Is your family there for you?

Every fall, as I begin teaching a fresh new crop of students, I find out about how their families reacted to their coming to seminary to study to be therapists. The responses run the gamut.

Some families are 100% supportive. They believe in the student’s budding sense of vocation, and are excited for them.

Some are skeptical about the value of a seminary education, and worry whether the student will actually be able to make a living.

And some families object to the student’s choice and try to talk them out of it. “If you want to go to seminary, study to be a pastor,” they say, “but not a therapist.” Or: “If you want to go to graduate school, fine. I’ll even pay for it if you go to the state university. But if you go to a Christian school, don’t expect any help from me.”

You would hope that Jesus himself would have had an easier time of it with his family. After all, this is Jesus, right? Who else should be expected to have a “Christian family”? Mary, of course, knew full well of her firstborn’s true identity and calling. But she and Joseph had other children. Would Jesus’ brothers be supportive? Would they believe?

Apparently not.

We won’t come to the story until much later in our survey of the gospel of John. In chapter 7, John describes how Jesus’ brothers pressure him to go to Jerusalem, even though that would put him at risk. Why? They didn’t believe in him, and were probably mocking him (John 7:1-5).

In response, Jesus says, “My time has not yet come” (John 7:6, 8) — basically, the same response he gave to Mary about the shortage of wine. It’s that statement that ties the story in chapter 7 to the miracle in chapter 2, and makes me wonder about this little side note from John: “After this (i.e., the wedding in Cana and the miracle of water into wine), Jesus and his mother, his brothers, and his disciples went down to Capernaum and stayed there for a few days” (John 2:12, CEB).

I read this, and wonder: does that mean that Jesus’ brothers were also at the wedding? That’s the most natural reading of the text. And that also means they probably knew of the miracle.

And still, they didn’t believe.

As suggested in the previous post, the miracle at Cana was a quiet one; only a few people knew about it. But imagine with me for a moment: what if Jesus had had a publicist? He would have been told, “Look, Jesus, you’re wasting an opportunity. This is great stuff. More people need to know about what you did. You need to post it to your Facebook status; we’ll find a way to drive more traffic to your page. We’ll get you some interviews and media coverage. If you really want to change the world, this is what you have to do.”

In other words, the publicist would have given the Jesus the same kind of advice that his unbelieving brothers did (see John 7:3-4).

We need our families. Hopefully, we love our families. But they won’t always be there for us, and they won’t always affirm what we believe our calling to be. It was true of Jesus, and sometimes, it will be true of us as well.

We, of course, are fallible and self-deluding in a way that Jesus was not. We therefore need to be humble, honest, and thoughtful in how we listen to our families’ counsel.

But we shouldn’t be surprised if they don’t see things the same way.