Spiritual or Natural
Physical or Spiritual Relationships
“For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, sister, and mother.”
In verses 46-50, Christ reorients people’s perspective on the spiritual world in contrast to the physical world, where we often focus. As he was speaking, his mother and brothers arrived outside and inquired if they could converse with Jesus. At this time, his earthy family still did not understand who Jesus was and what his mission entailed. In John 7:5, we find that his brothers did not believe in him. On another occasion, his family tried to seize him because they thought he was insane (Mark 3:20-21). Perhaps, as he sought an audience with Jesus, they were coming to rescue him from the hostility he created. Whatever their motivation, Matthew's impression is that they felt they had a higher priority than the ministry that Jesus was performing with the people. It is implied that Jesus should stop what he was doing and talk with them. However, Jesus saw it as a timely opportunity to emphasize that he was calling people to move beyond the physical world and see the world through spiritual eyes.
Jesus reorients our perspective by asking, “Who is My mother, and who are My brothers?” From the physical realm, the answer is his biological mother and brothers. This corresponds to a natural worldview. In a natural world, salvation comes through the physical realm, through our external acts of ritual and works. In the physical world, Jesus was going against the very people that were the religious leaders. Thus, his brothers and mother would have been concerned about his safety and mental and spiritual state.
However, Jesus changes the narrative by pointing to a spiritual perspective. Jesus is not denouncing his family. He cared deeply about his mother and his brothers. One of the seven final sayings of Jesus was calling upon John to care for his mother. Through his gracious love for his brothers, they too would eventually accept Christ as their savior and become leaders in the early church (Acts 1:14). Nevertheless, both his family and the people needed to learn an important lesson: Salvation through Christ is not based upon physical means or physical relationships, but spiritual means and a spiritual relationship. In a material world, salvation was through physical means: sacrifices, rituals, and external acts of worship. Not even being physically related to Jesus provided a basis for his brother's inclusion in his kingdom. Salvation requires spiritual transformation and a spiritual relationship which comes through faith and is demonstrated in our obedience to Christ.
In his statement, Christ is not stating that we can be saved through our righteous works but rather that genuine faith always results in a desire to do God’s will as the Holy Spirit works within us. External reformation and change only alter a person's outward behavior but are futile in conflict with sin. What is required is an inward transformation that enables us to have victory over sin and live in obedience to him. As we have seen through this chapter, physical solutions (in this case, a physical relationship) do not provide spiritual answers to spiritual problems. Only a spiritual relationship with Christ brings us into the right relationship with God. This challenges us to examine our own lives to ensure we have a spiritual connection with Jesus. It is not enough merely to go to church and give verbal consent to certain religious truths. We need a personal relationship that results in complete surrender and obedience to Christ. Then, we became his family.