Most of us would rank friends and boyfriends or girlfriends up there, but probably the top place goes to our family. You are stuck with your family and that has its challenges when creepy Uncle Seymour comes to the family reunion but for the most part the constancy of your family is a good thing.
If family is such an important part of life, what does Jesus say about family? Luke 8:19-21 records Jesus’ surprising view of family. Read Luke 8:19-21! Notice first that Jesus’ family is trying to get on His Google Calendar and it was all full up. Verse 19, “His mother and brothers came to Him, and they were unable to get to Him because of the crowd.” What is Jesus doing here? What is He saying? This may sound weird to us but it was radical for His hearers in that day. In our time and our culture it is perfectly acceptable to branch off from your family and find your own career or ministry. But in that day you did not do that! Your obligation was to your family. To work in the family business! Everything you did was for the good of the family. So, when someone told Jesus, “Your mother and brothers are here.” They fully expected Him to be the good son and go out to them! But Jesus did something radically different! This speaks volumes at various levels and raises some questions:
1) Was Jesus neglecting His earthly family? Remember, “In the social world of Jewish Palestine, Jesus, as the oldest surviving male in His family (we may presume that His father Joseph had died), was responsible to defend the honour of, and provide leadership for, His patrilineal kinship group.” If you were the oldest son, you were responsible for the family. Therefore, was Jesus a neglectful son and leader? This is a crucial question that must be answered if we can fully embrace Jesus as the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and Ultimate Leader of the Universe. I don’t think too many other questions matter because if you don’t take care of your family, you are not qualified to be a leader outside of your family. This is certainly true for elders and shepherds to be qualified in Jesus’ Church (1 Timothy 3:5; 5:8). Even leaders in government and business are often evaluated by how well they manage their families as in the case of Newt Gingrich in the Republican primaries. Therefore, how Jesus related to his family has ramifications for Jesus being a good Son, a good leader and even a Good Shepherd. Are you a good shepherd if you abandon the sheep to find a lost one? (Luke 15:4) The answer is simple: Jesus’ family should have moved with Him. Jesus did not reject His family; they rejected Him. John 7:3 says that His brothers did not believe in Him. Mark 3:21 reveals something worse – Jesus’ family thought He was out of His mind. Can you imagine if you were able to live with Jesus everyday and could learn from Him? His family did and yet they did not recognize who He truly was. Take note: lifestyle evangelism is not an immediate guarantee of others’ conversion. This should be comforting for those who are rejected by their family on account of Jesus and also instructive that we must take leadership in our families by following God even if they don’t go with us. Their following our lead to follow Christ may come later as was the case with Jesus’ brothers James and Jude (Galatians 1:19; James 1:1; Acts 15:13; Jude 1). We still need to take care of them through direct care or delegation of provision but we must follow our Heavenly Father first!
2) Why doesn’t Mary get “back stage passes” and ‘box seats” to see Jesus, especially if she is the “Theotokos – the Mother of God” as some Christian traditions propose? It is a great reminder that even if you were very close to Jesus at one time, you can’t let anything or anyone get in between you and Jesus. Though Mary was a great woman, she was still in need of Jesus to be her Saviour. (Luke 1:47)
We can learn a lot from verse 19 but the greater shock is found in verse 21. When Jesus was told His mother and brothers were outside wanting to see Him, He responded, “My mother and brothers are those who hear the Word of God and do it.” If you said something like that to your mother and brothers would it be well received? Was Jesus straddling the line of breaking the fourth commandment of “Honouring your father and mother”? Think about this! In the Bible and in many traditional cultures today, the individual exists to serve the name of the family. “In Jesus’ world, family unity and solidarity were far, far more important.” This shows that Jesus’ kingdom has a different set of values. Here is the pattern Jesus consistently followed and we need to as well:
(1st) God’s Family (2nd) My Family (3rd) Others
Even in the case where Jesus was a young boy, He prioritized His Heavenly Father and demonstrated that in part by being submissive to earthly parents (Luke 2:49 & 51). In Luke 8:21, Jesus was proclaiming the importance of following the Heavenly Father first. “That’s how important the kingdom is: it’s even more important than the claims of family, which are themselves the most important normal claims a person can have.” This is not an excuse to neglect our family at the expense of ministry, which is often more about our personal ambition and fulfillment than the Heavenly Father’s business. It is just the opposite, putting our Heavenly Father and our Forever Family first can be the best thing we can do for our biological family. They are meant to join the Forever Family as well.
