Matthew 12:46-50 – Those Friends That Are Like Family (Those Thick & Thin Friends)

Posted: December 20, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 12:46-50
Jesus Describes His True Family

Remember those days back when you were a kid or a teenager or in college when there was that one friend or a group of friends with whom you were tighter with and closer to than with your own family. These are the friends that you had adventures with. These are the friends that you got in trouble with. These are the friends that would come get you when you were stranded somewhere no matter what they were doing. They would stand up for you in a fight. They were the ones that you could bare your soul to and not fear of being judged. These were the friends that knew everything about you and were still your friend anyway. These were the friends we could go to when our family was getting on our nerves. These were the friendships that we remember still to this day regardless of whether these people are still in our lives or not. These are the friendships that last but for a moment in time. People move. Lives move to next phases. These are, though, the friendships that formed us. These are the friendships that helped us grow up and stand apart from our families. These friendships of which I speak were bonds just as solid and just as necessary to us as our blood families. There was a song by Natalie Merchant in the 90s called “These Are the Days We’ll Remember” that speaks those moments in time that form us and that we must remember them. Many of us have those friendships, those moments, in time that we had friends that meant as much to us and maybe more than our own families. Ah, those memories of those moments in time and those friendships.

Why do I mention this? It leads us to our passage today in Matthew 12:46-50. Here, Jesus talks about our spiritual friends, our fellow Christ followers, being family to us just as much as our own families are our own blood when he says,


46 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. 47 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”

48 He replied to him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 Pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

What is Jesus saying here? Is he rejecting his family? Does Jesus really want us to ignore our families when we become Christ followers? What are we to learn from this moment in time that we observe here in this passage? There are several things that we see here. First, that Jesus was part of a real family and he did indeed love them. Second, Jesus wants to make it clear that we should treat our fellow Christ followers with the same love and respect that we treat our own families.

First, this passage points out to us that Jesus did have an earthly family of which He was the oldest child. He did have brothers mentioned here and He had sisters to. In Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55 mention James, Judas, Simon and Joseph as being His earthly brothers. These same verses mention also unnamed sisters. Jesus was the oldest child of siblings. He had a family. Some argue that Jesus is rejecting His family here but that would be inconsistent with his teachings and inconsistent with John 19:27 when hanging on the cross, even as He was dying, he performed his eldest son duty of ensuring that His earthly mother was taken care of after He was gone. Jesus loved His family I am certain of this. Jesus probably took great pains as the oldest child to make sure his little brothers and sisters learned things that they needed to know about life. As oldest child, he probably was responsible for keeping the other kids in line when Joseph and Mary were not around. Could you imagine Jesus hanging out with his brothers, playing games with them, talking about life with them, laughing with them, getting angry with them, working in the family business with them, picking on his sisters, standing up for the honor of his sisters, pulling his brothers out of fights and daring others to mess with them. Jesus had a family. He loved his family. It is widely assumed that since Joseph is not mentioned anywhere after the Jesus at the Temple at age 12 narrative, that Joseph passed on to be with the Lord between that point and when Jesus’ public ministry began. So, Jesus, too, knew, by logical extension, Jesus knew the pain of losing a family member to death. Jesus surely felt the pain of that loss even as we see Him now. Jesus loved his mother so and it would have been more acutely so if we believe that Joseph, his father, was dead at this point. Like I said, as He was dying on the cross, He made sure that John, His disciple not brother, would make sure that His mother was taken care of. Jesus knows what it is like to have family, to have family responsibilities, and to love family and to lose family. Jesus experienced everything on earth that we experience. He experienced the intimacy of family. He experienced that down in your soul pull of family. He experienced it all when it relates to family. He knows what you know about your family. Jesus has been there. It is comforting to me to know this. Jesus experienced it all, everything we go through, including family. He knows that family love. He knows that feeling you have about your family. He knows the frustration with family. He knows that pride of family. He knows that I can argue with my brother but you better not disrespect him feeling. Jesus is not speaking academically when He speaks of things in the Bible. He knows the experiences of humankind from personal experience. That includes family. So, why does Jesus seemingly blow off his family here? Well, the answer is He is not.

Everyone present where Jesus was speaking at this moment has a family. Each one of them. Jesus is trying to make a point here about the future of his church, the collection of believers, that would be built after He was gone from this earthly life. Yes, Jesus dearly loved His family. Each person listening to Him on this day most likely loved their own families. That is the point of what Jesus is saying here. It is not that He is disrespecting His family. He is doing quite the opposite. He is telling us that we as a collection of believers in Jesus Christ should love our fellow Christ followers with the same level of love at the same level of intensity as we love our own families. We should have that same level of intimacy with our fellow Christ followers as we do with our own families. These are the friends that we will come to the aid of whenever they need it. These are the friends that we will stand up for when there is a fight that needs fighting. These are the friends that we share our deepest thoughts with. These are the friends that we are real with. These are the friends that we laugh with. These are the friends that we cry with. These are the friends that we play with. These are the friends that we argue with and later make up with. Jesus makes it clear that we are to be as close with, and treat our fellow believers with the same level of intensity as we do with our families. Remember those friends that we have in those moments in time that are the best friendships that we will ever have in our lifetime. Remember those friendships back then that were as important to us and sometimes more important to us than our families. Remember, those days that were the days that we will remember, as Natalie Merchant wrote. Jesus want the body of Christ to be family to us. There is an old saying that says, “when ya ain’t got nothing else, ya got family.” That is when Jesus wants from us in the body of Christ. Sometimes, in churches, we treat our fellow believers with more disdain than we treat our enemies. Jesus says here that we should be treating fellow believers like family. You may argue with them, disagree with them, but at the end of the day, we are still family. We seek ways to work things out just as we do with family. Remember, those friends that were your best friends. These were the ones that the friendship was as important to us as was our family. We always worked things out in those friendships. Some I’m sorries were said. Some will you forgive me’s were said. We worked through problems with those friends just as if they were family. That’s how Jesus wants the family of Christ to be. He wants us to see that the bond we have in Christ is worth everything just as the bond of family or of deep, abiding friendships. These are the people that we can lock arms with and go to battle with. These are the ones we would stand up for even when it will cost us something. These are the friends that are like a band of brothers or a band of sisters. We are the body of Christ. We are the family of Christ. We should treat each other with that same unbreakable bond as family.

May we examine our treatment of our fellow Christ followers and begin to think of them as family, as people we work through problems with, as people we will get down in the dirt with, as people we will be intimate with, as people we will stand up for, as the family of Christ. Amen and Amen.


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