“While [Jesus] was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.’ But He answered and said to the one who told Him, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and 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’” (Matthew 12:46-50 NKJV).
“One of the women in the crowd raised her voice and said to [Jesus], ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You and the breasts at which You nursed.’ But He said, ‘On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it’ (Luke 11:27,28 NASB).
Those still debating about the organization of “church” have not yet seen the Ekklesia as a family. And so their emphasis is on the proper government of “church”: is it a single pastor, or a plurality of elders? What are the relationships between pastors, deacons, elders, and presbyters? What about the relationships between apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers? Or are they for today? What about the women – can they hold a position or not? Where are the lines of authority? Who are we supposed to submit to? Who is our covering? Do we need a covering? And so on.
Many disputes arise as to how “church” should be organized and who should submit to whom. Millions of people have been killed over these disputes, and millions more have been abused – spiritually and emotionally, if not physically. These disputes have been with us for two millennia and have never been resolved to everyone’s satisfaction.
The only way to resolve a dispute along the lines of organization is to let go of the earthly altogether and embrace the spiritual reality. But for many (particularly those in leadership) this is simply too much to give up. Some will say, “But there is organization in the Bible.” And I would respond that there is a Spirit-and-Truth order in the Bible, but not organization along the lines of a corporate hierarchy, bureaucracy, or benevolent dictatorship. Those are all carnal expressions of carnal men. They are not for the Ekklesia.
If we really saw the Ekklesia we would no longer debate these issues at all. In fact, if we could really see the Ekklesia for what it is – a family – then we will immediately know Who the Head of the family is, who the elders are, what they are supposed to do, who has authority, and who does not. We would no longer be concerned with a corporate structure, but we would simply relate to one another as members of the same family.
The Ekklesia that Jesus is building is a spiritual house of living stones. This Ekklesia is a family, and “of [Jesus] the whole family in heaven and earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15). Which family? The family of believers. Some of the family is in heaven, while some of the family is on earth. In this family, God is Father, and Jesus is the Firstborn among many brothers and sisters (cf. Romans 8:29). When we become a disciple of Jesus we become members of a family, not members of an organization. This is one of the key differences between a living Ekklesia and a dead “church”.
That is what Jesus conveys to the people in the two instances illustrated from the Gospels. In the first case His mother and brothers were prevented from approaching Him because of the crowd. The Scriptures say that Jesus was still speaking to the multitudes when someone interrupted His teaching to tell Him that His mother and brothers had arrived and wanted to speak to Him. An ordinary person may have become angry over the interruption, or would have excused themselves from the crowd to go to say hello to his relatives. But Jesus is no ordinary person; He is the Son of the Most High God.
What He demonstrates to them (in word and in deed) is that everyone who does the will of God is His brother, sister, and mother; that is to say, all the members of His family are on equal ground before Him. In this family He plays no favorites, He gives no preferential treatment. He does not have special brothers and special sisters; all are equally precious, all are equally valuable in His sight. Others may argue over who will be the greatest and seek the recognition and praise from man with their title, degree, position, or gifting, but Jesus said, “It must not be so among you” (Matthew 20:26ff). If He makes no distinction among brothers and sisters then we dare not do so.
In the second case, as in the first, Jesus is teaching when someone interrupts Him. A woman calls out from the crowd and blesses Mary, the mother of Jesus. Again, an ordinary person may have been disturbed over this interruption, or might have started talking about how much they loved their mother. But once again, we see the uniqueness of the Lord Jesus, and we touch upon the depth of His wisdom and character.
Certainly Jesus loved His earthly mother. At the same time, with His keen discernment, Jesus perceived that this outburst of emotion was mere sentimentality. Though it was intended as a compliment, it came from the flesh, added nothing to His teaching, and only served to distract the people from Himself. With the benefit of 2,000 years of church history behind us, we can see how this kind of fleshly adulation over the mother of Jesus is, in and of itself, a tremendous distraction from Jesus Himself.
