Bible croppedThe three-year Lectionary that many Catholics and Protestants hear in public worship gives us a great variety of Holy Scripture.

Yet, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

My series Forbidden Bible Verses — ones the Lectionary editors and their clergy omit — examines the passages we do not hear in church. These missing verses are also Essential Bible Verses, ones we should study with care and attention. Often, we find that they carry difficult messages and warnings.

Today’s reading is from the English Standard Version with commentary by Matthew Henry and John MacArthur.

Matthew 12:46-50

Jesus’ Mother and Brothers

46 While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.[a] 48 But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” 49 And stretching out his hand toward 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.”


Parallel passages for this episode in our Lord’s ministry can be found in Mark 3:31-35 and Luke 8:19-21.

The verses in Mark 3 have been included in the three-year Lectionary.

I wrote about Luke’s verses in 2013, and you can find an extensive explanation of the situation at the link above.

Mark 3 tells us that Mary and her other sons were worried about Jesus’s health as He was surrounded by so many people every day (Mark 3:20-21). Emphases mine below:

20Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

They intended to take Him back to Nazareth.

Yet, Luke 4:16-30 tells what happened earlier when Jesus preached in His hometown synagogue. The townspeople were resentful that Joseph the carpenter’s son claimed that He is the fulfilment of Scripture. You can read more at the beginning of this post.

His fellow Nazarenes were so angry that they tried to do away with Him:

29And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30But passing through their midst, he went away. 

That is how Jesus came to be based in Capernaum:

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath, 32and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.

Matthew’s context concerns the verbal attacks by the Jewish hierarchy, about which I wrote in 2015:

Matthew 12:1-8 – Jesus, Pharisees, working on the Sabbath, grain;

Matthew 12:9-14 – Jesus, miracles, healing miracles, withered hand;

Matthew 12:15-21 – Jesus, Isaiah, prophecy of the Messiah, Gentiles;

Matthew 12:22-32 – Jesus, Pharisees, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit unforgivable;

Matthew 12:33-37 – Jesus, Pharisees, a tree is known by its fruit;

Matthew 12:38-42 – Jesus, Pharisees, scribes, sign, sign of Jonah;

Matthew 12:43-45 – Jesus, parable, unclean spirit, demons, Pharisees.

When this takes place, Jesus is in a house, by the way. We find this out in Matthew 13:1:

That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.

Matthew Henry’s commentary has a number of excellent observations about Mary’s and her sons’ request to speak to Jesus.

First, why were they not indoors listening to Jesus’s teaching?

they should have been standing within, desiring to hear him. They had the advantage of his daily converse in private, and therefore were less mindful to attend upon his public preaching. Note, Frequently those who are nearest to the means of knowledge and grace, are most negligent. Familiarity and easiness of access breed some degree of contempt. We are apt to neglect that this day, which we think we may have any day, for getting that it is only the present time we can be sure of tomorrow is none of ours. There is too much truth in that common proverb, “The nearer the church, the further from God ” it is pity it should be so.

Secondly, why were they interrupting Him when He was teaching and preaching?

They not only would not hear him themselves, but they interrupted others that heard him gladly The mother of our Lord desired to speak with him[;] it seemed she had not then learned to command her Son, as the iniquity and idolatry of the church of Rome has since pretended to teach her: nor was she so free from fault and folly as they would make her.

Thirdly, wouldn’t Mary have been reminded of Jesus’s teaching in the temple as a boy?

if she had remembered it now, she would not have given him this interruption when he was about his Father’s business. Note, There is many a good truth that we thought was well laid up when we heard it, which yet is out of the way when we have occasion to use it.

This episode shows Mary in her humanity: loving but flawed. Each of the three Gospel passages recounts the story in nearly identical wording.

John MacArthur tells us that, even though a man was telling Jesus His mum wanted Him, Jesus knew how to respond:

He is trying to say, at this point, that earthly, physical relationships are not an issue with Him. “Who is my mother? Who are My brothers?” In other words, “Who is really related to Me? Who is really in My family? Who really has any intimacy with Me? Who can really put demands on Me regarding responsibility and fellowship?” In verse 49, He answers His own question. “And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are My mother and My brothers!'” He’s saying, “Do you want to know who is related to Me? Here they are. They are related to Me; they are My spiritual family.” That’s the only real family that matters.

He loved Mary and His brothers but He was, as in the temple in his youth, about His Father’s work.

As such, He considered His disciples to be His family, too (verse 49).

The answer He gave (verse 50) about those obeying God being His family members extended to His immediate family as well:

Mary had to be redeemed just like everyone else; that’s why then the angel gave her the message, she thanked God her Savior. Remember that statement? Sure, she had to be redeemed, and so did His brothers. I think there may have been, latent in that, an invitation to them. Certainly, they would have been encompassed in the wide invitation to all who were there. He was saying, “Relationship, to Me, is a spiritual issue. These who believe in Me are related to Me.”

For us, a reflection for the week ahead would be to consider Jesus’s love for us in this regard. Henry puts it this way:

All obedient believers are near akin to Jesus Christ. They wear his name, bear his image, have his nature, are of his family. He loves them, converses freely with them as his relations. He bids them welcome to his table, takes care of them, provides for them, sees that they want nothing that is fit for them: when he died he left them rich legacies, now he is in heaven he keeps up a correspondence with them, and will have them all with him at last

MacArthur says:

It is the will of the Father that you hear the Son. It is the will of the Father that you believe in the Son. It is the will of the Father that you be saved, and it is not the will of the Father that you perish. Doing the will of the Father in Heaven, then, is simply coming to salvation in Christ.

May we always be so blessed.

Next time: Matthew 13:10-17