Can you imagine what it would be like to have Jesus as a family member? Mind-boggling to say the least, but the truth is, yes He was indeed born into an earthly family. He was both Savior of all humankind as well as a son and a brother. In addition to Mary and Joseph, scripture tells us Jesus had four brothers, James, Joesph, Simon and Jude. There are many details about their lives we don’t know, but we do know their relationship with Jesus was not always smooth sailing.
In John 7:5 we see that “not even His (Jesus’) brothers believed in Him.” Wow. Just wow. And this was after He had turned water into wine, after He fed the 5,000, after He walked on water, after He had healed countless incurable diseases. And still, His brothers weren’t buying it.
He is talking as someone who knows the feeling, because He lived it … He truly does understand when we are hurt or rejected, especially by our families.
The disbelief extended beyond Jesus’ immediate family, many others from the region He grew up in had a similar response. In John 6:42, we see the reaction of His hometown, they straight up said “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can He now say, ‘I came down from heaven?”
It’s the same story, people who, like His brothers were overly familiar with Him and could not recognize the Messiah standing before them.
It’s important not to gloss over just how hard this must have been for Jesus. Living on earth both fully divine and fully human, He surely felt the pain of that rejection just as any other human would. How incredibly comforting when we face similar moments within our own families. When Jesus says those who mourn will be comforted (Matthew 5:4), He is talking as someone who knows the feeling, because He lived it. It’s just another beautiful way He truly does understand when we are hurt or rejected, especially by our families.
When Jesus said “A prophet is not without honor except in His hometown and in His own household” (Matthew 13:57), He was clueing us into a deep-rooted aspect of our nature as humans. The old adage “Familiarity breeds contempt” is around for a reason and there are more examples of that inaction beyond Jesus. We see it at play in the lives of Joseph and King David. Joseph was called by God at an early age. Yet when he shared his destiny with his brothers, they didn’t just disbelieve him, they actively did their best to sabotage his future. The same goes for David; when the prophet Samuel came to his father’s house to anoint a king of Israel, David’s father was oblivious to David’s potential and saw him as totally disqualified. But the lack of familial endorsement could never cancel out God’s plans for these mighty men’s lives, and ultimately His incredible plans brought redemption and restoration to each family.
Even with rocky starts, both Joseph’s and David’s stories end with their families recognizing who they are and reuniting. And it was the same with Jesus’ brothers. We aren’t given many details of the transformation that went on in their hearts, but they went from believing Jesus had gone crazy to worshipping him as King after His resurrection (Acts 1:14). Not only did they worship Jesus as Lord, but they also became leaders of the church with Jude and James writing letters that would become books in the New Testament.
In his epistle, James calls Jesus, his brother, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Talk about redemption. What an incredible journey and what an encouragement to us today with family we are praying for. Whether it’s reconciliation we are waiting on, or for family members to come to faith, the story of Jesus’ brothers’ transformation is a story for us today. Let it inspire us to brim with hope over our families.