(This study would ideally be studied by couples or small groups together)
Jesus re: Marriage and the Family Part I
INTRODUCTION - Three of God’s primary instruments to bless the nations and peoples of the earth are in order of creation: First, marriage and the family; Second, The nation/people of Israel; and Third, the church. The effectiveness of Israel & the Church in fulfilling their God given purpose on the earth will depend in large part on how healthy and vibrant the marriages and families are within them.
Everything in God’s created universe rides on the backs of marriages. Thankfully, Jesus has much to say about marriage and the family. After all He created it (“All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” John 3:3) , and every family is held together through Him (“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”) Col. 1:17).
So please allow me to share some principles and truths from Jesus’s life and ministry and teachings that I trust will help each of us repair and strengthen the foundations of our marriages and families. There are nine principles herein. The first three deal more with family than marriage. Here’s the first one:
Jesus Christ grew up in a traditional nuclear family with a mother and father, brothers and sisters. He was the oldest of the siblings. His father was a carpenter, and Jesus evidently learned his trade before He started His ministry.
Matthew. 13:55-58 “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.”
Comment: Jesus Christ’s family was well known. He was known as part of that family. In fact it was His being so well known as part of that family, that was a stumbling block to many. You see Jesus’s family was a normal, probably lower to middle class family. Thus in the minds of Jesus’s critics, it was not the kind of family that the Messiah would come from – if He would even come from a human family in the first place.
Question: If God the Father wanted His Son to be known and embraced, why didn’t He have Him enter the world in a more obvious pronounced way? Could one of the reasons possibly be because of how invested God is in families? Could another reason be so that Jesus as a fully human child and young man could first hand experience the challenges the average family has because of sin, Satan and the corrupting influence of the world?
Yes I know God would know this anyway since He is God. But as we will see later, it is greatly to our advantage that Jesus/God experienced this as a fully human male.
Mark 6:3-6 “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary….”
Comment: In this very similar passage to the one above, Jesus is actually referred to as a carpenter Himself, having obviously learned the trade from his father, being the oldest son – the first born.
I find it interesting that when the Triune Living God decided to personally solve the crisis of sin and all of its collateral damage, that He chose to be born into and raised as a human baby, child and teenager/young man in a nuclear family. Easily God could have limited that to a godly set of parents. But instead He also chose to give His Son the human experience of growing up with brothers and sisters.
Jesus honored His parents and submitted to their authority throughout His days under their roof. He honored His mother until His last dying breath.
Luke 2:51 “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and He continued in subjection to them; …”
Comment: Another reason why Jesus grew up in a nuclear family is so He could model for children how to respond to their parents’ instruction, discipline and direction/commands. It appears that Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’s earthly father (so to speak) had passed away by the time Jesus started His ministry. But evidently He was in the home for much of Jesus’s growing up years.
John 2:1-8 “On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him.”
Comment: Jesus at first seems to be dissing His mother Mary, but moments later He responds to her FYI re: the wine challenged wedding, which shows He did not diss her at all. It appears to more a matter of timing.
John 19:26,27 “When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From that hour the disciple took her into his own household.”
Comment: Fascinating that Jesus not only had the strength of focus and heart to care for His mother after receiving horrible beatings, food and water deprivation, scourging and finally crucifixion; but He also discerned that for right now at least John (His disciple) was more prepared and disposed to effectively care for His mother than his four brothers and sisters were. Very likely that was because up to this point, they had all rejected Him. None of them were at the foot of the cross, where both John and Mary stood in disbelief and deep sadness at their dying Messiah. But it says tons that they were there.
Mary needed to be cared for by someone who would not only attend to her physical needs, but also her spiritual. This also gives us a window into Jesus’s high value of spiritual family along with one’s physical/biological family. More on that later.
Because Jesus experienced rejection and mistreatment from His brothers/siblings; He can sympathize with those of us who have experienced the same from ours.
