The Jesus Family Rift

Has your family ever had a rift that prevented members from loving each other? As a retired psychotherapist, I am always surprised at how many families have had or still have interfamily conflicts. Family rifts are more common than one might think. Fact is, it seems to be the rare family that doesn’t have conflict in its history.

In my family, the rift was caused by my sister’s second husband, who decided that I had stolen money from a family investment. I denied it vehemently, and soon he filed a $2 million lawsuit against me and my elderly parents. After a very expensive investigation by a certified public accountant, which found nothing amiss, the lawsuit was dropped, and my sister’s husband became an “ex.” However, it took over ten years for my sister to say she was sorry. Our parents never heard it.

As I suggested in last week’s blog, when Jesus went to preach in his hometown of Nazareth, he said or did something that made his fellow townies “filled with rage” (Luke 4:28). Whatever it was, they wanted to kill him. That’s when Jesus said that no prophet is welcomed on his home turf. Nothing more is said in Matthew, Mark, or Luke (called the Synoptic or similar Gospels) about Jesus’s family until many chapters later, when all three writers tell an almost identical story.

Jesus was preaching someplace close to the Sea of Galilee. Each Gospel tells us that a large crowd from all over the region came to hear him. Matthew 12:46 shares that while Jesus was speaking, his mother and brothers showed up outside, wanting to speak with him. Someone must have whispered to Jesus, “Look, your mother and brothers are standing outside” (Matthew 12: 47; italics mine). (In November 2017, my wife and I visited Capernaum, where archaeologists have excavated a rather large synagogue from Jesus’s era. Perhaps Jesus was preaching to the crowd inside a similar synagogue while his family waited outside.)

The arrival of his family elicited a very interesting response from Jesus. He ignored their presence and asked the crowd, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then, pointing to his disciples, he stated, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49–50). I call this a public insult.

I have no doubt that Jesus wanted nothing more to do with his family, and we hear nothing more about Mary or his brothers in the Synoptic Gospels.

However, many folks are quick to point out that in the Gospel of John, Mary was at Jesus’s crucifixion. Michelangelo even sculpted a pieced called the Pietà showing Mary holding Jesus in her lap after he was crucified. But the fourth Gospel, John, is not about the true life of Jesus. John is full of allegories and metaphors explaining what the school of John thought and taught. In every story in John, one must practice midrash, or interpretation, to find the true meaning.

In real life back then, the Roman soldiers would have never allowed Jesus’s mother, family, or friends to get close to him before, during, or after the crucifixion. Remember, Jesus was crucified because a few Jewish leaders claimed that Jesus claimed that he was a king, which he never did. Emperor Tiberius didn’t like his subjects doing that. So, they crucified Jesus.

I think the Pietà is great art, and I even had a small replica years ago. But some twenty years ago, I realized that such a tender, loving scene never happened.

I am very happy that my sister and I finally reconciled. Too bad Jesus never had that opportunity.

Are any of your family in conflict? Reconcile before death do you part.

3 thoughts on “The Jesus Family Rift”

  1. My family has always been very close. My parents were alcoholics and I spent twenty five years trying to keep them sober and went to sober them up and get them to eat again time after time. But I never gave up on them. I used to tell them “I love you both very much but you are ruining your lives.”

    Finally they did stop drinking and it was a very hard thing to do. In fact, I had to buy some liquor to taper my mom out before her withdrawal symptoms killed her. But she finally stopped drinking altogether. She went back to church and took my two aunts with her.

    My dad developed cancer soon after and died. But they had stopped drinking.

    Once my mom said to me that she has wasted her entire life. I disagreed with her. A dear friend of mine, Elnora, was an alcoholic too. She told me her parents had put her through detox three times and she could not stop drinking. I told her about my mother’s experience and she said “if your mother did it, I can do it” and she never drank again. I told my mother she had been the inspiration for Elnora’s recovery…so she had not wasted her life.

    We all remained very close our entire lives. My children to this day remain very close to me. We have not ever been alienated.

  2. I believe that my father, and my mother due to having to go along with his wishes, emotionally abused me and my siblings all through our lives. Because my mother did not fight him, I feel that I was emotionally abused by her. When I got separated from my ex-husband (who was just as emotionally abusive and controlling as my father), by father forbade me to stay and eat at my parents house when I, and my 2 babies flew up there for Thanksgiving. I told them that I would not see them again until they set foot in my house. It took 4 years before they were willing to see me. A therapist said that my father, who hated his mother for divorcing his dad and later his step dad, but was too afraid of his mother to confess his hatred, directed his pent up anger towards his mother at me and my children. Later we would all get together for family dinners and celebrations, and I even discussed the issue with my parents, but honestly, I do not think that my parents and myself ever reconciled emotionally. Every once in a while, the little girl in me rises up and feels hurt and abandoned.

  3. My nephew is an estate attorney and he echoes your conclusion–at least in so far as money is at stake– there is more rift than peace! Reefa


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