The Reluctant Brothers Who Didn’t Believe

As we’ve been talking about eyewitnesses around the life of Jesus, there is a small group that bears consideration. Think about his own brothers. They saw him every day growing up, and knew him well. The few glimpses we get of them suggest that they had concerns about their eldest brother. Mark 3:21 says that as Jesus’ ministry began to draw crowds, “[his family] went to take charge of him, for they said, he is out of his mind.” We know that the Pharisees expressed this opinion later on, since John in 10:20 they say “he is demon possessed and raving mad”, but it might seem surprising that his own brothers raised concerns about Jesus’ mental stability.

Brothers Familiarity

Since our knowledge about Jesus’ childhood is limited to a couple of short glimpses, I would offer a couple of opinions about why his brothers might have felt that way. First, we know from Luke’s gospel that twelve-year-old Jesus stayed behind in the Temple. When he interacted with the teachers, his exasperated parents were “astonished” at his display of wisdom (2:48). They “did not understand” that he had to be in his father’s house ( verse 50). This suggests that Jesus did not fully display his spiritual and intellectual gifts at home as a child, and lived as a fairly normal boy in a normal family.

Did Jesus Have Siblings?

There has been some degree of ecclesiastical debate about Jesus’ family. The Roman Catholic church believes that Mary remained a virgin for life. This is at odds with Scripture. Mark 6:3 specifically mentions his brothers “James, Joseph, Jude, and Simon”, as well as his sisters. Some believe that these were perhaps older children Joseph had from a previous marriage. Others theorize they were cousins of Jesus that Mary was raising. (Those assumptions are never explicitly stated in Scripture, however.)

While these positions allow for Mary to remain a virgin, nowhere in Scripture does it proclaim Mary to be such. In fact, Matthew 1:28 suggests otherwise, saying that Joseph “had no union with her until she gave birth” to Jesus. I’d also point out that Gospel writers had several Aramaic words for brother they could have used. But, several times they used adelphos, which refers to a brother out of the same womb. (It also meant born to the same parents). I mean no disrespect to Mary’s reputation, but it seems clear that Mary and Joseph had other children, and that Jesus grew up in a good-sized family.

Skeptics Close to Home

In any case, Jesus certainly displayed patience as he prepared for his mission (note his several references to “my hour is not yet come”). I have always thought that his baptism at the Jordan signified a change in the way Jesus displayed his anointing. It is very likely that even his brothers were therefore somewhat surprised by his sudden (awesome) display of wisdom and spiritual gifts when he began his ministry.

That’s probably why John 7 records this : “Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. His brothers therefore said to Him, “Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.” For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”

Early in his ministry, it seems pretty clear that Jesus’ family struggled with what to think about his preaching and his display of miraculous power, although as John pointed out, Mary had great confidence in her son’s ability to do something amazing at the wedding in Cana of Galilee…

But Jesus’ brothers, who tried to take him home from the gathering crowds, and also pushed him to go to the feast of Tabernacles, didn’t know what to think about him. Matthew 13:57 quotes Jesus as saying that a prophet is “without honor in his own house.” Perhaps familiarity breeds contempt, but it’s also quite probable that, having seen Jesus every day living a somewhat normal life, his brothers had established a baseline opinion about him that was just hard for them to expand.

So, Why Mention It?

So, why do I mention his unbelieving brothers, and what do they have to do with what you might think about Jesus? It’s because they didn’t stay unbelieving. Acts 1:14 says that after the crucifixion, the disciples waited in the upper room along with “Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” We know that his oldest brother James went on to be a respected leader in the Jerusalem church and wrote the epistle bearing his name. In Jude’s letter (written by the younger brother of Jesus), Jude identifies himself not as an apostle, but as “a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James” (Jude v 1).

 jesus' brothers did not believe

Even though they struggled at first with their eldest brother’s identity, at least two of Jesus’ brothers became strong believers as well as leaders in the early church. After the resurrection, they joined the growing throng of people who verified that Jesus was who he said he was. Jude said, “Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you eternal life” (verse 21).

