Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you." He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice." (Luke 8:20-21)This illustrates how Jesus saw himself and others. And he also clarifies the nature of our identity and our real family.
The temporary relationships of this world
Jesus is clearly stating here that he did not give much value to the temporary relationships of the physical body. Why not?
Because Jesus clearly taught that we are not these physical bodies. He taught that they are temporary shells covering the spirit-person who dwells within.
It might be like confusing a car's driver with the car that he is driving. Let's say we drove a Chevy Camaro to work, and our workmates greeted us as "Chevy Camaro" and then we called them "Ford F150" or "Dodge Dart". Would that be accurate?
No. That would be nuts. Because the car we drove to work is only our temporary possession. We might buy a new car the next day. And because we can buy a new car and sell our car or our car can get wrecked or otherwise break down and we get rid of it, we do not confuse ourselves with our car.
Yet this is precisely what takes place in the physical world due to its illusory nature as designed by the Supreme Being. Even though we can logically and scientifically establish that we aren't these physical bodies, we still identify with them. We still confuse ourselves with them. (Learn more about the scientific evidence of our identity here.)
We know scientifically that every cell in the body dies within a few years and is replaced, and within five years every atom and molecule in the body is replaced by new ones. Our body is thus fluid - it is changing. The body we occupied five years ago is gone, and today we occupy another body. It is like watching a waterfall - its water is always changing but we see it as the same waterfall.
Scientists have also documented hundreds of thousands of case studies of clinical death - so we scientifically know that we leave our bodies at the time of death.
Yet still we confuse ourselves with these bodies, just as a person might confuse themselves with their car.
Jesus did not. He clearly knew his identity as spiritual. Just consider these other statements by Jesus, about Jesus and events surrounding Jesus' teachings:
"Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41 and Mark 14:38)
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (Luke 23:46)
And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matt. 27:50)
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:30)
Then he [a criminal who was crucified next to Jesus] said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:43)
Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? (Mark 2:8)
Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. (Luke 8:55)
"Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit." (John 3:6)
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear." (Luke 12:22)
"Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." (Luke 17:37)
"Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matt. 10:28)This last statement by Jesus indicates clearly that the soul - the spirit-person - is eternal ("cannot kill the soul") while the existence of the body and the soul - the combination of the two - exists solely in the physical world ("hell").
Here is another version of this statement, essentially saying the same thing:
"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him." (Luke 12:4-5)Stephen, one of Jesus' disciples said:
While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." (Act 7:59)Other followers of Jesus mirrored this understanding:
"What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?" (Romans 7:243)
"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body." (1Corinth 4:10)
"We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it." (2Corinth. 5:8)These clearly indicate that Jesus and his early followers did not teach materialism. Jesus did not teach his students to become focused upon the physical body and the various attractions and relationships connected to the physical body. And he himself was not attached to the relationships of the physical body.
Some who followed Jesus even went as far as to say that to follow Jesus one must be celibate and have no family. Paul in fact taught this and debated James about it. While Jesus taught asceticism - the withdrawal of seeking physical pleasures - he accepted the need for some to have children - otherwise there would be no next generation.
While Jesus certainly respected his parents and family members - he was seeing everyone on the level of their true identity: Their spiritual identity.
Each of us has a unique spiritual identity. This is independent of the sex of the physical body, the age of the physical body and the family of the physical body. As the physical body develops, we develop an attachment to it and to its family. Yet underneath the physical body lies our spiritual self. This is our actual identity.
The reality is that all of us are family members. Every spirit-person is created by the Supreme Being. This means all God's children are in fact our family members.
Some of us, however, want to deny our family. We want to deny the Patriarch of our family - the Supreme Being. This is why we are here in the physical world. We are hiding out from God.
And this is why God programmed the physical world so that we would falsely identify with these bodies: So that we could avoid Him. We could deny Him. We could ignore Him.
Jesus was thus taking the aspect of "family" one step further, defining his family members as not only the spirit-person-children created by God - but as those who recognize their relationship as one of God's loving caregivers.
Yes, each of us is a servant. This is our original position and identity. We are not masters. We are not dominators. We are dominated. We can know this by the fact that while we want to control things, every event is ultimately out of our control.
We can easily tell we are not in control here. We cannot control the weather. We cannot control others. We cannot control aging, disease, the environment. Nothing is within our absolute control.
We might be able to make choices about our direction, but as once written by the poet Ludovico Ariosto, "man proposes and God disposes."
Our limited range of control
The only real control we have is our innate will - founded upon our ability to choose whether we want to be God's servant or be self-serving - the latter of which converts into becoming the servant of this physical body and the physical world. This is really not control so much as it is freedom of choice: We have the freedom to love God or not. This is because love requires freedom.
But since we have no other control, once we make the choice one way or another, our path will draw out according to our inclinations. Should we elect to be self-serving, we are subject to the laws and consequences of the physical world.
But should we elect to serve the Supreme Being, we will become fulfilled and complete. Our path will be drawn out according to our inclinations towards pleasing our Best Friend and Eternal Companion, God.
Those who have made that choice to resume their innate identity as caregivers of the Supreme Being find a true family amongst those who share this relationship. This is the real family that Jesus is speaking of.
And this is the real family we are always innately seeking here as we search for happy family relationships - whether it be finding a spouse and having children or making peace with our parents.
Our family of the physical world may seem like it provides "home" for us, but this is an illusion. Like our physical bodies, the physical bodies of our family members are also temporary, and as those bodies die, the family relationships die with them. In other words, the family relationship is temporary. It is like the relationship between two sticks that happen to get connected while floating downstream. As soon as they hit a rock in the stream, they separate.
In the same way, our physical family relationships are temporary. A connection with a family member might continue into the next life in one respect or another - but because the body dies, that relationship of mother, father, brother, sister or otherwise will not continue.
This doesn't mean that Jesus rejected the family of his physical body. Nor was he preaching that we should not respect our parents and give respect to our family members. And certainly he illustrated that when the mother of Jesus' body - Mary - along with multiple brothers of Jesus' body - would follow Jesus to different towns and attend his lectures as we see in the text above. Jesus did not reject them. He simply saw them as they were - spiritual beings.
James was a disciple
And James - the older brother of Jesus' body - was one of Jesus' disciples. This emphatically illustrates that Jesus nor Jesus' brother identified with their physical body. If they saw themselves as the physical body then James would not be accepting Jesus' as his teacher.
But because James became the disciple of Jesus we know that neither accepted their identity as being the physical body - as brothers. Both accepted them is the spirit-person within the body.
They also accepted that one spirit-person may be more advanced - more evolved - than another spirit-person. This relates directly to their respective relationships with the Supreme Being.
Jesus is in the perfected state. He was completely absorbed in his relationship with the Supreme Being as God's servant. Jesus admitted this clearly:
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work." (John 4:34)
"For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of Him who sent me." (John 6:38)These statements and many others indicate that Jesus was God's loving servant. Someone who does the will of another is serving that person. Now if they do that person's will voluntarily, without indentation or expectation of reward, then they are lovingly serving that person. They are doing that service because they care for the person. This is a caregiver.
While none of us can be as exalted as Jesus in his position as God's perfect loving servant, we too can become one of God's servants. This is why Jesus took on students and why he was teaching, and why he says "those who hear God's word and put it in practice." Jesus is saying that we each have the ability to hear from God's representative and put those teachings into practical service. In this way, we each have the opportunity to return to our natural loving service relationship with God.
The secret ingredient is love.
We have to come to know God - be introduced to Him - and then fall in love with Him. This is the 'secret sauce' that Jesus really taught, evidenced by his most important instruction:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)