Did you know that when we come faith in Christ, that He changes how we understand everything…including family? Stick around and we’ll talk about it here on 5 Minutes of Truth.
There are a great number of things people find interesting about Jesus as He is portrayed in the four Gospels. There are quite a few things we know about Him while other things remain in the shadows a bit. Some of what is not so obviously seen is how Jesus interacted with members of His family on earth.
While we do have considerable records of Jesus’ interactions with His mother, Mary, many of us forget that He also said several siblings. Matthew gives us the names of His brothers: James, Joses, Simon and Judas while also acknowledging that Jesus also had sisters (Matthew 13:55-56). Very little is shared about these siblings.
This could be, in part, because the Bible leaves out a huge chronological section of Jesus’ life. In the Gospels, we last see Jesus as a child when He was 12 years old (Luke 2:41-52). That passage ends with Luke stating: “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).
The next time chronologically we see Jesus again is at His baptism which officially kicks off His public ministry. Though we can’t be completely certain, it is widely believed that Jesus was about 30 years old when this event occurred. If that is the case, then we have, approximately, an 18 year period for which we have almost no information regarding Jesus.
It must be assumed that He took part in the normal aspects of human growth which would have included His relationship with His earthly family. His adoptive father, Joseph, is not mentioned and church history has him dying a pretty early age. We have some mention of His relationship with His mother later in life but very, very little with regards to his relationship with His siblings.
Though the Gospel writer, John, does give us a glimpse. Just before the Feast of Tabernacles, according to John, Jesus’ brothers challenged Him to go and prove to the folks in Jerusalem He was Who He claimed to be. They did this not because they believed Him. In fact, it was quite the opposite. John tells us: “For even His brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5).
Leaving aside the reality of how difficult it must have been for these siblings to grow up with the older brother being the Messiah, suffice it to say that Jesus had a strained relationship with His biological family. There were even moments when He had to make sure His mother was certain of their most unusual relationship (John 2:1-4).
Because of what is seen by some as a harshness when dealing with His biological family, some folks have attributed an assumption that Jesus emotionally distanced Himself form His family while on earth because they did not really understand Who He was. Jesus loved and adored His family.
There are only a handful of statements attributed to Jesus while he was actually hanging on the Cross. One of those statements was Jesus directing His disciple, John, to take care of His mother (John 19:26-27). Two of His brothers actually went on to write New Testament books: James and Jude. He did not have antipathy towards His family. What then do we make of Matthew 12:46-48 When Jesus is told that His family is outside wanting to see Him?
Jesus answered: “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” (Matthew 12:48). He then gestures to the Disciples in front of Him and states: “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:49-50). What was He saying?
First, He was not trying to disrespect or impugn His biological family in any way, shape, or form. He was trying to redeem and renew what the idea of family really was intended to be through Him. Prior to Christ, our family was limited to only those who shared the same DNA…the same blood. But Jesus was trying to show them and us what real family actually means.
He was not dismissing biological families but He was stating the single most important aspect of family from that point forward…faith in Him. Once we come to faith in Christ, we still have a biological family. But what if all of our biological family are not fellow Believers. Then they are not truly our “brothers and sisters”. Jesus now transcends all other relationships on the planet.
If all of my family were not Believers, and there is a peanut farmer in China who is a Believer…then because of faith in Christ…I have more in common with that Chinese peanut farmer whom I’ve never met than I do with my own flesh and blood family. That doesn’t mean I don’t love my family. I just don’t share with them the single most important aspect of my life.
Through Christ, God has adopted me as His child (2 Corinthians 6:18). His other children, whether I’ve even met them or not, are literally my brothers and sisters. More so than my biological family. That is exactly why Jesus told us the best way for the world to know that we belong to Him: “By this will the world know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). How cool is that?
On behalf of myself, Robert Houghton and all of us here at Growth Project…keep reading God’s Word.
Dr. Purvis started Growth Project with Robert Houghton after spending 20 years on active duty as a Chaplain in the United States Navy. After many moves and multiple deployments, he settled in Winter Haven, Florida to do God’s will. A glutton for educational punishment Danny has a BA in English from Carson-Newman College, an MDiv from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary; a ThM from Princeton Theological Seminary; and a PhD in Organizational Leadership from Regent University. He has been married to his wife Kimberly (whom he met when they were 6 years old) for nearly 30 years and they have four wonderful children.