mary had revealed to their other children who Jesus really was and explained his holy birth.  I just wonder about their home life.  Jesus was perfect.  None of them were.  Did it seem Jesus was never disciplined?  That things were unfair?  That Jesus was favored or more loved?  Did they grow up resenting their perfect brother?  Yes, those brothers were with him in the beginning of his ministry but either there was already growing animosity...or something shifted.  Was it when they heard about Jesus wrecking the temple and driving out the money changers?  Was it because none of them were chosen as a disciple?  Was Mary's heart hurt a little over that issue? Was it when they saw the Pharisees--respected religious men of their day--come against Jesus?  Was it because everything was just so public?  Maybe the brothers were being ridiculed because of Jesus.  Or maybe things just weren't happening as they'd expected.  

Mary was human--she was just chosen by God for a big job.  And she was a mother.  I believe she loved her children equally--each for who they were.  But she was also a mother who just wanted all of her kids to get along.  Did she lose her way in trying to be a peacemaker?  The reason I ask is because of the account of Mary and Jesus' brothers coming to him as he was teaching a large crowd.  They couldn't reach him because of the crowd.  The people closest to him told him his mother and brothers were outside.  And Jesus' response was, "Do you want to know who my mother and brothers are?  My mother and brothers are these who listen to the word of God and do it!"  I believe it was a stern rebuke.  In my heart, I believe Mary knew a division was growing between her sons and wanted to help them work it out.  Maybe she was even going to suggest that Jesus back off a little from such a public ministry and quit antagonizing the Pharisees.  But Jesus drew the line:  To follow me, you must listen to the word of God and obey.  Were they offended?  I can almost guarantee the brothers were.  Their anger grows.  But I believe this was like cold water in Mary's face to wake her up to the truth that these were the two most important questions everyone had to answer for themselves.  Will you hear the truth of God's word?  And will you obey?  And even though she'd had a miraculous conception and had given birth to the son of God, she had to answer those questions for herself.

Later, in John 7, we're told Jesus' brothers had become quite contemptuous towards him.  The dividing line had become a great gulf!  They sarcastically suggested he go up to Judea and do things even more publicly--"Get famous, Jesus!"--go show off.  I love how Jesus responded, "My time has not yet arrived; but for you, My brothers, by all means, it is always the right time.  You have nothing to worry about because the world doesn't hate you, but it despises Me because I am always exposing the dark evil in its works.  Go on to the feast without Me; I am not going right now because My time is not yet at hand."  He couldn't be goaded into doing anything apart from his Father's will.

There was a huge division in Mary's family.  And she couldn't fix it.  In fact, it grew and grew.  But that's not the end of the story.  We find Mary at the cross.  She chose to hear the word of God and obey.  And the brothers?  Well...some of them gathered with the disciples in the upper room to pray after Jesus' ascension into heaven.  Not all of them.  But those who did had one mind and purpose with everyone else there.  (Acts 1:13-14)

No, Mary couldn't fix the rift in her family.  But when she was at the cross, Jesus, in his dying breath, made provision not just for his mother, but for his brothers, as well.  He assigned his best friend, John, the task of caring for Mary the rest of her life.  He opened a way for the possibility of healing to move in.  He was offering his mother "family" because she'd chosen to follow him.  And with that very same act, Jesus graciously released his brothers so they could make the choice to follow him...or not.  And some did.

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