Thursday, December 16, 2010

Oh Brothers Where Art Thou?

There were a lot of things I didn’t learn being raised in the Catholic Church. I don’t mean it to be a slap on that denomination; simply a fact. One of them was that Jesus was not an only child. Actually, he had at least four brothers and at least two sisters.

“Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” Matthew 13:54-56

So can you imaging being raised in a household with Jesus as your big brother? Was he bossy? Did he wrestle Judas to the ground? Did he ever punch Simon in the arm in jest? Who was the best student? Somehow we have mystified Jesus so much that he doesn’t seem to be a real person. So when Jesus became filled with the Spirit at his baptism, and his ministry started at the age of 30, what happened to his brothers and sisters?

When Jesus went to a wedding in Cana, John chapter 2 tells us that Jesus, his mother, and also his disciples were there. Although it doesn’t mention his brothers or sisters, I personally believe they were probably also there. I mean, who would invite Mary, Jesus, and 12 stinky fishermen, and not the rest of the Christ family. (small joke…get it? His last name was not Christ)

The next time in scripture we see mention of his brothers is a very peculiar incident indeed. Jesus is teaching to a large crowd and they show up wanting to get to him.

“As Jesus was speaking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. Someone told Jesus, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, and they want to speak to you.” Jesus asked, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he pointed to his disciples and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:46-50

There must be a reason Jesus blew them off at that time. I think they were probably worried that big brother had lost his mind and went off the deep end of the religious pool. I personally believe that they were there for a mini-intervention. If they just wanted to tell him that granny was dead, I’m sure he would have received them. But he didn’t.

Conspicuously absent from Golgotha where he was hanging on a cross beaten and bloodied were his brothers and sisters. Mary was there, to the very end. But where was his family shouting to Pilate? Where were the brothers trying to get Jesus freed from the temple guards? There is no mention of them at any time during the Passover week of Jesus. Again I believe that they probably had families of their own to worry about and not crazy Uncle Jesus. Living like a good Jew would have meant marrying, having kids, attending Hebrew school, and making a kosher home.

So where do we finally see them together again? Anyone? Buellar? The funniest mind picture in the Bible might be all those on the ground looking up as Jesus ascended into heaven. Were their mouths agape and did they squint staring at the clouds? Maybe that is why God sent down a couple of angels to tell them to leave. But who was with them when they went home?

“Then the apostles returned to Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives, a distance of half a mile. When they arrived, they went to the upstairs room of the house where they were staying. Here are the names of those who were present: Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the Zealot), and Judas (son of James).They all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus. During this time, when about 120 believers were together in one place, Peter stood up and addressed them.” Acts 1: 12-15

Who’s crazy now? Huh? They saw their brother come back from the dead. And then saw him ascend to heaven. No wonder they were all together united in prayer. So of the four brothers, which two became strong Christians? Anyone? Buellar?

The book of James has to be one of the best books in the entire Bible. And James is the brother of Jesus. He was a strong pillar in the church in Jerusalem. The book of Jude is the same brother named Judas in the above text. It also is an amazing book. Simon and Joseph, Jr. have nothing written about them. Not in the Bible. Not even in the writings of Josephus. I’d like to think that they did amazing things. But who really knows?

So know this: if your family thinks you are crazy, you are in good company. If your family seems to abandon you or come against you because of your belief system, your king knows exactly how you feel. Keep this in mind as you wander through this holiday season.

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