Jesus’ Brothers

By Pastor Teck Uy

Contrary to the belief of many, Mary did not remain a virgin after the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus had brothers and sisters because Mary and Joseph had consummated their marriage thereafter. But how would it feel to have Jesus as a brother? Did his brothers believe in him after seeing the things that he did growing up as a young boy? Well, the lamentation of Jesus, being a member of Mary and Joseph’s family, was fully expressed when he said, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home” (Matt. 13:57). Even the people from his hometown did not believe in him, so he did not do many miracles there.

Although we are not given the full account of how he was treated at home by his brothers, some of the recorded conversations he had with his brothers and his mother, Mary, give us a glimpse of how he lived his life at home. On one occasion, when the Feast of Tabernacles was near, his brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world” (John 7:3-4). When plainly reading these statements, it seems that the brothers were encouraging Jesus to go public with his ministry. However, the next verse tells us something else, saying, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). Those words then were not sincerely said by his brothers but were meant to mock him.

Their unbelief became extreme when his brothers, and even Mary, tried to intervene in his ministry. One day when he was busy ministering to the people and did not even have the time to eat, we are told, “When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:21). They considered Jesus crazy for doing what he was doing. When Jesus’ attention was called about his mother and brothers looking for him, Jesus said, “‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother” (Mark 3:33-35). In saying this, Jesus emphasized a higher relationship that we must have – relationship with God. Our obedience to God’s commandments makes us brothers and sisters.

But why did his brothers did not believe in him when they had seen all that Jesus was doing? The apostle Paul gave us a better understanding of the reason when he said, “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” (2 Cor 4:4). Unless we go up to the spiritual realm and believe in God, we will never appreciate the works of the Lord Jesus Christ because spiritual things are spiritually discerned. Besides, there is a saying that goes “familiarity breeds contempt.” Because they were Jesus’ brothers they got so familiar with him that they did not accord to him proper respect and honor. It is akin to what we are experiencing in our own families where we can be very good and civil when we are dealing with people outside of the family but we tend to be rude and disrespectful when interacting with the members of our own family.

But because his brothers witnessed Jesus offer the ultimate sacrifice for sin by dying on the cross, they eventually had a change of heart. In the Book of Acts we are told that Mary and Jesus’ brothers joined the group of believers in constant prayers in the upper room (Acts 1:14). His brother James eventually became one of the pillars of the church. It was James who presided the Jerusalem Council mentioned in Acts 15. Even the apostle Paul emphasized the good standing of James when, on his visit to Jerusalem, he said, “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother” (Gal. 1:19).

This conversion of Jesus’ brothers should give us hope as we also deal with our own loved ones. They might not believe the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ now as we share this to them, but let us persevere. When they see that we are fully committed to the Lord, they too will be convinced that we are sincere about our faith. Had Jesus chose not to die on the cross, his own brothers will be the first to mock him even more and they will never believe. But because Jesus said, “Father, may your will be done” and submitted to the will of the father, his brothers became his followers. Therefore, let us persevere in our walk with the Lord and be a good witness to our loved ones that they too may be saved.  Praise the Lord!