James characterized himself as a “believer in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ” (James 2:1). If you’ve ever been skeptical about Jesus, consider the reaction of those who witnessed him in person, including his own brothers. Hear their testimony before you decide. James 5:9 says, “the judge is standing at the door”. Don’t reach a verdict before you have listened to all of the evidence.

The Brothers

They say familiarity can cloud a person’s view,
Obscuring what they see because of what they thought they knew.
Jesus’ brothers had concerns that he was going crazy,
Because they were so close to him, it made their vision hazy.
I’m sure they were concerned about the family’s reputation
When crowds began to follow him, and caused so much sensation!

But after their initial doubt had caused them such concern,
Apparently they realized how much they had to learn;
Both wound up following Jesus as they worked with one accord,
And served the early church with zeal. They even called him ‘Lord’!

If you still doubt who Jesus is, then read their words, and get this:
You wouldn’t judge a trial without assessing every witness.
His brothers may have started out as doubters who were rude,
But what they had to say about him can’t be misconstrued:
The letters offer testimony made by James, and Jude.
They both saw what they saw, and then they wrote it down because
They both believed that Jesus Christ was who he said he was.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

His Own People didn’t See Who Jesus Was. Could they have been TOO close?

It is a remarkable point of fact that the Hebrew leaders in first Century Jerusalem and even many of his contemporaries did not see clearly who Jesus was. He performed miracles, but not in front of everybody; he was foretold by the Hebrew Scriptures, but he wasn’t raised as a Pharisee or a Levite. So why didn’t the religious rock stars in Jerusalem see Jesus as the Son of God? Could they have been TOO close?

Was John Wrong?

“The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:9-11 NIV)
In these verses, John refers to Jesus as the light of the world, and points out that not only was he unrecognized by the world at large, but he was not even received by his own people. How did that happen? The old adage “familiarity breeds contempt” may explain part of it, since Mark 6:3 records his rejection in his own village; but there’s more to it than that.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:4 that there is an obvious reason why men fail to see: “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” It is hard to see without light. I think I still have a scar on my shin from the time I hit the corner of a coffee table trying to traverse an unfamiliar hotel room in the dark. When you can’t see, it can be painful. And you can go the wrong way.

Characteristics of Light

So here’s a simple intellectual principle from John 1: LIGHT HELPS YOU SEE. What is in your life that provides light for you? And what is it that shrouds you in darkness? What lifts you up, inspires you, and points your thinking towards discovery and truth? And what does the opposite of that? What points you to the light, and what happens in darkness?

It’s no accident that most violent crimes or despicable deeds are committed between midnight and four AM (although statistically many property crimes happen during the day, so be careful out there). Darkness provides cover for secret things. John 3:19 reminds us that “Men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” Here in his introduction, John says the Word was the light of men, but that it wasn’t recognized by world. That’s not too surprising, considering the Word did not share the world’s values or agenda. The world is a pretty self-absorbed, self-centered place. (Been shopping or driving lately?)

see-greed

Lack of Recognition

The Bible says that Satan holds sway over the earth, so really we should not be too surprised when we find selfishness or deceit all around us, whether in our politics or in our culture. Heck, we even find those things WITHIN us from time to time. Consider this: being involved in sinful selfishness has never really been a great way to find God… When you are focusing all your attention on worldly things, it’s pretty hard to see the things of the Spirit, so it’s hard to argue with John’s statement about the world not recognizing the light.

Maybe it’s a little more surprising that Jesus’ own people (chosen by God) did not receive him. They were a people who sacrificed for sin, read the prophets and prayed the Shema daily. They were taught to love God with all their heart and to keep the law, but when Jesus arrived they didn’t receive him much more than the world did. Maybe they were caught up in their own agenda, or were closer to the world than they were to their roots. Or maybe they were TOO religious, and saw God as a legal system instead of a person. It’s very easy to worship religion instead of God.

