Matthew 23:9, Call No One Father

And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.

//Some of Jesus’ teachings can leave us bewildered. Call no one father? Doesn’t this contradict the teaching to respect your parents?

It helps to picture the patriarchal society in which Jesus was born. One’s identity was tied to the family clan. Jesus had four brothers and an unknown number of sisters, and these siblings were probably married and forming families of their own. You can imagine that in a small village like Nazareth, Jesus’ family could represent a large portion of the population. Family provided protection, identification, and belonging.

At the pinnacle of the family was the father figure, and this person had absolute authority. Everyone owed him obedience and loyalty. He arranged marriages, he decided the duties of the household, he defined everyone’s place. This seems to have irked Jesus as one more instance of unnecessary control. Was Jesus slated by his father to marry, and if so, what happened to his designated wife? We don’t know. As risky as it was to break ties with family, Jesus did just that. God alone, says Jesus, should direct our lives to this degree.

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