Aug 29 2014
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Mt 13:34-36).
Shocking words from Jesus, but what he said is true. The gospel divides families – one brother can embrace it while another one rejects it. And Jesus experienced this in his own home.
♦ Remember the time Jesus returned home after doing miracles throughout Galilee? When he preached in his home synagogue the people were offended. They said “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?”And Jesus responded to them saying “A prophet is not without honour except in his own town and in his own home” (Mt 13:55-57).
Wow, his own home! That’s quite a jolt to the system, because we know who was there; his mother, four brothers and some sisters. Why did Jesus say he had no honour among them? Let’s look at the evidence.
Initially, Jesus’ brothers were quite cynical about his ministry. Remember that time when the feast of Tabernacles was about to start in Jerusalem; they said “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles 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.” And Jesus replied “The right time for me has not yet come; for you any time is right. The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that what it does is evil”(Jn 7:3-7).
Clearly his brothers doubted his motives; they thought he was in this for himself; for the fame. But a man who chooses crucifixion to save others is not in it for himself, no Jesus was simply doing what his Heavenly Father had told him to do.
This little skirmish with his brothers was light and only revealed how they were thinking. But on another occasion things got a bit more serious. In fact Jesus was placed in a position where he had to choose between God and the people in his home. The scripture says ‘Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind”’ (Mk 3:20-21).
Later we see who it was that came to take charge of him and what he had to say about them. ‘Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.” “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother”’ (Mk 3:31-35).
Jesus’ family thought he was losing it, that he was ‘out of his mind’ and they decided to fetch him and take him home. I can only imagine that they had started listening to the criticisms of the Jewish leaders who were jealous about the big crowds he was drawing. But Jesus was unmoved. In fact he was very quick to declare that his real family was God’s family – those who were there to hear and not hinder. It must have been tough for Jesus to say this about the people he loved, but it was the truth he could not allow them to hinder what God was doing.
Now we need to understand that in doing this Jesus did not reject his family, he simply put God first and let his family choose if they were with him or against him. He once said it very plainly “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters” (Mt 12:30).
Fortunately, with time, Jesus’ family made the right decision. But for some of them, his brothers in particular, it was a rather late decision. In fact, the first time we see Jesus’ mother and brothers standing together as believers is just before Pentecost (Acts 1:14). Jesus had ascended to heaven and his followers had gathered to wait for the Holy Spirit. And we can safely assume that his mother and brothers were still there when the Holy Spirit came and that they were filled and spoke in tongues along with everyone else (Acts 2:1-4).
Later we see one of the brothers called James, operating as a leader at the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13-19). James wrote the epistle that bears his name, and in it he confesses that he is a ‘servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.’
Another brother called Jude (short for Judas) wrote the epistle that bears his name calling himself a ‘servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James’ (Jude 1).
According to Josephus, a Jewish historian of those days, James was stoned to death in 61 AD for his part in spreading the gospel of Christ. It seems that the transformation in Jesus’ brothers took place at the resurrection. The resurrected Jesus appeared to James personally (1 Co 15:7), and we can assume that this convinced him just as it had Thomas (Jn 20:28) and the apostle Paul (Ac 9:5).
So let me ask you some questions. Has your family doubted your beliefs? Has your family considered your faith to be crazy? Has your family tried to hinder the things you want to do for God? Has your family forced you to choose between them and God? If so you are in good company, Jesus went through it all before you, and he understands what it feels like. He also set a great example for us to follow. He never compromised, not for his family or for anybody. And he saw good results; with time his family chose what was right and true. If you converted to Christ from another religion your family may have rejected you. If you are the only Christian in an atheist or agnostic home you may suffer verbal abuse. But know that you are never alone. Christ was rejected and he is living and with you.
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