but were unable to join him because of the crowd.
He was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside
and they wish to see you.”
He said to them in reply, “My mother and my brothers
are those who hear the word of God and act on it.” Luke 8:19-21
You may recall that when Mark narrates this episode of Jesus’ life, he reports Jesus as saying, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” The wording is almost the same, except that where Mark refers to doing the will of God, Luke has Jesus speak about hearing the word of God and acting on it. That way of phrasing what constitutes being part of Jesus’ true family understands it as an ongoing process of hearing the word of God and actively responding. And Luke strengthens this emphasis on hearing the word of God by changing the location of this episode within the story of Jesus. Whereas in Mark the scene occurs right after the controversy about the source of Jesus power over evil spirits and just before the day of teaching with parables, Luke places the episode after the parable of the Sower and its explanation of the seed as both the word of God and also an image of the varieties of responses to that word—from the unproductive to the fruitful.
And just before that parable Luke inserts his unique description of Jesus’ entourage of disciples, consisting of the Twelve “and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many other who provided for them out of their resources” (8:2-3). So the whole passage of 8:1-21 (entourage of disciples, Sower parable, explanation of Sower parable, and the episode about the true family of Jesus) adds up to a presentation of the church as a community formed by healing and response to the word of God as preached by Jesus. The passage is, then, a picture of us, healed and formed by that word. Oh, and I skipped something. Between the explanation of the Sower parable and the True Family episode, we hear some words about sharing the light: No one who lights a lamp conceals it with a vessel or sets it under a bed; rather, he places it on a lampstand so that those who enter may see the light (Luke 8:16). What a great picture of what it means to be church! We are healed, formed by responding to the word of God, and commissioned to “share the light.”
By the way, just in case Jesus’ remark at the end of the True Family episode seems to denigrate Jesus’ mother, Luke, three chapters later, presents Mary as the model for what it takes to be a proper disciple. A woman calls out from the crowd and says to him, “Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.” To which Jesus replies, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Her greatness consists not in her biological relationship to Jesus but rather in her openness to God, something to which all of us are challenged.
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