Many excellent, useful sayings came from the mouth of our Lord Jesus upon particular occasions; even his digressions were instructive, as well as his set discourses: as here,
Observe, I. How Christ was interrupted in his preaching by his mother and his brethren, that stood without, desiring to speak with him (Matt. 12:40, 47); which desire of theirs was conveyed to him through the crowd. It is needless to enquire which of his brethren they were that came along with his mother (perhaps they were those who did not believe in him, John 7:5); or what their business was; perhaps it was only designed to oblige him to break off, for fear he should fatigue himself, or to caution him to take heed of giving offence by his discourse to the Pharisees, and or involving himself in a difficulty; as if they could teach him wisdom.
1. He was as yet talking to the people. Note, Christ’s preaching was talking; it was plain, easy, and familiar, and suited to their capacity and case. What Christ had delivered had been cavilled at, and yet he went on. Note, The opposition we meet within our work, must not drive us from it. He left off talking with the Pharisees, for he saw he could do no good with them; but continued to talk to the common people, who, not having such a conceit of their knowledge as the Pharisees had, were willing to learn.
2. His mother and brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him, when they should have been standing within, desiring to hear him. They had the advantage of his daily converse in private, and therefore were less mindful to attend upon his public preaching. Note, Frequently those who are nearest to the means of knowledge and grace, are most negligent. Familiarity and easiness of access breed some degree of contempt. We are apt to neglect that this day, which we think we may have any day, for getting that it is only the present time we can be sure of; tomorrow is none of ours. There is too much truth in that common proverb, “The nearer the church, the further from God;” it is pity it should be so.
3. They not only would not hear him themselves, but they interrupted others that heard him gladly. The devil was a sworn enemy to our Saviour’s preaching. He had sought to baffle his discourse by the unreasonable cavils of the scribes and Pharisees, and when he could not gain his point that way, he endeavoured to break it off by the unseasonable visits of relations. Note, We often meet with hindrances and obstructions in our work, by our friends that are about us, and are taken off by civil respects from our spiritual concerns. Those who really wish well to us and to our work, may sometimes, by their indiscretion, prove our back-friends, and impediments to us in our duty; as Peter was offensive to Christ, with his, “Master, spare thyself,” when he thought himself very officious. The mother of our Lord desired to speak with him; it seemed she had not then learned to command her Son, as the iniquity and idolatry of the church of Rome has since pretended to teach her: nor was she so free from fault and folly as they would make her. It was Christ’s prerogative, and not his mother’s, to do every thing wisely, and well, and in its season. Christ once said to his mother, How is it that ye sought me? Wist he not, that I must be about my Father’s business? And it was then said, she laid up that saying in her heart (Luke 2:49); but if she had remembered it now, she would not have given him this interruption when he was about his Father’s business. Note, There is many a good truth that we thought was well laid up when we heard it, which yet is out of the way when we have occasion to use it.
II. How he resented this interruption, Matt. 12:48-50.
1. He would not hearken to it; he was so intent upon his work, that no natural or civil respects should take him off from it. Who is my mother and who are my brethren? Not that natural affection is to be put off, or that, under pretence of religion, we may be disrespectful to parents, or unkind to other relations; but every thing is beautiful in its season, and the less duty must stand by, while the greater is done. When our regard to our relations comes in competition with the service of God, and the improving of an opportunity to do good, in such a case, we must say to our Father, I have not seen him, as Levi did, Deut. 33:9. The nearest relations must be comparatively hated, that is, we must love them less than Christ (Luke 14:26), and our duty to God must have the preference. This Christ has here given us an example of; the zeal of God’s house did so far eat him up, that it made him not only forget himself, but forget his dearest relations. And we must not take it ill of our friends, nor put it upon the score of their wickedness, if they prefer the pleasing of God before the pleasing of us; but we must readily forgive those neglects which may be easily imputed to a pious zeal for God’s glory and others’ good. Nay, we must deny ourselves and our own satisfaction, rather than do that which may any way divert our friends from, or distract them in, their duty to God.
2. He took that occasion to prefer his disciples, who were his spiritual kindred, before his natural relations as such: which was a good reason why he would not leave preaching to speak with his brethren. He would rather be profiting his disciples, than pleasing his relations. Observe,
(1.) The description of Christ’s disciples. They are such as do the will of his Father; not only hear it, and know it, and talk of it, but do it; for doing the will of God is the best preparative for discipleship (John 7:17), and the best proof of it (Matt. 7:21); that denominates us his disciples indeed. Christ does not say, “Whosoever shall do my will,” for he came not to seek or do his own will distinct from his Father’s: his will and his Father’s are the same; but he refers us to his Father’s will, because now in his present state and work he referred himself to it, John 6:38.
(2.) The dignity of Christ’s disciples: The same is my brother, and sister, and mother. His disciples, that had left all to follow him, and embraced his doctrine, were dearer to him than any that were akin to him according to the flesh. They had preferred Christ before their relations; they left their father (Matt. 4:22; 10:37); and now to make them amends, and to show that there was no love lost, he preferred them before his relations. Did not they hereby receive, in point of honour, a hundred fold? Matt. 19:29. It was very endearing and very encouraging for Christ to say, Behold my mother and my brethren; yet it was not their privilege alone, this honour have all the saints. Note, All obedient believers are near akin to Jesus Christ. They wear his name, bear his image, have his nature, are of his family. He loves them, converses freely with them as his relations. He bids them welcome to his table, takes care of them, provides for them, sees that they want nothing that is fit for them: when he died he left them rich legacies, now he is in heaven he keeps up a correspondence with them, and will have them all with him at last, and will in nothing fail to do the kinsman’s part (Ruth 3:13), nor will ever be ashamed of his poor relations, but will confess them before men, before the angels, and before his Father.