Sadly, too many of us let our earthly fathers and mothers take a greater priority than our Heavenly Father. Ironically, this can be demonstrated by our rebellion towards our parents. “For example, some people may say, ‘I won’t bring my kids to church because my parents did that and I hated it!’ But this means you are being controlled by your parents. You aren’t making the choice based on what your children need but on repudiating your parents.” Jesus was not repudiating His family for rejecting Him; He was calling them to be a part of better family – God’s.
Are you prioritizing your ultimate Family? Don’t fall for the deception that you must put your biological family first. It is dangerous to do so. For example, “Research on child abuse has revealed that many of the people who physically abuse their children don’t do so because they hate their children. Often it is because their children are the ones on whom they rely for most of their love. And if their children don’t love them back by behaving properly, their anger explodes; they snap.” Sometimes we can love our biological family too much or more correctly not enough. A universal spiritual principle is if you love a fellow human being more than God you won’t be able to love them to the utmost. You become smothering or dependent upon them to reciprocate that love, which they never can do to your satisfaction. Love for others always comes from the love of God (1 John 4:7). As someone has said, “Love is giving people what they need.” What people need even more than your affection is God’s love! The love of the Father becomes love for your brother!
This is a core message of Jesus. “He persuaded His followers that they were all ‘brothers of one another.’” This is why to become a Christian was to change groups, plan and simple.” We have a new Family if we are followers of Jesus Christ – God’s Family! GOD’S FAMILY FOLLOWS THEIR FATHER! We hear and do what He says! How? What does it mean that we should love one another and put God’s Family first? Joseph Hellerman describes four New Testament values that will serve as our roadmap.
- We share our stuff with one another.
- We share our hearts with one another.
- We stay, embrace the pain, and grow up with one another.
- Family is about more than me, the wife and the kids.
Which of these do you need to start doing? YOU MUST HEAR THE FATHER’S WORD AND PRACTICE IT!
Why is this so important? Why is Jesus telling us to shift our allegiance to a larger collective, God’s family? It’s when Jesus put God’s family first that He saved His biological family! And what is different? Unlike our family which often exists for itself, God’s family is meant to exist for other, not itself. God’s family is grace-based, not trying pay each other back, nor trying to get caught up in approval. Our Brother Jesus’ work on the Cross means we are fully accepted by the Father! (No more “daddy issues”!) This is why unconditional love is M.O. of God’s family!
Making the Father and His Family first is crucial to be Christ’s followers. Remember what Jesus said in Luke 14:26, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters–yes, even his own life–he cannot be my disciple.” Others left everything to follow Jesus but initially His family did not follow Him. Jesus put God’s Family first and thus saved His family. Will you do the same?
 Joseph A. Hellerman, When the Church was a Family (Nashville: B & H Publishing Group, 2009), 55.
 The shepherd that Jesus describes in Luke 15:4 who leaves the ninety-nine in the open country (presumably in safety or under others’ supervision) to go after the lost sheep has ramifications later for elder brother described in Luke 15:11-32 who would not abandoned his duties at home to rescue his lost younger brother. Good shepherding and good brothering involves caring for the group and individual.
 Tom Wright, Luke for Everyone (London:Westminster John Knox Press, 2004), 97.
 Wright, 98.
 Keller, 128.
 Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage (New York: Dutton, 2011), 130.
 Hellerman, 117.
 Hellerman, 124.
 Hellerman, 145.
God is faithful through the different seasons of life! This past Fall, I had a hard time keeping up with God. He was moving so fast, working so visibly and answering my prayers in “real-time.” It was like the Israelites in the wilderness who had to follow God in the pillar of fire by night and cloud by day. Sometimes God would stay for a long time and other times merely days. When God moved; His people were to move. (Read Numbers 9:15-23 to find out more.) For me, God was on the move and I had to chase Him. Then Christmas came and we were in paradise (Florida with my parents) and despite the beauty, spiritual malaise (aka laziness which only mimics rest) replaced that passion for God. Of course, Satan exploits opportunities when our guard is down but God is our victory and He brings us through those times if we will repent and turn to Him. God is showing His victory and is on the move once again.
I thought I would simply share a song by Hillsongs that God has used powerfully in Lori’ s and my life that communicates our recent journey.
- Have you been baptized?
- Are you filled or controlled by the Spirit? You know those promptings or whispers of God, are you acting on them?
Are you a little scared of the dark? You know when you are home alone and it is dark, do you get a little bit nervous. Do you always turn on the lights in every room you go into? If you love to turn up the lights to get rid of the physical darkness, then are you also turning up the light spiritually and chasing away the spiritual darkness? That is presuming that you see we are living in spiritually dark times. We might be unaware of the darkness if we are either blind or have our eyes closed. Let’s open our eyes to the darkness around us. Did you know that only 8% of the Canadian population are born-again believers? What examples of darkness do you see? This week I received a notice that the “Who Is Jesus” debate was cancelled without legitimate cause by our local university? (For more info on the latest about the debate check out www.graydonbaker.com.) Other examples of darkness are how so many of our movies and TV shows focus on death such as Paranormal 3 (please don’t watch this evil movie), CSI or Criminal Minds.
Jesus is instructing us what to do in these dark times. SHINE THE LIGHT OF CHRIST! We don’t just have a private flashlight for our own path but are supposed to be illuminating others’ pathway so they don’t stumble. Listen to what Jesus says in Luke 8:16-18. Read Luke 8:16-18! This summer we were camping at one of the KOA Campgrounds, which have free family movies at night. I love free so we usually went to the nightly feature. On the way back from the movie, we would need our flashlight to make it back to our tent site. Our youngest sons, Luke and Noah, always wanted to be the light-bearers. I bet you did as a kid too! I would walk behind them and the flashlights would be pointed all over the place. There was light flying everywhere: on other people’s tents, on the trees, at the lake, but hardly ever where it needed to be on the path we were taking. I am wondering if you are like Luke and Noah and shining your light all over the place? Are you blinding or annoying people with an obnoxious presentation of the Gospel light? Or are you attracting people to the light of Christ?
This is the exhortation Jesus gives by pointing out the ridiculous. No one ever takes a lamp and covers it with a container. Well, there is one exception – if you want to snuff out the flame! When we decide that we should just keep the Gospel to ourselves, keeping it from others because of what they would think, we are in fact covering the light Jesus gave us to shine brightly for others. How might we cover the Gospel light in our lives?
This is convicting but Jesus doesn’t stop there. He takes it to the next level. He inquires who has the audacity to hide a light under a bed. Now what do you put under your bed. What is under it right now? It just got quiet! No, I am not going to tell your mother and we’re not going to take a field trip to your bedroom. Instead, let’s think about what would happen if you put a candle under a bed? It catches on fire! The Gospel light is dangerous if not placed in its proper context! How is it dangerous? I can think of a number of ways, especially in view of Jesus’ words. Without pushing the metaphor too far, the bed usually represents either rest or intimacy. How often do we not want to share the Gospel when we are at rest? You may have been fired up about Jesus and His message of salvation but if you allow yourself to take it easy and fill up with the world’s pleasure (Luke 6:14), you start to drift away and the fire and light begins to grow dim and fade. We might be on vacation or just relaxing at home and we don’t want to share the Gospel with others. We think it is our time and so we live in partial darkness and thus allow a little creep of darkness into our lives. We watch things we shouldn’t, go places we don’t normally go and eat what we normally do not eat. It is a time of indulgence. In contrast, the only shade we should be in is found in Psalm 90:1, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” We must continue to let our light shine in our “down times” and let Jesus recharge us with truly restful things.
