I just can’t imagine doing this, so I always try to explain it away by telling myself that the details of their reluctance are just left out. That they dithered and hesitated and asked him, “But who will take care of…?” And, indeed, who did take care of? Someone had to. Jewish Law is very clear about that, with its insistence on providing for widows and orphans and all its rules about marriage and patrimony, which governed how one’s children would be provided for after they left home. Jesus himself, as he was dying, transferred his responsibility for his mom as firstborn to his best friend John.
I always have wondered why his younger brothers—James, Joseph, Judas, or Simon (Mark 6:3)—didn’t look after Mary after Jesus’ death. While they are decidedly skeptical of Jesus’ divinity and purpose early on (John 7:5), that doesn’t mean they were necessarily scumbags, and at least one of them, James, later became a leader in the early church. Why didn’t they assume care for their own mom?
The closer I look at it, the more familiar it all looks to me. Siblings unequally invested in the care of their aging parents. Perhaps fighting about it, as many families do. “Don’t you see I have my own family to take care of?” I can imagine Simon or Joseph railing. Or Judas or James saying to Jesus, “It’s all very well for you to talk about Mom’s needs. You don’t have anyone else who needs you. You don’t even have a job!”
And those men who followed Jesus. In their twenties or thirties, probably, as he was. Surely married by then and fathers. Employed. Landowners perhaps.
But, as Peter points out, “We have left everything to follow you!” (Mark 10: 28). Everything they had. Everything they cared about until that moment, when a wifeless, childrenless, fieldless, homeless man beckoned. How did they convince themselves to do that? And how did they feel about it after they did?
And what happened to the families they left behind to follow Jesus? There’s virtually no mention in the gospels of the wives and children and fields and aging parents that Jesus commends his disciples for leaving behind (Mark 10:29).
Anyway, that’s what I’ve been thinking about as I read about Jesus gathering up his followers from around where he lived. What that would have meant.