Luke 8:19 Now Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. 20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

21 He replied, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.”

Did Jesus imply that His earthly mother and brothers were not His spiritual mother and brothers at this point in the gospel?

  • 1
    The question is : Why were they already not avidly following Jesus and sitting inside (first in the queue) hearing the word of God ?
    – Nigel J
    Jul 30, 2020 at 0:45
  • Curiosity - where are you sourcing the term, or concept of ‘spiritual mother’ from?
    – Dave
    Jul 30, 2020 at 1:52
  • 1
    @NigelJ: It is uncommon for parents to follow their grown up children around. That's the point of growing up: to leave the parental house, and carve out a life of one's own.
    – Lucian
    Jul 30, 2020 at 4:19
  • Like the commenter above, I'm curious as to what a "spiritual mother" and "spiritual brothers" are. Jul 31, 2020 at 13:40
  • As for the wordings "spiritual mother" and "spiritual brothers", I didn't mean them as technical terms. I just meant them as opposite of "earthly".
    – user35953
    Jul 31, 2020 at 13:49

2 Answers 2


It needs not to interpret Jesus answer in Luke 8:21 literally nor spiritually. It is because the main context in Jesus reply is not the phrase "mother and brothers", it is "who hear God's word and put it into practice".

Let's believe the events in Luke 8 were chronological. Jesus told a parable of the seed. His disciples asked Jesus what was the meaning of the parable, Jesus replied

10 “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,

“‘though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand. (NIV)

The word "you" and "others" represent who were with him and who were not. So while they were still talking, Luke 8:20 read

20 Someone told him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you.”

That person who spoke should be "inside", when he said Jesus mother and brothers were "outside". That person should be one disciple with Jesus. Jesus took the opportunity and want them to know, "those who hear God's word and put it into practice" were those with him, and they would be as close as if His mother and brothers. The next scene was not written down in Luke, Jesus went out to receive His mother and brothers. Would you think He didn't? I believe Luke intentionally ended the event at Luke 8:21, was to made 8:21 more prominent to be observed.


Luke 8:20, 21 alludes to a deeply significant concept in the theology of the Bible and especially the NT. It is the basis of several other major teachings of the NT, namely, Adoption, Reconciliation, and Prioritization. Let me take these one at a time (but only briefly).


Literal adoption was used in both Hebrew (most notably Moses, Ex 1, 2, and Esther) and Roman societies as a means of providing heirs for those who could not have their own, or, providing protection for children deprived of parents by either death or poverty. It is the latter sense that the New Testament uses the term as a metaphor of a person becoming a “Son of God”. This idea is drawn from the Old Testament that discusses Israel’s adoption by God (Deut 14:1, Jer 31:9).

The idea of sinners being adopted as Sons of God occurs infrequently in the NT and only by Paul (Rom 8:15, 23, 9:4, Gal 4:5, Eph 1:5). However, Jesus appears to unmistakably allude to adoption in John 3:1-8 and 1:12, 13 where we are able to become children of God.

The metaphor of adoption is extended by the New Testament’s repeated idea of Christ being our brother (Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29) following adoption.


Reconciliation describes the process of reuniting an estranged family member. It is predicated on two Biblical assumptions that (a) Jesus is our brother (Heb 2:11-13, Ps 22:22, Isa 8:17, 18, Matt 12:48, 49, John 20:17, Rom 8:29), and (b) sin separates us from Jesus our brother (Isa 59:2, Gal 5:4, Eph 2:12, Ps 22:1, Eze 14:5, Jer 6:8). Reconciliation is found in only a few places but they, again, emphasise that atonement is God’s initiative without any input from us. In 2 Cor 5:18, 19 we find that Christ reconciled the world to Himself by “not counting our sins against us”. Rom 5:10, 11 teaches that sinners were reconciled to God by Christ’s death. Further, a comparison with v9 shows that justification and reconciliation are used in parallel.


Jesus was clearly teaching in Luke 8:20, 21 that His spiritual family now took priority/precedence over his biological family. He discusses a similar idea (using Hebrew hyperbole) in other places such as, Luke 14:26 -

“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be My disciple."

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