ONCE the Great Teacher asked a surprising question. It was: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” (Matthew 12:48) Could you answer that question?— You probably know that the mother of Jesus was named Mary. But do you know the names of his brothers?— Did he have sisters too?—
The Bible says that Jesus’ brothers were named “James and Joseph and Simon and Judas.” And Jesus had sisters who were alive when he was preaching. Since Jesus was the firstborn, these were all younger than he was.—Matthew 13:55, 56; Luke 1:34, 35.
Were Jesus’ brothers also his disciples?— The Bible says that at first they were “not exercising faith in him.” (John 7:5) Later, however, James and Judas (also called Jude) became his disciples, and they even wrote books of the Bible. Do you know which books they wrote?— Yes, James and Jude.
Although Jesus’ sisters are not named in the Bible, we know that he had at least two. However, there could have been more. Did these sisters become his followers?— The Bible doesn’t say, so we don’t know. But do you know why Jesus asked the question, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?”— Let’s find out.
Jesus had been teaching his disciples when someone interrupted him to say: “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak to you.” So Jesus used the opportunity to teach an important lesson by asking that surprising question: “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” He extended his hand toward his disciples and answered it, exclaiming: “Look! My mother and my brothers!”
Then Jesus explained what he meant, saying: “Whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-50) This shows how close Jesus felt to his disciples. He was teaching us that his disciples were like real brothers, sisters, and mothers to him.
Who did Jesus explain were his brothers and sisters?
At that time Jesus’ own brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas—did not believe that Jesus was God’s Son. They must not have believed what the angel Gabriel had told their mother. (Luke 1:30-33) So they may have been mean to Jesus. Anyone who acts like that is not being a real brother or sister. Do you know of anyone who has been mean to his brother or sister?—
The Bible tells about Esau and Jacob and how Esau became so angry that he said: “I am going to kill Jacob my brother.” Their mother, Rebekah, was so afraid that she had Jacob sent away so that Esau could not kill him. (Genesis 27:41-46) However, many years later Esau changed, and he hugged and kissed Jacob.—Genesis 33:4.
In time, Jacob had 12 sons. But the older sons of Jacob didn’t love their younger brother Joseph. They were jealous of him because he was the favorite son of their father. So they sold him to slave traders who were on their way to Egypt. Then they told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild beast. (Genesis 37:23-36) Wasn’t that terrible?—
Later Joseph’s brothers were sorry for what they had done. So Joseph forgave them. Can you see how Joseph was like Jesus?— Jesus’ own apostles ran away when he was in trouble, and Peter even denied knowing him. Yet, like Joseph, Jesus forgave them all.
What lesson should we learn from what Cain did to Abel?
Then there are the two brothers Cain and Abel. We can learn a lesson from them too. God saw in Cain’s heart that he did not really love his brother. So God told Cain that he should change his ways. If Cain had really loved God, he would have paid attention. But he did not love God. One day Cain said to Abel: “Let us go over into the field.” Abel went along with Cain. While they were there in the field alone, Cain hit his brother so hard that he killed him.—Genesis 4:2-8.
The Bible tells us that there is a special lesson we should learn from that. Do you know what it is?— ‘This is the message which you have heard from the beginning: We should have love for one another; not like Cain, who came from the wicked one.’ So brothers and sisters should have love for one another. They should not be like Cain.—1 John 3:11, 12.
Why would it be bad to be like Cain?— Because the Bible says that he ‘came from the wicked one,’ Satan the Devil. Since Cain acted like the Devil, it was just as if the Devil was his father.
Do you see why it is important to love your brothers and sisters?— If you do not love them, whose children would you be imitating?— Children of the Devil. You wouldn’t want to be that, would you?— So how can you prove that you want to be a child of God?— It is by really loving your brothers and sisters.
But what is love?— Love is a deep feeling inside us that makes us want to do good things for other people. We show that we love others when we have a good feeling toward them and when we do good things for them. And who are our brothers and sisters whom we should love?— Remember, Jesus taught that they are the ones who make up the big Christian family.
How can you show that you love your brother?
How important is it that we love these Christian brothers and sisters?— The Bible says: “He who does not love his brother , whom he has seen, cannot be loving God, whom he has not seen.” (1 John 4:20) So we cannot love just a few in the Christian family. We must love them all. Jesus said: “By this all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love among yourselves.” (John 13:35) Do you love all the brothers and sisters?— Remember, if you don’t, you cannot really be loving God.
How can we show that we really love our brothers and sisters?— Well, if we love them, we won’t stay away from them because we don’t want to talk to them. We will be friendly to all of them. We will always do good to them and be willing to share. And if ever they are in trouble, we will come to their aid because we are truly a big family.
When we really do love all our brothers and sisters, what does it prove?— It proves that we are disciples of Jesus, the Great Teacher. And isn’t that what we want to be?—
Showing love for our brothers and sisters is also discussed at Galatians 6:10 and 1 John 4:8, 21. Why not open your own Bible and read those texts?
Your blood pressure might have skyrocketed when you read the title of this article. You might have wondered, “How in the world can a preacher say that Jesus isn’t his brother”? You might have even thought about sending me one of those “friendly” emails. Well, you would have every right to be angry. You would have every right to be confused. You would have every right to send me that email.
If it was true. If I believed it. But I don’t.
Nevertheless, it still concerns me, and I hope it concerns you. It grieves my heart when Christians communicate that Jesus isn’t their brother. Of course, no Christian would ever vocalize it with his words, but he might say it with his actions.
The writer of Hebrews explains how in Hebrews 2: 11, “Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.” Jesus calls us “brother”—not because we’re special, but because we’re holy. He made us that way when we came into contact with His blood, and He couldn’t be any prouder to call us family. What a blessing.
But reason would tell us that if we live unholy lives—if we choose God’s world over God’s throne—we have abused the relationship. What a tragedy.
Thankfully, Jesus loves us so much that He won’t deny us if we do.
At least not right now.
But one day, He will. One day, light will expose every corner of darkness. One day, the chips will fall. One day, the Brother will look at His former brethren and say, “I don’t even know you…” (Matthew 7:23)
It’s not His choice nor is it His fault. It’s ours. We make the choice when we refuse to acknowledge Him. We accept fault when we fail to follow Him. And one day, Christ will keep His promise. “You didn’t acknowledge me—now I don’t acknowledge you.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
Jesus is not my brother? If we don’t strive to be holy as He is holy, we might as well say it, because it’s the truth.
So if you aren’t ashamed of Him, just like He’s not ashamed of you, prove it through your holy life to which God has called you. Prove it through your holy life Christ has given you. He’s a great Big Brother. If you don’t believe me, I’d love to introduce you.
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