Study Guide

Gospel of Luke Family

Family

When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. […] All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his mouth. They said, "Is not this Joseph's son?" […] And he said, "Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in the prophet's hometown." (NRSV 4:16, 22, 24)

And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. […] And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph's son? (KJV 4:16, 22, 24)

Jesus provokes the people of his hometown Nazareth, and guess what they do? Try to throw him off of a cliff. This opening scene of Jesus's ministry definitely foreshadows his rejection by the Jews in general—who, by the way, are his own people. It's also kind of emblematic of the type of conflict with "family" that following Jesus will entail. At least Jesus practices what he preaches.

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, "Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." But he said to them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." (NRSV 8:19-21)

Then came to him his mother and his brethren, and could not come at him for the press. And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee. And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it. (KJV 8:19-21)

Don't try this at home. This little family-rejecting story reflects the fact the earliest Christians used the family-metaphor to understand their communal relationships, calling each other brother, sister, even father and child. The letters of Paul back that up.

To another he said, "Follow me." But he said, "Lord, first let me go and bury my father." But Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God." (NRSV 9:59-60)

And he said unto another, Follow me. But he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father. Jesus said unto him, Let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God. (KJV 9:59-60)

Following Jesus means saying adios to all familial duties—even taking care of a parent's funeral. Nothing softens the blow of this demand. It would have appeared as irresponsible and downright coldhearted then as it does now.

Another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but let me first say farewell to those at my home." Jesus said to him, "No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God." (NRSV 9:61-62)

And another also said, Lord, I will follow thee; but let me first go bid them farewell, which are at home at my house. And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God. (NRSV 9:61-62)

There's a name in our culture for guys who abandon their family without saying goodbye: Deadbeat Dads. Try not to lose the punch of what Jesus demands here. Following him requires—at least from the family's perspective—becoming a deadbeat.

Then Peter said, "Look, we have left our homes and followed you." And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not get back very much more in this age, and in the age to come eternal life." (NRSV 18:28-30)

Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake, Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting. (KJV 18:28-30)

According to Jesus, abandoning your family has rewards both in the present (you get a family in your fellow followers) and in the future (you live forever!). Looks like Bella isn't the only one who's trading mom and dad for life everlasting.

You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. (NRSV 21:16)

And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death. (KJV 21:16)

Even after Jesus is long gone, he'll be causing familial strife. Family members will be reporting each other to the authorities for being followers of Jesus—which, by the way, is a crime. Sound like anything that's gone down in modern history?

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