The Kingdom does not come as we expect. “We wish to see a sign,” we say—when all along he has given sign after sign, all more than adequate. There is something deadly wrong with our generation, too self-absorbed to recognize this enfleshed Deity walking the dusty paths with us. The Kingdom was supposed to fit our plans and agendas, but instead it is disruptive. He calls for life-change, for others-centeredness, for repentance. But it is too uncomfortable to repent; we’d rather wait around for a sign. We’re not budging until we have reason to. And the pagans of the past will condemn us for such hardness…
Matthew 12:38-50 NRSV
Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth.
“The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here! The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here!
“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through waterless regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and live there; and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So will it be also with this evil generation.”
While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.”
But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”
And then he has the audacity to redefine family. “Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” It’s shameful, despicable behavior; good Jewish boys should know better. But the Kingdom doesn’t fit our stereotypes of niceness and respectability. At the core is not biological affection, genetic connection, but an all-encompassing Love transcending normal human boundaries. “Family” and “friendship” are based in right relation to God, not natural relations with each other.
For there is only one nobility: to do the will of God. This type of noble birth is far better than that one, and it’s the genuine article.
—St. John Chrysostom (347-407)
Homilies on Matthew 44.1