Sometimes I get a bit depressed when I look at my extended family and see their unbelief. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not as if they haven’t been exposed to the truth or know the truth, because they have. They just simply don’t believe.
We pray and witness to them and they either reject the message of Christ outright or they claim to believe something that they made up in their head, on the spot, that fits with their own world view but has nothing to do with the Bible or the Gospel or, well… much of anything. And days turn into weeks and weeks into years and nothing seems to change.
But today, while I was preparing for our Tuesday night Bible study, I was struck by the fact that Jesus was somewhat in the same situation with His own family. He had four brothers, actually half-brothers, and at least two sisters, maybe more (Mark 6:3). These were the natural children of Mary and Joseph that were born after their journey to Bethlehem. His sisters are not named in the Scriptures but His brothers are. Jesus’ half-brothers were: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas, or Jude (Matt. 13:55).
Try to imagine what it must have been like to have Jesus as an older brother. He never sinned, never lost His temper, never disobeyed His parents and never made less than perfect grades in school. He was perfect in a way that would tend to make you jealous at best and angry at worst. In fact, the Psalms tell us that Jesus did not have the kind of relationship with His siblings that He probably wanted. He was, to quote our phrase, so “heavenly minded that He was of no earthly good.” Psalm 69:8-9 states:
I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother’s children; (why) because zeal for Your house has eaten me up, and the reproaches of those who reproach You have fallen on me.
Not a happy home for the Lord.
So after 30 years of obscurity Jesus embarked on His ministry defined by signs and wonders and healings and revolutionary teachings (John 6:2). John the Baptist declares Him to be the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He easily feeds 5,000 men, plus their wives and children, with a boy’s sack lunch (John 6:4-13) and has to fight to keep the crowds from declaring Him King (John 6:15). Multitudes of thrill-seekers constantly follow and press all around Him and the religious establishment continually searched for ways to destroy Him out of jealousy or hatred (John 7:1). Everyone had an opinion about Jesus and He was the trending topic on their social media for years on end. Not too bad for the brother of James, Joses, Simon and Judas.
Near the close of His ministry, only six months before He was to be betrayed and crucified, Jesus’ brothers wanted Him to go with them to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. Jesus declined. His brothers said, “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” (John 7:3-4).
Note the “if” in their statement:
If You do these things, show Yourself to the world.
Or If You can really do the things the people say You can, prove it to us.
Or if this is not all a sham or some slick sleight of hand.
Or if You really are who You say You are.
Or if there is some reason for all this notoriety and popularity, or if… whatever.
Their doubt and unbelief is painted all over their statement to Jesus. It wasn’t about Him, it was about their doubts, their wanting more proof, more evidence, of Jesus being who they really knew He was. They just simply refused to believe.
Think about it, no people on the planet knew more about the sinless life of the Lord Jesus than those in His earthly family: James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. Yet, as John tells us, they did not believe (John 7:5). Why? Scripture is silent about their reasons. Maybe they, like the rest of the fickle masses that followed Him, wanted Jesus to be their political King, their man in the White House, their delegate before God. Or maybe His brothers wanted Jesus to jump through another couple of hoops for their entertainment, to prove Himself to them to their satisfaction, to call down fire like Elijah or part the sea like Moses or walk across their swimming pool. But whatever their motives were, Jesus would have no part of it. He was on His own divine timetable and would not bend to the agenda of His family or the crowd. Jesus would not be rushed.
I know you are wondering how this relates to my situation with my extended family. Simply this: Jesus had done all He could to show His brothers the truth about Who He was and yet they rejected Him and His message. They chose to walk in darkness, in committed, radical, unbelief. In the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, they willingly chose the wide road that leads to destruction and damnation and forsook the narrow gate that leads to life (Matt. 7:13-14).
But they didn’t do this forever.
After Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, the early church met in the upper room waiting for the promise of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-6). After the Twelve are listed, less Judas of course, the Scripture states:
These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers (Acts 1:14).
Did you catch that? In addition to the hand picked Twelve (Luke 16:13-16), Mary and Jesus’ brothers were part of the formation of the early church. And it was these, James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas that also experienced the Acts 2 infilling of the Holy Spirit. They went from unbelief in John 7 to a committed follower by the time we enter into the pages of the Acts. In addition, they grew mightily in their faith in their half-brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.
James became the head of the church in Jerusalem and penned the book in the Bible that bears his name (James 1:1). And Judas, or Jude, also added His words to the cannon of New Testament scriptures (Jude 1:1).
Not too shabby for the sons of Mary and Joseph.
If Jesus can turn his unbelieving brothers into pillars of the early church… well, I guess He can do the same with my extended family. After all, He is God. And if He can save and redeem my family, then He can do the same for you and your family.
For me, I take great encouragement in that.
So I will continue to pray and witness and talk to them about the grace of God found only in Christ Jesus and trust that, in His time, He will bring those that belong to Him to Him. I will joyfully do my part and leave, and I mean really leave, the results up to Him.
After all, He is God.