In regard to intimacy, this could involve our relationships. What if we meet somebody who we are attracted to and in order to make a good impression or at least a veiled impression we don’t show the light of Jesus and our true selves. Furthermore, we might also think the Gospel has nothing to do with our sexuality. We could not be more wrong. Our sexuality often reveals our true desires whether we are being selfish or desiring to serve others. For those of who are single, you are serving others by not having sex with people who are not your spouses. And for those of us married, we show Christ’s light when we live pure and keep our sexual passions focused only our spouse. That is shining your light; not hiding it or letting others be burned by it because later on God’s Word acts as an instrument of judgement against you and others! Having sex outside of God’s bounds is hiding the candle from your partner and both of you will get burned. In summary, hiding God’s light will affect your rest and intimacy with others.
Remember, the Gospel light is dangerous if not placed in its proper context. Many have used the name of Christ, invoking the imagery of shining God’s light on the darkness, when in reality what they were casting wasn’t light but heat. The Crusades are a prime example of people using God’s Word to justify their own ambitions and causing much damage. True light comes from Jesus who didn’t kill others but was killed for others’ sake.
This is the message that we can’t hide. In fact, Jesus declares: “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, nor anything hidden that will not be brought out into the open.” (v. 17) It appears that truth cannot be ultimately held back. The light of God’s truth is an unstoppable force! All the evil; all the secrets will be revealed. The Gospel exposes the secrets of our hearts and lives. When you compare yourself to Jesus and what He did on the Cross, our true motives for every act are revealed. This is not a bad thing but a good thing! Walking in the light will bring you into a closer relationship with others. The Apostle John understood this truth and in another passage picked up Jesus’ words with this promise, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son, purifies us from all sin.” Wow! Authenticity and truth lead to fellowship and community! We need to start walking in the light. This is why it is so important to join a small group where you can share what is really going on in our lives with the same-gender. Such groups should challenge you to know God’s Word because the only place we are to hide God’s Word is in our hearts! (Psalm 119:11) I want to commit to walking in the light with you! I try to be wisely honest with you about my struggles and failures and I hope you are too with others!
Tighter relationships aren’t the only benefit. Jesus implies that we get more revelation the more we are willing to step out into the light: “There consider carefully how you listen; for whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.” (Luke 8:18) Our light can shine brighter the more we come into the light and the more light we project to others. It is like holding your candle up higher. At the same time, Jesus promises that we can lose the light we are given. Could this harken back to the parable of the sower in Luke 8:1-15? The seeds of God’s Word, don’t find a soft and fertile place to land in our lives. Therefore, the light is taken away. Immediately, some will question whether we can lose our salvation or not. Let’s not start to cover up God’s Word or splash water on the fire of the Holy Spirit who is speaking to us. To do so, would miss Jesus’ point. Literally, see how you listen! Are you listening to God’s truth? If not, remember Jesus did not cover or hide His light from you. He identifies Himself as the Light of the World. (John 1:4; 3:19-21; 8:12; 9: 5; 12:46) Jesus exposed us in our darkness so that we could come out and stop living in shame. Let’s do likewise and shine our light for all to see. By doing so, it is safer and brighter for all concerned!
