When John, son of Zebedee, sat down to pen his recollections of traveling with Jesus of Nazareth, he had two goals in mind:
- He wanted the reader to know that Jesus was the only begotten son of God.
- He also wanted the reader to understand that Jesus was a flesh and blood human being.
So the same Jesus who raised Lazarus from the dead often finds himself trapped in squabbles with disciples and Pharisees who totally misunderstand his motives.
Nowhere is this clearer than in John the 7th Chapter, when Jesus is once again thrust in the middle of a squall with his Nazareth family. Since he spent his first thirty years in the household of Joseph the Carpenter, one might think that many of these misunderstandings would have been worked out, and that smoother paths would have been pursued.
But as soon as Jesus decided not to be “normal,” his family dubbed him “weird.”
- They sought him out to bring him home because they thought he was crazy.
- They stood idly by when the townspeople of Nazareth pushed him to the edge of the cliff, threatening to cast him to his death.
- And in John the 7th Chapter, they taunt him about his newfound fame, asserting that if he really wanted to “promote his gig,” he should do it at the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem, where there would be large crowds.
It is a nasty and bitter piece of resentment and jealousy. Some theologians even think that his family members may bave been paid to intimidate him into going to Jerusalem so that assassins lying in wait could kill him on the journey.
We know that Jesus is still trying to work out his own feelings about this nuclear family, because he speaks back to them just as bratty as they spoke to him.
Paraphrasing, “Since you are common laborers with nothing special about you, you can go to the feasst anytime you want and no one will care one way or another. I, on the other hand, wait on instructions from my Father.”
It is one of those examples where Jesus breaks pattern with the conservative Christians of our generation today. On any given Sunday, almost every minister will tout from the pulpit the importance of our personal families–the beauty of fellowship involved in those relationships. But even with a cursory look, we quickly discover that Jesus loved his family, but not more than he loved his fellow humans.
Cases in point:
When they told him that his family had come to see him, he pointed to the crowd and said, “These are my family–those who do the will of my Father.”
When Mary asked him to do something to provide wine for the Cana wedding feast, he called her “woman” and said that he was not at her bidding, but waiting for the right time.
Of course, in the Sermon on the Mount, he says, “If you only love those who love you, you’re no better than the heathen.”
And he goes on to say that if you don’t “hate your mother and father, you are not worthy of the kingdom”–not because he was trying to pull families apart, but rather, trying to break curses, genetic trends and predilections which cause children to become just like their parents, choiceless.
And on this occasion in John 7, he makes it clear that he will not be intimidated by his brothers and sisters just so they can force him to become “one of the clan.”
Later, he does attend the Feast of Tabernacles–but on the bidding of the Spirit, not the coercion of family.
What can we learn from Jesus about family?
You can love them, trust them and listen to them as long as they do not steal your identity and your calling. Then, if they choose to do that, for a while you can just love them–until the day that they finally understand.
Even though Jesus died, rose from the grave and went to heaven without the support of his Nazareth home, we know that at least three of them–James, Jude, and of course, Mother Mary–ended up becoming ardent followers of his message.