Are we to conclude that the true follower of Jesus must be misunderstood by his family and disown his family? Well, if we do, then we must re-evaluate our considerations of Christianity. There must be other clues in the New Testament to help us understand this Christian-family relation.
The carryover of Biblical family life into ours is almost nil, so we are unable to make any comparisons. There are practically no pictures of New Testament family life given to us. There seems to have been as much controversy over the Fifth Commandment in Jesus’s time as there is over the Fifth Amendment in our times. The legalism of the Jews had progressed to the point that they considered the fulfilling of a vow more important than all other responsibilities. For example, if a Jew made a vow to give a large portion of his wealth to the church, and hard times came on, he might not be able to keep his pledge. It was more honorable for him to keep his vow and let his parents suffer from want than to revise his pledge.
This brings forth the comment from Jesus that spiritual values are more important than legal values. While we may want to pass right over this point we are making as one which has no present-day application, we should stop a moment to see. Of course in this day and time, where religious obligations do not conform rigidly to a law, there is less opportunity and less need for a person to make a vow to perform certain acts. But do we not find that there are people who will hide behind an outward display of obligation to avoid distasteful duties and obligations at home? Can you not think of women you have known who let their families suffer because they have been an officer in every church organization? Or fathers who didn’t have time to be a father to their family because of the Men’s Club, and the Church bowling team or some committee that kept them from home most every night? It was Jesus’s conviction that at every point human need was more important than legal regulations or religious regulations. Charles Dickens once wrote that a 19th century women’s circle that was so interested in the natives of a foreign country that they took no responsibility at home.
We have said that there was a division between Jesus and his family. But let us not leave the impression that Jesus’s family was not concerned for him. For while they thought he was out of his mind, they wanted to get him out of the public gaze and protect him from the public. Furthermore, his family never did abandon him, and even at the cross, his mother was present. In addition, James, his brother, became a leader in the Christian movement after the resurrection.