When I look at you I see some of you who have been rescued by such overwhelming circumstances. Your family has rejected you and you have overcome stubborn habits. Some of you come from very wealthy families and others of you are under-resourced and wondering if you will have enough to make ends meet. I want to say that your life is not based on your circumstances but your response to Jesus’ words. The real difference maker in your life is not how well you do in school. It isn’t how many friends you have on Facebook. It isn’t whether you are rich or poor, single or married. The real difference maker is that when God speaks do you hear Him and does God’s word take root in your life. Is your culture a soft and fertile place for God’s Word to land? What do I mean by “your culture being a soft and fertile place for God’s Word to land?” The word culture is derived from the Latin verb colere which refers to tilling the ground in order to grow things. You Science Majors understand that when you create a bacteria culture, you are cultivating something either good or bad to live. So are you creating a culture ready to receive God’s Word and make it fruitful in your lives? Are we creating together a culture for God Word’s to be planted deep into our hearts?
God is trying to speak to you everyday. God is using people to speak His Word to you. Listen to the parable Jesus tells in Luke 8:1-15. Read Luke 8:1-15! There are four responses to God’s Word. Let’s list them and think of some ways that this looks in our own lives. The first response is to trample God’s Word down so that the devil comes takes it away. (v. 5, 12) How do we do that? Notice the soil is along a path that is already well worn and hard packed. I kind of get a picture of a path that many feet have trampled on, like a person who has been trampled on and abused by many others that their heart has become so hard that they can’t let anything, even the seed, which is the word of God (v. 11), penetrate. Have you ever met somebody who you have tried to explain Jesus to them, they don’t let anything penetrate. They are hard. They hear about Jesus and His Word but want nothing to do with it. Their hardness might be created due to be trampled on by others. Maybe they were abused? Maybe someone broke their trust? Maybe they were betrayed? Maybe they felt rejected? For whatever, reasons their hearts become very hard. The Gospel can’t find a crevice to fall into their souls. They are locked up and tight. Their response to God is to “talk to the hand”! Such people are prime targets for the devil to snatch the word of God from their lives. The devil knows when we are closed off to receiving God’s Word. HAVE YOU EVER GONE THROUGH A TIME LIKE THAT? IS IT NOW? The soil must be tilled an broken up for the seed to breathe! Prayer does that!
The second response is to receive God’s Word and initially embrace it. In fact, not just embrace it but be overjoyed by it. They are pumped when they find out Jesus died for them. However, the initial faith doesn’t go very deep. Maybe it was based on circumstances? They believed because God did something big for them. Maybe God healed them or somebody they knew from some disease? Maybe God provided for some expense in their most desperate time? Maybe they liked the initial feelings of going to church? However, there will always be a time of testing. This could be a trial, a temptation, a “sense” that God is not very close. When this happens, the person does not go to worship services as often. They stop reading their Bible. They slowly stop growing and never bear any fruit. Many people are caught up in a feeling and not a faith in Jesus. They are people who make Jesus the means to an end: “I’ll follow Jesus as long as…” Are you one of them?
The third response is to hear God’s Word and initially respond. These people usually start doing all the right things: get baptized, study God’s Word, go to worship services and small group. However, then they get a job opportunity that would really help their career. They make the sports team and need to have a few practices on Sunday. Or maybe someone decides to start working on Sunday when they don’t have to! We were presented with just such an opportunity just a few weeks ago, one of my sons was asked to play on the Select Team in hockey. It was an honour. He would become a better player and we would have an opportunity to witness more in our community or least that’s what you can tell yourself. The things that choke out God’s Word in our lives are hardly ever bad or immoral things. They grow slowly and gradually overwhelmed you. The weeks are fed by taking a few of the good nutrients from you when you make these little decisions not to do exactly what God says. However, they usually attack us at our core fears – the deep place in our hearts where our idols are enthroned. Are we good or beautiful enough? In order, to be secure we cosy up to the thorn bush for shade and security but soon the Word of God is choked out. It can be as simple as having an adventure or a vacation. I know I really found vacation difficult this Christmas as I want to just chill and relax. I thought I deserved a break. Can anybody relate? Do you ever feel the fingers of life’s worries, riches and pleasures start to slowly wrap around you? You may still acknowledge Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. You might still go to church and serve where needed but the passion is gone. You are stunted in your spiritual growth and don’t fully mature. How do you know if you are mature enough? Maturity is always about reproduction. If you don’t reproduce Christ-like character in others, then that is the sign of immaturity. Seeds are meant to grow into plants and plants are meant to bear fruit and fruit is meant scatter more seeds. This is the growth cycle of the Gospel!
