Blessed Mother, Blessed Rather

Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” (Luke 8:19-21)

Even some evangelicals think that Christians have neglected the natural mother of Jesus, and suggest that we should reinstate her to a position of significance. Jesus, however, would have us reinstate Luke 8:21 instead.

His mother and brothers came to see him. How thoughtful. Wait, why were they not following him in the first place? Why were they not even part of the crowd, and just now came for a visit? Mark offers additional details: “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'” (Mark 3:20-21). His family, including his mother (Mark 3:31), thought that Jesus was insane. It would be a mistake to suppose that Mary was some ultra-spiritual super-saint. Later, she learned to worship Jesus, and like any Christian, to trust him to save her wretched soul from hellfire (Acts 1:14). But at this point, she was not even a believer.

Then, a woman called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you” (Luke 11:27). That is, she said, “Blessed is Mary.” But Jesus replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (v. 28). He did not even say, “Blessed also,” but he said, “Blessed rather.” It was indeed a privilege and a blessing to be the vessel for the Messiah’s human body (Luke 1:30, 48), but her role was limited to the natural realm. She contributed nothing spiritual, and she evidently made no spiritual progress in thirty years (Luke 3:23).

There is an alarming defect in a person or theology that exalts someone because of his or her natural relation to Christ. His own mother thought he was crazy, and “even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). They had no spiritual privilege. Some envy the closeness that must have existed between Jesus and his mother and siblings. But there was no such closeness. They were outside the crowd. Instead, let us strive to be the “blessed rather” group, to be people who hear God’s word and obey it.