A photo capturing Jesus surrounded by a diverse group of people, symbolizing his belief that true family extends beyond blood ties and encompasses all who share a common love and faith.

Why Did Jesus Say ‘Who Is My Mother?’

The words of Jesus in the Bible often prompt deep reflection on family, priorities, and purpose. His potent question ‘Who is my mother?’ challenges us to ponder: What did Jesus mean when he asked this? If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Jesus was emphasizing spiritual relationships over earthly ties, even with his own family, in order to fulfill his divine mission.

In this comprehensive article, we’ll explore the context, significance, and lessons surrounding Jesus’ thought-provoking words about spiritual family vs. biological family.

The Context: Jesus’ Earthly Family

Mary’s Special Role

Mary, the mother of Jesus, played a unique and pivotal role in God’s plan of salvation. As a young, unmarried girl, she was chosen to bear the Messiah, miraculously conceiving Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-38).

Mary’s humble obedience and willingness to serve God, despite the potential social repercussions, set a powerful example of faith. Her divine motherhood is celebrated by many Christians, especially in the Catholic and Orthodox traditions.

Throughout Jesus’ life and ministry, Mary supported him, though she did not always understand his actions or words (Luke 2:19, 51). She was present at his crucifixion (John 19:25-27), a scene of anguish for any mother.

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, Mary remained a leader among his followers (Acts 1:14). Her legacy continues to inspire faith, sacrifice and devotion.

Jesus’ Upbringing and Siblings

Jesus was raised in the town of Nazareth by Mary and her husband Joseph, a carpenter (Matthew 13:55). Though conceived divinely, Jesus seems to have had a normal childhood and faced the same challenges as other children.

Several biblical passages mention Jesus having brothers and sisters (Matthew 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). Catholic tradition holds that these were Joseph’s children from a previous marriage, though others believe they were children of Mary and Joseph born after Jesus.

Some of the possible names of Jesus’ siblings are James, Joses, Judas and Simon (Mark 6:3).

Growing up with siblings and parents in a modest setting allowed Jesus to experience family life and responsibilities. He understood sibling dynamics and the give-and-take of family relationships. For over 30 years, Jesus lived in relative obscurity before beginning his public ministry around age 30.

The Bible gives few details about those early years. What we do know is that Jesus’ family and upbringing in Nazareth prepared the Messiah to relate to and identify with everyday people from all walks of life.

The Occasion: A House Too Crowded to Enter

Jesus was gaining immense popularity in his ministry. As he taught with authority and performed miracles, crowds gathered wherever he went. On one particular day, Jesus returned to the home of Peter in Capernaum, where he was staying (Mark 2:1).

When the people heard that Jesus was back, they flocked to the house in great numbers, packing into the home and spilling out into the streets.

The scene must have been chaotic. The small home was bursting at the seams with eager people jostling for position, trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus or hear his teaching. The commotion was likely quite loud, as people chattered excitedly amongst themselves about this rabbi from Nazareth.

Getting through the jam-packed crowd would have been nearly impossible.

Yet the draw of Jesus was so strong that people endured the discomfort and inconvenience just to be near him. His teaching and miracles sparked spiritual curiosity, hope, and enthusiasm that could not be contained by the walls of a house.

Though Jesus had chosen the home of his disciples as a place of retreat, the overcrowded scene highlights his immense appeal as a religious leader.

Jesus was probably accustomed to crowded scenes by this point in his ministry. Everywhere he went, enthusiastic crowds pressed in on him, eager for healing or teaching. Though the crowded house must have been uncomfortable, it also demonstrated the effectiveness of his public ministry in gathering interested followers.

This occasion sets the stage for a remarkable miracle that Jesus was about to perform for a paralyzed man. Though access to Jesus was difficult, the faith and determination of the man’s friends led them to find a creative way to bring him before Jesus for healing.

The Declaration: ‘Who Are My Mother and Brothers?’

Shocking Words

Jesus’ declaration that his true family were those who did God’s will came as a shock to those around him. When told that his mother and brothers were asking for him, Jesus responded, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48).

This seemed harsh, as family was so important in that culture.

Yet Jesus was making the point that spiritual relationships matter more than earthly ties. His true family were his disciples, who had left everything to follow him. Faith in God should come before even the closest family bonds.