The last response is to hear God’s Word, retain it and by persevering produce a good crop, actually one hundred fold. (v. 15) This requires a good and noble heart but notice that is through perseverance that reproduction occurs. This begs a question as R.C. Lenski states, “The great question is why the Word fares so differently in different hearts.”  It must be that God just predestines it that way. I mean whose fault is it that the Word of God fell on hard or rocky soil or near thorns. Why are some hearts noble and good? (v. 15) Is persevering just self-effort and will power? What is the difference maker? Why do only 25% of the soils become reproductive?
Let’s eliminate one of the problems. It isn’t the seed! As Darrel Bock reminds, “The focus of the parable is on the soils, not the seed.” Many times we like to blame the farmer for not spreading the seed in a very interesting way. If the preacher were just more funny or passionate. Yes, we teachers and preachers should passionately proclaim God’s Word which causes you sit up and take note. However, whenever God’s Word is dispersed it is meant to be received, retained and reproduced. So if it isn’t the seeds fault maybe it is the farmer’s fault? Who plants on hard or rocky soil or around thorns? Yet, the Word of God is to be spread around liberally. It wouldn’t be fair to people who are in a certain geography, family or lot in life if they didn’t get to hear His Word. This is why we should be spreading the seed of the Word of God near and far. It isn’t the sower’s fault. No, it is the condition of the soil. Are you hardened? Then you need to till up your unforgiveness by thinking about Christ’s grace to you on the Cross. Are you rocky with not much depth? Then you need to remove those rocks or obstacles to growth you have put in your life. These obstacles are unbiblical expectations of Jesus. You are banking on promises Jesus never made and missing on the nurturing promises He did made. Only by believing in God’s promises can you prepare yourself for trial. Expect trails but know that Jesus will help your overcome them as you believe God’s promises that are based on and guaranteed by His character. And the weeds? Don’t let ANYTHING distract you. Don’t turn to anything else for rest or security besides Jesus. Instead, be good soil ready to hear God’s Word. God is texting you everyday! Do you hear Him?
So what are we saying here? Now go and be good soil? You can through sheer will power and self-effort be the person who responds to God’s Word and obeys? NO! You can’t do this but there was One who did! Jesus says, “But the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded Me” (John 14:31). Jesus heard and obeyed the Father perfectly and His obedience produced a 100 fold harvest and you are part of that Harvest. He was the seed that fell to the ground and produced many seeds (John 12:24). Jesus is God’s Word (John 1:1) and so for us to listen and receive Him only 25% of the time is not acceptable. To listen to your friends or boss only 25% would mean that they are not really your friends or will no longer be your boss for very long. Therefore, receiving God’s Word in the deep parts of your life and letting it grow you is highly personal. Jesus is God’s Word given to you. That is your motivation for hearing and that is your motivation for sowing. Will you hear and sow because Jesus did that for you? What is God saying to you right now? Let it sink deep into your heart and cultivate it to fully bear fruit in your life through the power of the Holy Spirit!
 Joe Boot, “Christ & Culture – The Meaning of Culture,” Jubilee: Recovering Biblical Foundations For Our Time, Fall 2011, 16.
 R.C.H. Lenski, Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel (Columbus: Wartburg Press, 1951), 452.
 Darrel Bock, The NIV Application Commentary on Luke (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 230.