Comment: Some of Jesus’s own family members became very fruitful members of Christ’s church in the early days of the first century church. His mother was evidently in the thick of things judging from Acts 1:14. His brother James was one of the key leaders in the early church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:18). His brother Jude (Matthew 13:55,56 & Mark 6:3 call him Judas, but some scholars believe because of Judas the traitor, he was nicknamed “Jude”) most likely wrote one of our epistles as did his brother James.
But in the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, His family, especially His brothers and sisters rejected His claim to deity and to being the long awaited Messiah as seen in the following two passages.
Psalm 69:8,9 “I have become estranged from my brothers And an alien to my mother’s sons. For zeal for Your house has consumed me, And the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.”
Comment: Because Jesus’s brothers (and presumably His sisters) were dull and hardened spiritually, and because Jesus dripped with zeal and passion for His Father and for the sincere corporate worship of His Father (see John 2:17), they mistook His zeal for mental instability or worse.
John 7:2-7 “Now the feast of the Jews, the Feast of Booths, was near. Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. “For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For not even His brothers were believing in Him. So Jesus said to them, “My time is not yet here, but your time is always opportune. ”The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it, that its deeds are evil.”
Comment: Jesus had lived a sinless life in front of and beside His brothers and sisters for up to 30 years. They had to have noticed that His responses and reactions to life were quite different from their own. They had to notice again the zeal He had for God the Father, the personal commitment He had to prayer, His love for the scriptures, His sincere honor of their parents, etc. But because their hearts were hardened, and because they feared man more than God, they couldn’t accept that He was the long awaited Messiah. At least not yet.
It is not uncommon for siblings who do not know and follow Jesus, and who are thus slaves to sin and Satan (see John 8) to unleash some of their anger and angst towards their sibling who knows and is trying to follow Jesus. It can be brutal even violent at times. Jesus both experienced that, and now at the right hand of the Father flows with compassion and understanding towards those of you who are presently in this grievous situation.
Hebrews 2:17,18 “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.”
Hebrews 4:15 says of Jesus: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.”
Jesus and Marriage and the Family Part II
While Jesus created the family unit and is highly committed to it, and while He commanded us to honor our parents, and honor our spouses, allegiance to Him must always trump allegiance to our parents or spouses or children.
A. Allegiance to Parents:
Matthew 15:4 “For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.”
Matthew 19:19 ”HONOR YOUR MOTHER AND FATHER;….” (cf. Mark 10:19, Luke 18:20)
Comment: Jesus clearly walked this out with His parents and later His mother; and He clearly expected it of all of us (saved or lost). There comes a point where we as adults need no longer obey our parents. But per the fourth of the ten commandments, there never comes a point wherein we stop honoring them.
B. Allegiance to Spouses:
Matthew 19:5,6 “and said, ‘FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.” (cf. Matthew 5:31,32).
Comment: Marriage in Jesus’s eyes is a total leaving of one’s parents (physically, emotionally, etc); and a total cleaving to or commitment to oneness with our spouse (sexually, emotionally, spiritually, etc.). This was always God’s intention from the very beginning.
C. Allegiance to Jesus:
Matthew. 4:21,22 “Going on from there He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and He called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”
Comment: The twelve disciples would have never become His disciples had they not been willing to put their new relationship with Jesus above their relationships with their earthly fathers. Jesus clearly saw that they were with their father, and in business with their father. He called them anyway, expecting a decisive response.
Matthew 8:21,22 “Another of the disciples said to Him, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But Jesus said to him, “Follow Me, and allow the dead to bury their own dead.” (cf. Luke 9:59-62)
Comment: The issue here is what comes first? When it comes to following Jesus He always comes first. Our flesh is easily distracted with lesser things. No parent has ever experienced their own burial. The honor Jesus spoke of always pertained to relating to them while they were living, not when they were dead. This does not mean Jesus does not care about proper burials or memorials. The issue with this man was he was not taking Jesus’s call to discipleship seriously, and the specific excuse he made had to be dealt with decisively.
