Luke

8:19-21

The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50

5. The dawning of the kingdom in the words of Messiah, 8:1-56

ii] Jesus' true family

Synopsis

Jesus' mother and brothers try to see him while he is teaching a group of people gathered in someone's home, but are prevented by the crowd. When Jesus is told that they are outside he announces that his family consists of those who hear the word of God and do it.

 
Teaching

Physical descent is not the basis of relationships in the messianic kingdom, but rather faith. "Those who make the right response to the word of God .... now find themselves to be part of an intimate family community with Jesus himself", Nolland.

 
Issues

i] Context: See 8:1-18. In the second episodes of The dawning of the kingdom in the words of Messiah, 8:1-56, The true family of Jesus, Luke continues his focus on the meaning of the kingdom message. It's all about "responsive hearing", or as Luke puts it hearing and doing / putting into practice / acting on the news of God's coming kingdom in Christ, ie., believing.

 

ii] Structure: This passage, Jesus' true family, presents as follows:

Setting, v19:

Jesus' family are crowded out.

Jesus is informed that his family wish to see him, v20;

Jesus response, v21:

"my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

 

iii] Interpretation:

Luke does not record why Jesus' family want to see him. Conzelmann's view that they wanted to see miracles is unlikely. Mark refers to some friends (family / relations, cf. Bauer) who come to Jesus wanting to extract him from the throng because they thought he was addled (possessed??), 3:21, and this may be linked with the visit of the family in 3:31-35. cf. also John 7:3-5. "At the minimum, the action in Mark is an attempt by the family to protect Jesus", Bock. Fitzmyer suggests that Jesus' words are actually directed to Mary and his brothers, but this seems unlikely. Some have questioned whether the "brothers" are siblings, arguing that they are relatives or even just disciples, given that the word adelfoV is used of "a brother believer." We are not told of how the family reacted, indicating that the importance of the episode rests with Jesus' words and not his family.

 

What does Jesus mean by "doing" the Word of God? Marshall argues that "hearing and doing" is an oft used catch-all phrase in the gospels which simply means "believing", "receive / respond to God's word / will", Bock, a hearing and acting on / keeping the word of God, cf. 6:47, 49. This may well be the case, although the hearing and doing could also be Christ's hearing God's will and obeying it, which hearing and obeying becomes ours in our relationship with Christ; "all those who through him hear and do God's word are his family", Danker.

Without a doubt, the basis of our salvation is substitutionary; our being in Christ / identified with Christ achieves both our sinless and righteous state and thus our standing in God's messianic family. On numerous occasions Jesus uses obedience to the law / will of God as a tool to expose sin and thus the need to find in Christ a righteousness that is apart from the law, eg. 10:25-37. Yet, it seems unlikely that Jesus is using this approach here. What seems more likely is that "hearing" and "acting on" the word of God is nothing more than an expression of faith / belief in Christ. Many commentators just leave us with "doing" in terms of "obeying", some without comment, so Creed, Geldenhuys, Nolland, ...; others indicate that the "obeying" is the fruit of right-hearing, "the reception of the word of God proves itself in faithfulness and ethics", Bovon, so Evans, Green, Johnson, Stein, Black, Gooding, ...; and some go for a the stronger "call and discipleship" theme, so Ellis. Such nomist approaches are less than helpful. So, "hearing" and "acting" = believing.

 

iv] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.

