Sonship, part 18: Jesus and care of parents
Jesus Himself had nothing but a scathing rebuke for some of the scribes and Pharisees who were criticizing Him because some of His followers did not wash their hands before eating. The hand washing was not from the law of Moses, but was prescribed by the traditions of the elders. Jesus then uses this opportunity to throw their hypocrisy back in their faces concerning their traditions as regarding caring for parents.
Mark 7:6 He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.
7 Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.
8 For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do.
9 And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.
10 For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death:
11 But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free.
12 And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother;
13 Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
In other words, Jesus was telling them that “this is just one example of your con games. You hypocrites do many things like this.” Let me explain what was going on here. Moses set forth God’s fifth commandment: honor your parents, and that included caring for them in their old age and infirmity. There was also a provision in the Mosaic Law covenant that people could make non-bloody sacrifices and offerings to God.
A man could dedicate a field to God; he could dedicate a portion of his wealth to God. This was not talking about the tithe, which was obligatory. The tithe was the firstfruits of a man’s labor, which were always dedicated to God. This is talking about gifts over and above the tithe.
But these scoundrels had come up with a scam. They were telling people that instead of using some of their after-tithe money to take care of their parents as God’s law required, that they could simply tell their parents:
“Sorry, mom and pop, I have given my extra money to Ga-a-a-awd’s work. Yeah, I know, it could have really helped you out in your need, but that’s how it goes. Seek the kingdom of heaven first, you know.”
According to Jesus, this is hypocrisy. They can quote the Bible alright: the word is on their lips; they honor God with their lips; but their heart is far from God.
Gee, I wonder if there are any Pharisees in pulpits today, or disguised as Christian ministries who do the same thing? We won’t name names. But I am sure that as we think about it, we will find the same abominable scams and con artistry going on under the guise of piety and charity today.
How many young or middle-aged Christian couples hear pleas from their ministers or pleas from the TV evangelists to “plant a seed of faith with your ‘Corban’—your gift of money, to save the chi-i-i-i-ldren in Ethiopia,” or whatever the fundraising pitch is for this week—and all the while in reality, this couple’s parents are struggling to keep food on the table and keep the electric bill paid. Dare they tell their parents we’re using our extra cash for “the Lord’s work?”! Do we want to do a good work for the Lord? Then let us take care of our parents first. Let us be faithful in the small things first—that is seeking the kingdom of heaven first!
Jesus Himself illustrated the responsibility of the firstborn right in His own home as well. Jesus, being the firstborn son, assumed, after the death of Joseph, the responsibility to head the family and to care for his mother Mary. Now notice what happens in His last moments on the cross:
John 19:25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene.
26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son!
27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home.
Scholars have pointed out that even criminals who are about to be executed by the state have rights, chief among them, to give an oral last will and testament. So Jesus, as a dying criminal, with the authority He possessed as the firstborn and head of the household, made a legal declaration here that the care of his mother Mary was now handed over to his beloved disciple, John. Some might wonder why Jesus didn’t let it devolve to his next eldest step-brother James. Some have speculated that Jesus didn’t trust James to do the job. After all, where was he now at Jesus’ last hour? Well, that’s a possibility, but my own opinion is that Jesus (being God and all), knew that James would be martyred in about the year 62 A.D., according to Josephus, and that John the Beloved would be around long enough to outlive Jesus’ mother Mary.
In any event, the point is that Jesus carried out all His responsibilities, and even though He was doing the great work as the Savior of the world, He still did not neglect the “little things” like arranging for the care of his own mother. Can we not do the same? (To be continued.)