Matthew 10:37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
Comment: Jesus expects us to love our parents and our children. But they did not create us. Nor did they die for us. Nor does our very breath come from them. So He clearly is worthy of much more love and devotion than they are.
In the kingdom of God, or under the large umbrella we call the church, if we are not careful we can worship our families instead of worshipping Jesus, who created marriage and families. He alone can sustain them and hold them together and help us build a foundation of righteousness and truth in our marriage and family relationships. How foolish and ultimately selfish it is to give them so much time and attention that He gets the dregs!
Luke 14:25-27 “Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.”
Comment: In case we did not get the message from Matthew 10:37, Jesus cuts to the chase in this passage. Folks, one of the greatest deterrents or distractions to truly following Jesus is undue soul ties with our family members. Please note all are mentioned in this passage. Sadly when we put family relationships on a pedestal they were never meant to be on, we rob them of the blessings that come where there is divine order in the home.
Disciples of Jesus who put Jesus first over family will be greatly rewarded in this life and in the life to come.
Matthew 19:29 “And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.”
Comment: Jesus knows we need some encouragement in this straightforward call of His to true discipleship, so He mercifully promises a multiplication of blessing and reward to those who truly follow Him.
Mark 10:29, 30 “Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mother and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.” (cf. Luke 18:28-30)
Comment: While the prior passage does not specifically mention reward in this lifetime, this one does. When we deny ourselves the fleshly right to have undue devotion (actually often co-dependence) with a family member, and instead follow Jesus fully, He gives us way beyond what we could have ever produced ourselves in terms of relational intimacy and fullness with our families. He wants us to have it. But it can only come in and through Him.
Jesus boldly and courageously stood against the hard heartedness of men towards marriage and women as seen in their (the Pharisees’) attitude towards divorce.
Matthew 19:3-9“Some Pharisees came to Jesus, testing Him and asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all? And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, and said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together let no man separate.” They said to Him, Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND HER AWAY?” He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives; but from the beginning it has not been this way. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.” (cf. Mark 10:2-12)
Comment: Jesus would have no part of the hardness of heart (Matt. 19:8) that the Pharisees and so many other men in that day harbored towards their wives (and probably women in general). They were not oblivious to God’s original pattern and intent in Genesis chps. 1,2. That is they were familiar with those chapters. But familiarity can breed contempt. And hardness of heart keeps us from connecting with God’s heart and mind.
When we men use scripture to justify what our flesh wants, women and children and society pay the price. There is a big difference between what God “commanded” (vs. 7), and what God “permitted” (vs. 8). Jesus made clear in this passage that oneness and covenantal joining is what God commanded (vs. 4-6). Divorce only under certain circumstances is what God permitted (vs. 8).
Jesus, Marriage and the Family part III
Jesus boldly and courageously stood against the Pharisees and Scribes regarding their selfishness and self centeredness towards honoring one’s parents.
Mark 7:9-13 “He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; but you say, ‘If a man say to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God), you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother, thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down’ and you do many things such as that.”
Comment: Traditions that help us obey God’s commands and divine order are fine and good. But traditions that men develop that skirt around God’s commands, and that help support our self centered efforts and agendas are evil. And these latter traditions are usually at least partially motivated by the love of money. One of the ways these devious religious leaders found to support themselves financially was by diverting monies that should have gone towards helping to care for one’s elderly parents to instead be redirected to them. Of course to get people to do this, they had to develop a theology for it, which is what Jesus referred to as “Corban”.
Jesus saw through their deviousness and hypocrisy; and declared to them and those listening that this was just one of many examples of such.
As committed as Jesus was/is to marriage and the family and honoring His parents while on earth, He had an equal commitment to God’s people; perhaps a greater commitment once He left His home and began His ministry.
Mark 3:31 -35 “Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You.” Answering them, He said, “Who are My mother and My brothers?” Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, “Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother.” (cf. Luke 8:19-21)
Comment: Jesus clearly loved and honored His mother. I believe He also deeply loved His brothers and sisters. But it was His love for and involvement relationally with the people of God that brought righteous perspective, boundaries and needed sharpening to be able (as a man, who was operating apart from His divinity per Philippians 2:5f) to be who He needed to be to His nuclear family members.