A Matter of Priorities and Purpose

Jesus was focused on his God-given mission – to preach repentance and bring people into a right relationship with God. This took priority even over spending time with his own family members. As he poignantly stated, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34).

We too must consider our priorities in life. Serving God’s purposes should override the demands even of loved ones. Of course we still have family responsibilities, but our ultimate allegiance is to the Father.

The disciples proved to be Jesus’ true brothers and sisters, as those who do God’s will become part of his spiritual family. This remains the case today. As Jesus declared, “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:50).

Blood ties are less important than shared faith and purpose.

The Explanation: Defining Spiritual Family

Kinship in the Kingdom of God

In the passage where Jesus asks “Who is my mother? “, He is making an important distinction between earthly family ties and spiritual kinship in God’s kingdom (Mark 3:31-35). By broadening the definition of family beyond biological relations, Jesus elevated spiritual bonds above physical ones.

This was a radical concept in 1st century Jewish culture, which placed great importance on honoring parents and maintaining family ties.

Jesus was not diminishing the importance of loving one’s biological family. However, He asserted that devotion to God may sometimes require difficult choices that place spiritual commitments above earthly loyalties (Luke 14:26).

A key implication is that believers should prioritize their relationships within the family of God. This spiritual family consists of all those who do God’s will and follow Christ.

The early church embodied this new definition of family. Scripture refers to fellow believers as brothers and sisters. Christians are adopted into God’s household through faith (Romans 8:15-17). Forming committed relationships and community with other Christians is a key aspect of discipleship.

Implications for Discipleship

Jesus’ teaching to prioritize the spiritual family has several implications for discipleship and the Christian life today:

  • Church community provides spiritual nurturing and support on the journey of faith.
  • Spiritual mentorship accelerates Christian maturity and fruitfulness (Titus 2:2-8).
  • Serving other believers displays Christlike love (John 13:34-35).
  • Pursuing reconciliation protects the unity of God’s family (Matthew 5:23-24).
  • Laying down one’s life for fellow Christians shows the greatest love (1 John 3:16).

The Takeaway: Earthly Ties Are Fleeting

When Jesus asked the thought-provoking question “Who is my mother?” to his disciples (Matthew 12:48), he was making a profound point about the temporary nature of earthly ties compared to eternal spiritual connections.

As the Son of God, Jesus understood that his relationships on earth were fleeting, but his heavenly purpose was everlasting.

Earthly Relationships Are Temporary

Even the closest family bonds on earth do not last forever. Spouses pass away, parents die, children grow up and move on. As close as these ties can be, they are still temporal and one day will be severed through death or circumstance.

Jesus knew his physical time with his mother Mary and earthly family was limited.

In contrast, the spiritual ties believers have through Christ transcend this lifetime. When believers are adopted into God’s family through faith (Ephesians 1:5), they become brothers and sisters of Christ and children of God. This spiritual connection has eternal significance.

Kingdom Purpose Trumps Earthly Ties

Jesus also prioritized his God-given mission over earthly relationships. As the long-awaited Messiah, he had only a few years to preach, teach, serve, heal and prepare the way for God’s kingdom plan to provide redemption for mankind.

Although he cared for his mother and relatives, his ultimate purpose on earth was to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10).

As his disciples would also experience, following Christ requires putting him first, even above close loved ones (Luke 14:26). Jesus was demonstrating that his disciples must be willing to prioritize kingdom work over earthly ties.

One Day Believers Will Have New Bodies and Relationships

Jesus hinted that the aging process and death itself will one day end for those who follow him. While bodies currently waste away, in the future resurrection believers will be transformed, receiving imperishable spiritual bodies to live eternally (1 Corinthians 15:42-44).

We will then enjoy close relationships with God, Christ and other believers in the perfection of heaven.

So while earthly ties seem enduring, they fade. But the familial bonds born through faith in Christ will outlast this lifetime. All believers become part of the eternal family of God.


Jesus’ thought-provoking question ‘Who is my mother?’ elevates spiritual bonds above earthly relationships, as difficult as this may be. While subtly challenging deeply-rooted cultural norms, Jesus defines true family as those who do God’s will just as he did during his divine mission on earth.

In exploring the context, occasion, declaration, explanation and key lessons surrounding Jesus’ bold words, we gain insight into forming our deepest ties around spiritual kinship rather than mere bloodlines.

When we answer Jesus’ question for ourselves, it can profoundly shape our priorities and purpose.

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