And so, for the benefit of the crowd (as well as for our benefit), Jesus speaks a gentle word of correction, one that honors His mother without idolizing her: “Yea rather…” the King James Version says; that is to say, “True enough, but get your eyes off of the earthly and onto the heavenly. There is a greater blessing to be had, and this blessing is not restricted to one woman, but this blessing is open and available to all who will have it.”
How is this blessing obtained? According to Jesus, those who hear the Word of God and obey it are blessed. And this is not surprising, since everything Jesus ever taught makes a plain distinction between people who merely listen to His teaching and those who actually put His teachings into practice. Blessed are they who hear it and keep it; while those who hear it, and do not practice it, are building on a sandy foundation that will collapse the moment they are challenged.
The principle thing in both cases is: what constitutes someone as a true brother or sister? And in both cases the answer is the same: doing the will of the Father; hearing the Word of God and keeping it. Doing the will of the Father is the same thing as hearing and keeping the Word of God. Simple obedience. Doing what the Father wants. Not hearing only, but hearing and doing.
Now the “church” is full of hearers. If we could qualify someone as a brother or sister merely on the basis of hearing then just about everyone would be included. It is common in many circles to address others as “Brother So-and-So” or “Sister So-and-So.” Presumably this means that we are all in the same family and we have the same Father. Yet these same “brothers” and “sisters” will never fellowship with anyone outside their little group. Their criteria is narrow – attend the same group as we do, or join the same denomination, and we will be brothers and sisters. This is a good example of hearing what Jesus says, even preaching what Jesus says, and then failing to put into practice the very truth they have just claimed to believe.
Bear in mind that what makes someone a part of this Family is not hearing, or accepting, or believing, or teaching the will of God – it is doing the will of God. Jesus did not call every religious person, “Brother” or “Sister”. This was a term of endearment for His true disciples. True disciples take it to heart and put it into practice. “IF you continue in My Word, then are you My disciples indeed” (John 8:31b). IF, IF, IF. What if you do not continue in His Word? Then you are not My disciples, and you are not My brother, or sister, or mother. To be in My Family you have to do the Will of My Father.
What about the others? Jesus would not acknowledge them as brothers and sisters. Why not? Because they did not have the same father. “You are of YOUR father the devil, and the desires of YOUR father you want to do” (John 8:44a). They heard the Word of God. They listened to the law and the prophets every Sabbath day. But they did not do the will of God. In fact, they did not desire the will of God at all; they lusted after the same things their father lusted after, and that did the devil’s bidding, not the Father’s.
On top of all the other trials and tribulations Paul endured, he mentioned being “in perils among false brethren” (II Corinthians 11:26b), and blamed part of his troubles on “false brethren secretly brought in, who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Galatians 2:4). False brothers! It is a strong word. But this is how false Christs, false apostles, false prophets, and false teachers make their beginning – as false brothers.
So the question that Jesus asked bears repeating today: Who is my brother? Who is my sister? Who is my mother? Certainly not everyone who says, “Lord! Lord!” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. In similar manner, not everyone who says, “Brother! Brother!” is really a brother. Yet learning how to be a good brother or a good sister is the first thing Jesus wants to teach us. When we are born into this Family that is all we are – a brother or a sister. Every apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic, pastoral, or teaching ministry must have, as its foundation, the spiritual depth and maturity of knowing how to “just” be a brother or sister. We skip this necessary preparation at our own peril, and the Family of God suffers as a result.
Jesus says, “I will declare Your Name to My brothers, in the midst of the Ekklesia will I sing praise to You!” (Hebrews 2:12). Nothing brings more pleasure to the Father’s heart, and gives our Lord Jesus more reason to rejoice, than to be with His brothers and sisters in the midst of the Ekklesia that He is building. If He is in the midst of the Ekklesia then that is where I want to be. May the Lord confirm this word to our heart. May His Will be done. Amen.