The intimacy and blessing that Jesus reserves (as God and Head of the Church and our good Shepherd) for those who live to do His will is an intimacy and blessing unlike any other. It is that intimacy and blessing that helps us dig a well of life and relational energy and resources – out of which can flow what we need to righteously love and relate to our nuclear and extended family members.
Family members are capable of unspeakable evil towards their family members who walk with and follow Jesus. Following Jesus will often at least initially cause division in families.
Matthew. 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death.” (cf. Mark 13:12, 13)
Comment: Now this will not always happen especially if one’s brothers and sisters, parents and children all fear and love the Lord. The reality for many of God’s people though is when they come to Christ later in life; and none of their family members know and love the Lord, great persecution can result. This is especially true in Muslim lands, communist or extreme socialist nations or even in Israel where there is such deep hostility towards Christ followers.
The specific context of this passage above is Jesus’s sending out of His twelve disciples to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom, heal the sick and cast out demons. We know that they did not in general experience the extreme kind of resistance and persecution that He described in vs. 16-23 during their first little mission, while He was still with them. They did experience it in their leadership of the church as seen in the book of Acts. All it is believed were eventually martyred for their faith.
Matthew. 10:34-36 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to SET A MAN AGAINST HIS FATHER, AND A DAUGHTER AGAINST HER MOTHER, AND A DAUGHTER-IN-LAW AGAINST HER MOTHER-IN-LAW; and A MAN’S ENEMIES WILL BE THE MEMBERS OF HIS HOUSEHOLD.”
Comment: Again as I have said previously in this study, Jesus created the family and is very committed to and is heavily invested in its health and fullness. But He wants His disciples to know that sometimes as we seek to follow Him as Lord and Master, our family members can become our worst enemies. Hopefully not all of them. But some of them can come against us with surprising hostility and rage.
Luke 12:51-53 “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother- in- law.”
Comment: Jesus’s will for our families and clans is never division. But because some of the members of our families and clans are slaves to sin and Satan, they will sometimes stir up great division and strife because of our love for Jesus. Jesus mercifully informs His disciples that this could very possibly happen.
Luke 21:16, 17 “But you will be betrayed even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be hated by all because of My name.”
Comment: Luke 21:10 -36 is a parallel passage to Matthew 24 wherein Jesus discusses eschatology and specifically the great tribulation and the signs leading up to it. Again this kind of extreme betrayal, hatred and even murder is more likely to be found in nations wherein there is and has been great persecution of Christians for decades and even centuries. It is not as common in the U.S., but we know that can easily change.
All of this illustrates why believers must invest in their relationships with God’s people, so that we find the sharpening and the support we need to endure the persecution and rejection we sometimes experience in our families.
"Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household." Mark 6:4
Lastly, one reason we do not in general experience this kind of intense persecution from family members in the U.S. is because in general we believers do not yet hate our lives, and do not yet love Him with our whole heart, soul, strength and mind. Luke warm believers tend to experience luke warm persecution.
Why does Jesus not specifically address parenting?
You may have noticed that while Jesus specifically speaks to marriage and honoring our parents, He does not speak specifically to parenting. Here are my thoughts on this issue:
First, just because Jesus did not specifically teach about parenting, this does not at all infer that He was not passionate about the proper and righteous parenting of all children. John the Baptist never taught about parenting as far as we know, but the scriptures clearly teach that one of the primary purposes of his ministry was to “….turn the hearts of the Fathers back to the children…” Luke 1:12-17
Both John and Jesus were always going for root and foundational issues. They weren’t going to waste time on “Ten ways to raise a happy child” when the parents they were ministering to had no spiritual capacity (yet) to carry out such well meaning parenting practices.