 
Text - 8:19

Hearers and doers of the word, v19-21. i] Setting, v19: Luke does not tell us why Jesus' family want to see him. Mark, in his gospel, seems to imply that Jesus' family is worried about things getting out of hand, what with the great crowds that Jesus is now attracting. So, they try to intervene on his behalf. Anyway, Luke tells us none of this. In fact, we are really not sure to what degree his family believe in him. Obviously Mary had a deep insight into his messianic credentials, but it seems that other family members were slow to put their faith in him. Nor are we quite sure about the setting. It would seem Jesus is in a house, squashed full of people, but then in the previous incident Jesus was speaking with a large crowd out in the open. Again, it's not important.

parageneto (paraginomai) aor. "came" - came [to him]. Come to be present with. "On one occasion his mother and his brothers paid him a visit", Cassirer.

suntucein (suntugcanw) aor. pas. inf. "[they were not able] to get near" - [they were not able] to reach, meet, come together, contact, get near to. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "able". Mark has the family standing outside the house (is the setting in the open?) and sending a message to Jesus inside. Mark's account carries negative connotations, but the way Luke relates the story, the family is just trying to get into the house to be with Jesus, but is unable to do so because of the size of the crowd.

autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after the infinitival phrase "not able to get near to."

dia + acc. "because of [the crowd]" - because of, on account of. Causal. "The family was unable to get anywhere near him because the crowd was so densely packed", cf. Junkins.

 
v20

ii] Jesus' family try to make their way to him, but they are unable to get through the crowd and so a message is passed on to Jesus that his family is outside waiting to see him.

aphggelh (apaggellw) aor. pas. "someone told" - it was said, announced. The passive used to express how Jesus knew his family had arrived.

autw/ "him" - to him. Dative of indirect object.

sou gen. pro. "your [mother and brothers]" - The genitive is adjectival, relational.

esthkasin (iJsthmi) perf. "are standing" - have been standing. The perfect expressing a completed action with ongoing consequences. It may be expressing the fact that they have been standing outside waiting for some times.

qelonteV (qelw) "wanting" - wishing. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "have been standing"; "they are standing outside and want to see you."

idein (oJraw) aor. inf. "to see [you]" - The infinitive forms a dependent statement of perception expressing what they want.

 
v21

iii] Jesus now defines his alternate family, a messianic community with its own membership responsibilities, along with the principles upon which the messianic family is based, v21. Jesus' response seems somewhat harsh, as though he has just disowned his family. Of course Jesus' words do not negate family bonds, but they do emphasize the importance of the new set of relationships now found in Christ. In God's new kingdom we discover a set of loving relationships which are eternal in nature. As for the basis of this eternal family, Jesus makes it clear that it rests on both hearing God's word and putting it into practice. The language of "hearing" and "doing" is a little confusing to our ears since "doing" sounds very like obedience. The NIV has translated the Greek word "doing" as "put into practice" to help us understand what Jesus is saying. We must take careful note of God's words to us in Christ, and rest on those promises in faith, believe in Christ for our salvation. So, Jesus is simply making the point that faith is the basis of God's eternal family.

The inevitable conflict between filial and brotherhood responsibilities is evidenced in this passage. The issue will be raised again and is one which believers have continually had to wrestle with. Nolland balances the issue nicely; "family bonds are not so much negated as other bonds are affirmed and focused upon."

oJ de apokriqeiV eipen "he replied" - but he answering said. The participle is attendant circumstance producing a Semitic formula statement, virtually redundant, so "he said".

mhthr mou kai adelfoi mou "my mother and brothers" - my mother and my brothers. Fitzmyer takes this phrase as a nominative absolute in apposition to the nominative au|toi, "they/these", giving the translation "my mother and my brothers, they are the ones who listen to the word of God and act on it." We are on safer ground if we follow Plummer who points out that the lack of articles would indicate that the phrase "my mother and brothers" is not a nominative absolute construction, such that here it functions as the predicate with au|toi "these" serving as the subject; "these au|toi are eisin (verb to-be) my mother and my brothers, the ones hearing ....."

oiJ .... akouonteV (akouw) pres. part. "who hear" - the ones hearing [and doing]. This participle, as with "doing", serves as a substantive. As noted above, Luke is continuing the theme of the parable of the sower / soils, namely the importance of right-hearing.

tou qeou (oV) gen. "[the word] of God" - The intent of the genitive is unclear: adjectival, possessive; ablative, source/origin; verbal, subjective.

 

Luke Introduction

Exposition

 

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