“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
There was a story going round in Christian circles a few years ago about a dream that someone had had, of people sitting at a long table covered in food, but with knives and forks that were too long to actually get the food into their mouths. The solution was simple: they just fed each other. It’s a lovely illustration of how God wants us to live: not for ourselves, but for others. I saw an illustration of this principle operating in the natural world the other day, when I had the pleasure of watching these two spoonbills recently at a nature reserve near Leeds in the UK. Their beaks are too long to preen their own necks, so they preen each other’s.
After teaching the crowds with the parables of the Sower and the revealed light, Jesus says this: “Therefore take heed how you hear. For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Luke 8: 18). Immediately after that He illustrates exactly what he meant by that. Luke’s account continues: “Then His mother and brothers came to Him, and could not approach Him because of the crowd. And it was told Him by some, who said, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered and said to them, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (vs 19-21)
The sequence here is not random: He told the parable of the Sower at that moment, following it with the illustration of the revealed light, because He knew in His Spirit what was going to happen next. We can either hear actively or passively. When we hear actively –“with a noble and good heart”- we do the sayings of Jesus and we bear fruit. Choose your metaphor: our talent multiplies; our seed bears fruit; our light shines; the river flows. When we hear passively, like someone who looks in the mirror and turns away (see James 1:24), we bury our talent in the ground, we hide our light under a bushel, our seed has no root or is choked with thorns, our river is silted up. The Greek word “kalos”, translated here as “noble,” has a strong sense of ‘goodness in action.’ One of the top-level Strong’s definitions is “good, excellent in its nature and characteristics, and therefore well adapted to its ends.” A good and noble heart is a heart with integrity; the opposite of the heart of the hypocrites, of whom God says they “draw near to Me with their mouths and honour Me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me.” (Matt 15:8). The fruitful heart, the light that shines so others may see it, is the one that will “hear the word of God and do it.”
James 1:17 tells us that “All good and perfect gifts come down from the Father of Lights.” I have written about the Father’s waterfall here: the Father calls us to it so that we can pass on what we have received. This chapter of Luke carries on with a sequence of miracles; illustrations of faith in action beginning with Jesus calming the storm and culminating in the raising of Jairus’s daughter. Our spoons are for sharing. The Gospel is “for babes:” it might not be easy, but it’s simple. Carry your cross and walk after the Spirit who always wants to give life, and don’t walk after the flesh that always wants to hang onto it. We all want to see Jesus, but we stay outside unless we do what He says. And when we do, and those seeds of His take root in a noble and good heart, anything can happen.