Let’s look at a long passage that illustrates this. In Mark 9 Jesus had taken three of His disciples up on a Mountain where He was transfigured before their eyes (vs. 1-8). On the way down they had a discussion related to what had happened on the mountain (vs. 9-13). When they returned to the other 9 disciples and a large crowd that had formed, they discovered some turbulence caused by a failed demon extraction/exorcism (vs. 14-18).
Jesus’s response to this disgruntled (at the 9 disciples) and desperate Dad is very enlightening: “And He answered them and said, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him to Me!” (vs. 19).
Who is the “them”? Some think the disciples. But Jesus deals with the disciples later in the passage (vs. 28,29). I think rather He was addressing this man and his contemporaries. He was addressing this man and all those in the crowd who like him felt the main problem here was ineffective disciples. That was not the main problem. The main problem was a whole generation of parents, who were on the most part walking in deep unbelief and perversion (see parallel passage in Matthew 17:17). This kind of extreme demon possession of a child can only happen when the parents, uncles, grandparents, neighbors, etc., who in one way or another touch this child’s life all are living narcissistic and hedonistic lives. If that weren’t the case then they would have been able to better understand Jesus’s revelation to them that He would need to suffer for their sake’s (see vs. 30-32). If that were not the case the 12 disciples would not be wasting time arguing about which one of them was the greatest (see vs. 33,34), but instead would be looking to Him to how they could better serve along with Him – especially serving the children. But since they were absolutely oblivious to this call to servanthood starting with selflessly ministering to children, He had to bring a child into their midst to explain (see vs. 35-37).
Then as we go on in this chapter, John speaks for the rest of the disciples to Jesus about their great concern that others out there were competing with their movement (vs. 38-41). Jesus shows no concern for this whatsoever, but He then speaks to what He is very concerned about and that is adults (including of course parents) being stumbling blocks to children (vs. 42-44). This problem of being a stumbling block to children is so serious that Jesus follows this warning with the solution, which is being willing to take extreme (in our eyes) measures to overcome whatever it is in our hearts and minds that cause us to be stumbling blocks to children (see vs. 45-50).
The disciples of course didn’t get this initially. Then in chapter 10 some Pharisees, who were largely responsible for creating this religious culture of unbelief and perversion, “tested” Jesus with His thoughts about what Moses said about divorce (vs. 2-4). Jesus makes clear in His response that the crux of the issue is the Pharisees’ hardness of heart and blindness to God’s original purpose and plan for marriage (vs. 5-9).
In someone’s house the disciples ask Jesus for clarification of this discussion about marriage and divorce (vs. 10-12).
Then evidently in that same house, parents were bringing their children to Jesus so He might “touch” them and bless them (vs. 13). The disciples, still being rattled by Jesus being so direct and “in your face” with the Pharisees, rebuked these parents (vs. 13). Jesus grew very angry at their obsession with His possibly having offended corrupt religious leaders, and at their blindness re: the high value God places on children, and rebuked them for their hardheartedness (vs. 14). He tried to help them see that the kingdom of God belongs to children such as these, not to corrupt religious leaders - no matter what their title or importance in the eyes of man might be (vs. 14). He then further explained that the best way to learn how to enter the kingdom of God is to observe how children do. Then He gathered them all in His arms and blessed them (vs. 15, 16).
Jesus deeply cares about every child on the planet. Jesus knows far better than we how much influence (for better or for worse) every parent has on every child. Jesus knows that only righteous and godly men and women can adequately and effectively parent a child. So Jesus wisely focused on helping every man and woman learn to walk in humility and righteousness. He focused on helping them learn to love God with their whole heart, soul, strength and mind. He focused on helping them give daily attention to the state of their hearts. He focused on helping them give daily attention to inner purity and cleanness rather than outer purity and cleanness that the Pharisees and Scribes focused on. He focused on helping them see their marriage as God sees it.
We have a wonderful Savior, Lord and Shepherd folks! He longs to teach us how to do life and family His way by His resources. May He open our eyes and ears so we can hear all that He is saying in these days, and see all that He is doing.