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A family affair

"They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers." Acts 1.14

Do you ever wonder what it must have been like, growing up in the household of Mary and Jospeh where Jesus was raised along with his sisters and brothers? New Testament scholar, Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn, insists that there exists sufficient material in the New Testament to grant us a glimpse at least. Piecing together references in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, the Book of Acts and the Letters of two of those brothers, James and Jude (though some scholars dispute their authorship) a picture emerges...

The impression is of a family deeply imbued in its Jewish identity. Devout in its habits, sincere in its faith and responsive to the voice of God in their lives. The example of their parents, through those difficult early years must have shaped all of their identities, as did the heroes of their Old Testament belief system. But what comes across most dramatically is their appreciation that loyalty to God trumps even the bonds of a close and loving family. This is illustrated in the infamous encounter in Matthew 12. 46-50...

Jesus is accosted by a messenger who declares that his family wish to speak to him. Turning to the crowd he counters the messenger with the observation that those he considers "family" are first and foremost those who are obedient to God. Understood in the light of observations already made, this is not as insulting to his birth family as one might instinctively assume. It probably reflected what the family itself believed. Their struggle was in coming to terms with the astonishing fact that Jesus was the Messiah for whom they were so desperately longing. That they came around eventually, is confirmed at the beginning of the Book of Acts and in the testimony of the early church.



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