✠ In the name of Jesus ✠
Our God is a God who has a family. And I don’t simply mean in the spiritual sense, where we are all brothers and sisters in Christ–though that is obviously true and very important. But here I mean that Jesus, God the Son, had an earthly family. Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters living with Him in His house as He grew up (Mark 6:3). There is a tradition that the virgin Mary was the mother only of Jesus, and that the other children were from a previous marriage of Joseph, whose first wife had died. But whether Jesus was the youngest and had several older step-siblings, or whether Jesus was the oldest child, and Mary had more children afterwards–half-siblings of our Lord–the fact remains that Jesus grew up in a rather large household. Behold the God with family.
And our God is also a God who worked an everyday job before He began to fulfill His mission as the Messiah. Like His earthly father, Joseph, Jesus was a carpenter. He worked with hammer and wood and nails to make farm implements or tables or furniture for the people in the nearby capital city of Galilee called Sepphoris, six miles away from Nazareth. Jesus didn’t just wander around piously for the first 30 years of His life. He lived a rather normal, common life. He worked. Behold the God with a job.
This is one of the reasons why, when Jesus came back to Nazareth preaching the kingdom of God, that the people of His hometown were offended and put off. “Isn’t this the carpenter?” they asked. They had watched him grow up with His siblings and learn the carpentry trade. They couldn’t see Him as anything more than an ordinary man. They were scandalized that he would now come home as their teacher, the one sent to carry out God's saving plan.
We sometimes fail to fully grasp that fact, that Jesus was (and is) fully human. It’s offensive to our reasoning to think that God the Son became a toddler, learning to walk, or a teenager, growing up into a man. That seems beneath the divine majesty. But Jesus’ true humanity is precisely what saves you. And it’s a great comfort, too. He knows what it’s like to live in an imperfect family, with all the dynamics of a full house and multiple brothers and sisters. He knows what it’s like to work with His hands and to deal with people in the marketplace. He knows what it’s like to be weary and tired, and to be joyful and content in the work of His hands. He knows what it’s like to experience the kind of things that you go through. Jesus hallowed your entire life, from conception to the grave, by going through it all Himself for you.
Jesus experienced the brokenness of this world. We know that Joseph died at some point after Jesus was 12 years old and before Jesus began His ministry. So perhaps even during Jesus’ teen years, it was a single parent household. And Jesus experienced rejection in His life, not only from outsiders but even from His own family members. Prior to His death and resurrection, Jesus’ brothers and sisters thought He was a bit crazy. John 7(:5) says that they didn’t believe in Him. And even after His resurrection and ascension, His siblings didn’t always get it.
James, the half-brother of our Lord Jesus, did become a believer after Easter; and He even became a leader in the early church–no doubt, in part, because of his family connections. How many can say that they’re Jesus’ brother, after all? He must have some special insight, right? But James had a hard time shaking off the Jewish requirements of the Law, requirements that Jesus had fulfilled and set aside. James had a tendency to add these ceremonial, legal requirements back onto the free gift of God’s grace in Christ. The epistle to the Galatians speaks of how a delegation was sent by James from Jerusalem, telling these new Gentile believers that to be true Christians, they had to submit to circumcision and the OT food laws. The apostle Paul had to forcefully denounce this and rebuke those who listened to James. Paul reminded the Galatians, “ a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ; . . . for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified.”
This situation with James helps to explain why Jesus says what He says on the cross to His mother Mary and to John. Ordinarily, it would be the next oldest son who would take care of His mother after death. But in view of the family situation and James’ issues of faith, Jesus on the cross entrusts Mary not to James or any of the other brothers, but to John, a preacher of the unadulterated truth. It’s important who has the care of Mary. For Mary is a picture of the church. From her came the Christ; and the church is the body of Christ. It is in the womb of the church that we are reborn at the font and made to be members of Christ’s body. By virtue of our baptism, Mary is our spiritual mother, the icon of the church. It is important who has charge of the church. So it is that Jesus says to Mary, “Woman, behold your son,” and to John, “Behold your mother.”
Water is thicker than blood. By water and the Word in Baptism we are made to be Jesus’ mother and sisters and brothers. In Mark 3 it is written that Jesus’ mother and brothers were looking for Him. And Jesus looked at those who were listening to His teaching and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother.” Biological connections gain you no advantage with Jesus. The truth of the Gospel is what counts in this family.
John preached that truth. He said such things as this, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” “This is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son as the atoning sacrifice for our sin.” John drew special attention in His Gospel to the blood and water that flowed from Jesus side, reminding us of the sacraments which cleanse us and give us new life with God.
John, you will recall, is the one who outran Peter to the tomb and believed in the resurrection. John is the one who first recognized Jesus on the shore after Easter. John is the one who didn’t refer to himself by name but as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The love of Jesus was the key thing.
Jesus is the only one who reveals the Father and His love to us. And now, with these words from the cross, “Behold your son,” Jesus is saying that it is only through the preaching of John and those like him that you can come to know Christ. This is the Trinitarian nature of the faith–the Father sends the Son, and the Son sends the Spirit to preach the truth of the Gospel that we may be drawn to Jesus and through Him back to the Father.
Therefore, these words of Jesus apply also to you, the church, “Woman behold your son, the preacher of the Gospel.” Listen to those who are the successors of John and who proclaim the Word that he proclaimed. Don’t listen to other voices that preach other gospels, even if they’re family. Don’t listen to anyone who mixes in human works with the all-sufficient work of Jesus. Receive the care of your pastor who speaks the saving truth of Christ and His words. For it is through that Gospel alone that you come to know Jesus. And He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Him.
And Jesus’ words also apply to pastors, “Behold, your mother!” The pastor is given charge of the church, but He is not in charge of the church as her owner. Rather, He honors her as he would a parent. For she is the one through whom he himself was given life. The pastor is to treat the church with the same respect he gives his own Mom. He is there to serve her and care for her spiritual welfare. “Behold, your mother.” Both mother and son are given as gifts to each other from Jesus, who alone is Lord over all.
Finally, in one sense we could say that the people of Jesus’ hometown had it right; He was still a carpenter. For He yet had one more thing to build. But this time in addition to hammer, nails, and wood, He would use His own body. Through the redeeming work of the cross, Jesus laid the foundation of the Church. Baptized into Christ the cornerstone, Scripture says that "you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit" (Eph. 2:22). This temple will never crumble, because it is founded on the solid rock of Christ and His work for you, His family.
✠ In the name of Jesus ✠