16 Jesus said,”No one who has lit a lamp covers it with a bowl or puts it under a bed; no, he puts it on a stand; so that those coming in may see the light. 17 For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nothing is covered up that will not be known and come out into the open. 18 Pay attention, then, to how you hear! For anyone who has something will be given more; but from anyone who has nothing, even what he seems to have will be taken away.”
19 Then Yeshua’s mother and brothers came to see him, but they couldn’t get near him because of the crowd. 20 It was reported to him, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside and want to see you.” 21 But he gave them this answer: “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s message and act on it!”
The theme of the explanation of the parable of the sower is “hearing and acting on Jesus’ message. The person who hears and obeys, is compared to someone who has lit a lamp and placed it where all can see. The light of Jesus’ message is not to be concealed by mere belief but revealed by obedient action. For the movement of the kingdom is towards greater and clearer revelation through those who act according to its commands. Obedient hearing will be rewarded by greater understanding of and responsibility for God’s goodness in the world. Those who fail to act on the message will lose the shallow faith they have.
Jesus’ mother and brothers are introduced only to be dismissed in favour of the wider family of those who hear the message and act upon it.There is no suggestion here, although there is in Mark’s gospel, that Jesus’ family are motivated by social shame and have come to take him home. Here they are shown to have no special claim on Jesus, who wants natural families to be replaced by the greater family of God’s kingdom.
The most binding loyalty of Jewish society, the family, is demoted by Jesus in favour of loyalty to the community of faithful people. Those whose families have been torn apart by cult membership may feel critical of Jesus in this matter. People who demand greater loyalty than the family have often been manipulative and destructive. In response I can only argue that Jesus’ asked for communal obedience to God’s goodness and did not demand privilege for himself or the leaders of his community. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek has drawn attention to this aspect of Jesus’ teaching, noting that it is characteristic of revolutionary movements that seek a radical change of societal priorities. He goes so far as to describe Jesus’ anti-familial words as his kind of terrorism. Zizek, like Jesus, is given to exaggeration for effect. But he is right to note that Jesus’ family values wouldn’t go down too well with middle class people, and that his teaching projects the relationships of the family on to a new, world -wide community of brothers and sisters under the one divine father.