Two quick things: there is lots of stuff in this world that will keep you from seeing Jesus. Don’t miss what he did; don’t miss what he said. Second, we all sometimes assume that proximity or connection to something is enough. “I live in a Christian nation.” “I read about Jesus in vacation Bible school.” “I go to church.” “I know the Golden Rule”. Don’t let familiarity keep you from seeing Jesus. His own people missed him. Just because you know SOME thing about him, don’t assume you know HIM.

Missing the Tree Because You’re In the Forest

There are so many ways that you can miss the Gospel truth:
Assume, ignore, avoid– or chase the foolishness of youth.
Sometimes what you think you know can lead you far astray,
While sometimes you don’t see because there’s something in the way.
Looking at the forest, it’s the tree that no one sees,
Unless, of course you cannot see the forest for the trees…
You may have heard the saying, “familiarity breeds contempt”;
Be careful, then, what you assume, for you are not exempt.
Lies can shackle judgment, but it is the truth that frees us;
So why not take a deeper look at the guy who said that? Jesus.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread

Foundation: Build Your House Upon the Rock That Won’t Roll

He That Has Ears…

“Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his foundation on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.” (Matthew 7:24-27, NIV)

foundation

When it comes to building, everything in the structure depends on the foundation. Jesus knew about construction because he was a carpenter (Matthew 13:55, Mark 6:3), so his statement about what makes a house strong is more than just common sense, it is a professional opinion.

It’s What’s Underneath that Counts

If you think about a foundation, it is below the surface, something that you can’t really see, that doesn’t draw your attention. We spend far more time looking at the aesthetic details of a house than at its foundation; but if the foundation fails, all the designer details fail with it. If the house collapses, then the wall texture, the upgraded light fixtures and the crown molding have all become worthless. It’s not only true about construction, it’s also true about life.

Shifting Sands

Whatever philosophy or religion you choose to build upon better have a good foundation. In our world we build upon all sorts of foundations. Some of them are authentic, and some of them are not. Even when they are not true, people still build elaborate structures upon them, and then add many details to draw your eye away from the foundation. The shifting sands of falsehood may hold things up for a while, but Jesus said that such structures will ultimately fall. He also said, “Whoever hears these sayings of mine, and DOES THEM” is a wise person who has built on the rock.

Bedrock

What do you think of Jesus’ sayings? How many of them are you familiar with? Jesus taught somewhere between 33 and 60 parables, depending on who is keeping score and how you define and count them. They are all in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) although some scholars feel that the Good Shepherd and the Vine are parables in John’s Gospel as well. How many can you name? I know a lot of people who think they know about Jesus but couldn’t name more than four or five of his parables… Have you ever actually read them all? Have you ever thought about practicing what they preach?

I think if you give them careful consideration, you just might find that Jesus 1) was incredibly wise, and 2) offers a solid foundation upon which to build your life. Napoleon Bonaparte is reported to have said this: ““Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and myself founded empires; but on what foundation did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded an empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”

History proves that Napoleon was right. Those empires are all gone, swept away by the shifting sands of time and deceit. The Kingdom of God remains, secure upon the rock. Jesus said, (Matt 24:35) “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall never pass away.” Did he tell the truth? So far, so good…

Foundation

Napoleon and Caesar both had armies to command,
But history shows their empires were just built on shifting sand.
Jesus recommended that we build upon his sayings,
When storms and wind descend and we can feel our structure swaying.
Know the things that Jesus taught, and what he had to say;
His words will stand forever, though all else will pass away.
Build a firm foundation on His message and His calling:
When trouble comes, His wisdom may just keep your house from falling.

To buy my latest book, Real People, Real Christmas: Thirty-one Days Discovering the Hidden Treasures of the Christmas Story, go here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1729034918/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
For Slaying Giants: Thirty Days with David, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Slaying-Giants-Thirty-Devotions-Ordinary/dp/172568327X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1535814431&sr=8-1&keywords=Slaying+Giants%3A+Thirty+Days+With+David
To buy my book, Beggar’s Bread, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Beggars-Bread-Devotions-Ordinary-Guy/dp/1535457392/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1473336800&sr=8-1&keywords=Beggar%27s+Bread