I was asked to teach during a small group Bible study- the assignment (should I chose to accept it) was to take a few assigned verses from the Bible and discuss the main characters’ thoughts, feelings and motivations.
I blindly accepted.
The morning of the Bible study, I thought I better get prepared, so I picked up my Bible and read the assigned passages:
John 7: 1-9
"After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ 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.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.
Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee."
My assignment became clear -- Jesus’ family.
I have to admit, I’ve never given them much thought. I knew he had a family but they always seemed to be in the background and honestly not that important.
Yet, here I read something interesting-
“For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
OK, Jesus had a family that didn’t believe.
I find this disbelief to be important and worth exploration.
So, let’s look at the background.
Scripture tells us that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joses, Simon and Judas (Matthew 13:55) and two unnamed sisters (Mark 6:2-3) and that Jesus’ family (other than possibly his mother Mary) were not believers of Jesus during his lifetime. (Note: It wasn’t until after Jesus’ death and resurrection did his brother James believe and help start the early church.)
Let’s keep in mind, that BEFORE John’s declaration that Jesus’ brothers didn’t believe all of the following had already taken place and Jesus’ family would have either witnessed these events firsthand or would have known about them:
Those that were old enough would have witnessed Jesus at the age of 12 teaching with authority to the religious leaders in the Temple.
Many would have been present for or would know about his miracles, to include his first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana, the healing of the official’s son, healing the man on the Sabbath at the pool of Bethesda, feeding the multitudes with the fish and bread and his declarations that the Temple is “his father’s house.”
Despite their history and even witnessing miracles, Jesus’ family mocked him, thought him crazy and was in no way supportive of his ministry.
“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
Wouldn’t you think at least family would be supportive?
This really got me thinking about Jesus’ humanity and his family dynamic.
Jesus was the oldest-the firstborn. (If you happen to be the oldest in your family you know the challenges that come with this birth-order.)
Jesus would have been the “perfect” son. We find in 1 Peter 2:22- “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” So Jesus would have been perfect, the one that everyone in the family was compared to- the role model. I can just hear Mary telling the others “can’t you be more like Jesus.” The perfect son, always obedient, always seeking what is pure, right and holy. Talk about having an older brother that you can never measure up against!
Not to mention, in that era, as the oldest Jesus would have had certain family responsibilities. Since their father, Joseph was deceased Jesus would have been responsible for the family’s financial security. Instead of staying at home and running the family carpentry business, Jesus disregards the family and heads out to travel around the countryside with a band of guys on a mission that did not involve sending any money home!
Considering all of this, I came to the conclusion that there were a number of obstacles or roadblocks that seemed to stand in the way of their support:
Embarrassment: Their brother was claiming to be God. The family’s disbelief and thoughts of possible mental illness would push them to be embarrassed by his choices, actions and claims.
Jealousy: We must remember that Jesus was without sin, which includes his childhood years. So, growing up Jesus as the role model couldn’t have been easy.
Bitterness: Since Jesus was the oldest and wasn’t supporting the family he may have been seen as “shirking” his family responsibilities.
Envy: Could there have been a tiniest bit of envy going on? I mean now Jesus has reached celebrity status- everyone knows his name and people are flocking to him calling him Messiah, Deliverer, Prophet, Rabbi, Healer and the Christ.
Plain Disbelief: Like the other Jews of that time, Jesus didn’t fit the ideals or mold of what the Messiah was going to look like. It would have been especially hard for them to wrap their minds around a Messiah that wasn’t a mighty King rather, their own brother! It would have been extremely difficult for them to reconcile their brother being both human and divine, as they knew him intimately with all his human frailties (belches,farts and all!)
I believe that Satan tried to use the opposition of Jesus’ own family to distract him from doing His Father’s will. I’m sure his family expressed concern and tried to reason with Jesus to come to his senses. Had Jesus listened and followed their counsel, he would have turned from his destiny and ultimately turned from the Cross.
What a tragedy that would have been for us all!
This was a good lesson for me as it taught me that oftentimes, doing the will of God will bring opposition and the fiercest opposition may well come from those we love the most, who have the greatest emotional power over us- our family!
Have you ever tried to do what you believed to be God’s will and found yourself facing your biggest roadblocks in the form of your parents, siblings, spouse or other family?
Did you step out in faith only to discover that those who you thought would be your biggest advocates are actually the ones most strongly opposed to you- your biggest critics?
It is a hurtful and rude awakening and one that Jesus himself experienced with his own family.
In Matthew 10:37- Jesus says, “anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.”
It is quite clear that when there are conflicts or division between what God asks and what our family desires, we are always to obey God.
Disbelief and disappointment
are roadblocks that will derail you,
keeping you from God's truth and God's plan for your life!
Take comfort in Jesus’ walk and his humanity- he knows your struggles and he knows firsthand the difficult choices and sacrifices that sometimes must be made to be loyal to God’s calling.
Father, thank you for the gift of your son Jesus, for his humanity and his example. When disbelief and disappointment surface, help us to pause and remember Christ’s life, his sacrifice and his victory. May we always choose you and may we always overcome any roadblock that may stand in our way!
“In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”- Proverbs 3:6