The Ultimate Family
Jesus knew a little something about hurting families and broken homes. After all, his family situation was hardly perfect. Even before he was born, the town was gossiping about his parents: "Look, there's Mary. Unmarried, pregnant. Can you believe it? And there's her fiancé, Joseph. Says he's not responsible. Yeah, right."
Family stress, right from the start. We don't know what kinds of problems Jesus and his family had while he was growing up, because the Bible doesn't address them. (But we do know he had four brothers and at least three sisters [Mark 6:3], so you can bet there were arguments: "Mom! James stole my sandals again!")
We also know there were some family problems when Jesus was an adult. For instance, when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth to preach, the people threw him out of town, and his family may have been partly to blame. Said Jesus, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor" (Mark 6:4).
We also know Jesus' brothers "did not believe in him" (John 7:5), and that his family questioned his sanity, saying, "He is out of his mind" (Mark 3:21).
Yes, Jesus knew very well that families could cause pain. He also knew families would fight, and that he might be the cause of it: "Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three" (Luke 12:51-52). Jesus also said, "If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand" (Mark 3:25). The Living Bible puts it this way: "A home filled with strife and division destroys itself."
Does that sound like your family? Hurting families have been around a long time. History's first couple argued, disobeyed God, and got kicked out of paradise. Later, their two sons fought to the point where one murdered the other. Talk about family strife.
The Old Testament is full of stories of families in conflict and pain, stories that didn't always have happy endings. But one of them did end happily, and we can learn something from it.
Joseph was the youngest of 12 brothers. When he was 17, Joseph had a dream about being a king, and that his family would someday bow to him. He told them about it, and of course, everybody got ticked off—so much that Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery.
You probably know the rest of the story. Joseph eventually became Pharaoh's right-hand man, practically the ruler of Egypt. When there was a famine, his brothers came begging for food. Amazingly, Joseph showed mercy, and the family was restored.
But why? Because Joseph kept his eyes on God. His family had hurt him deeply, but he knew God had a plan, and that God could heal his pain. He later told his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good …" (Genesis 50:20).
Jesus undoubtedly knew the story of Joseph and his family. He also knew family stories that didn't have such happy endings. But Jesus knew that no matter what, his heavenly father was always to be trusted. Why? Because God always keeps his promises, promises that reflect his great love for us. After all, we are his children: "I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters" (2 Corinthians 6:18).
God, our perfect father, loves us with a love that Jesus describes as:
1. Providing: [The birds] do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable than they? (Matthew 6:26)
2. Understanding: Your Father knows what you need before you ask. (Matthew 6:8)
3. Giving: …How much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:11)
4. Forgiving: While he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20)
These are just a few pictures of perfect love. Still, God never said life would be easy, not as long as we're living on this earth and not as long as there are divorces, custody battles, court cases and stepfamily problems. Pain and heartache are inevitable. But that's when God is nearest to us: "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted" (Psalm 34:18).
Someday, when we all get to heaven, our family problems will disappear. Just think: All of us under one big roof. And no fighting. The Ultimate Family.
"In my Father's house are many rooms," Jesus tells us. "I am going there to prepare a place for you. … I will come back and take you to be with me" (John 14:2-3).
Till then, know that he is close. Know that he cares. Know that his love is constant and unchanging. And know that, till you get to heaven, your heavenly father "will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:19).
Jesus, who knew all about hurting families, knew the truth of those words, and he clung to that truth. And so can we.
Written by Mark Moring