Jesus’ Disbelieving Family: “Even his own brothers didn’t believe him.” (John 7:5)

“Sunday Sermon”

“Who is Jesus?”

When Jesus preached and performed mighty miracles, public arguments erupted. “Who is this guy?

People were divided into 5 camps. Jesus is:

  1. A Devil/Possessed
  2. Insane/Megalomaniac
  3. A Good Moral Teacher
  4. A Prophet
  5. The Christ/Son of God

Jesus’ brothers and sisters

Mary, the mother of Jesus, had at least eight children.  Jesus’ siblings are: James, Jude, Joseph, Simon, and “all his sisters.”(See: Mk 6:1-6; Matt 13:55-56)  “The number of girls is not specified, but the Greek text makes it clear that there were more than two.” Five boys and three girls. (“Brethren of the Lord,” LDS Bible Dictionary)

(Catholics and Orthodox contend that Jesus was Mary’s only child. They argue that the “brothers” and “sisters” mentioned in the New Testament are really Jesus’ cousins or Joseph’s children from a previous marriage.)

“Christ in the House of His Parents”

Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him (John 7:1-5)

Jesus let it be known that he was reluctant to leave Galilee, and go to Judea for the Feast of the Tabernacles, because the Jewish leaders plotted to kill him.  (John 7:1)

Jesus’ brothers mocked him. “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles!” “You can’t become famous if you hide like this!  If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” (John 7:3-4 NLT)

“For neither did his brethren believe in Him.”For even his own brothers did not believe him.” (John 7:5 KJV, NIV)

Jesus’ brothers did not believe in him, and so they mocked him.  Did they suggest he go to Judea, where his life was threatened, just to get him “out of their hair?”  Or, were they actually trying to get rid of him “permanently?”

Jesus’s family said he was crazy and had lost His mind

Family of Jesus (Should be 5 boys and 3 girls)

After Jesus entered a certain house, a large crowd gathered to see him. Learning what he was doing and saying, Jesus’ family thought he had “lost his mind.”

“And when his friends [family] heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.” (Mk 3:21 KJV) 

“When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. ‘He’s out of his mind,’ they said.” (Mk 3:21 NIV)

“And when his own people [family] heard about this, they came out to take custody of him; for they were saying, ‘He has lost his senses.’” (Mk 3:21 NASB)

When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.” (Mk 3:21 CEV)

The Jewish leaders accused Jesus of being a devil, because he had cast out demons. Jesus answered them.  

“Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him.  They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them.” (Mk 3:31 NLT)

With a crowd seated around him inside, Jesus responded, “Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?” (Mk 3:33 NLT)

Referring to his listeners, Jesus declared, “Look, these are my mother and brothers.” (Mk 3:34 NLT) Jesus explained that he who does “God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mk 3:35)

Since Jesus’ family members did not “believe in him,” Jesus focused on his “brothers and sisters in the gospel” inside the house, and ignored his biological siblings outside.

These are my brothers and sisters” (Note: Jesus’ siblings waiting outside)

Jesus is rejected in Nazareth

At one point in his ministry in Galilee, Jesus returned, with his apostles, to his hometown of Nazareth. Jesus was not well received.  The crowd demanded: “How can Jesus preach such ‘wisdom’ and perform ‘mighty works?’”

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses [Joseph], and of Juda [Jude], and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? (Mark 6:1-6)

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses [Joseph], and Simon, and Judas [Jude]? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things?” (Matt 13:55-57)

Then they scoffed, ‘He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sister live right here among us.’” (Mk 6:3 NLT)

 And they were deeply offended by him and refused to believe in him.” (Mk 6:3 NLT)

Joseph and Jesus – Carpenters

Jesus explained his poor reception, and the disbelief of his siblings. “A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin [own relatives], and in his own house.”

“[Jesus] marveled at their unbelief,” and “he did not many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” (Mk 6:4; Matt 13: 57)

“Familiarity breeds contempt.” The spectators argued: “How can Jesus say and do these mighty things? He is just a carpenter, the son of a carpenter.  If his own brothers don’t believe him, why should we?”

I wonder: “Why didn’t Jesus’ siblings believe him?” Maybe Jesus lived “low-key” “normal life” as a carpenter until his baptism and the start of his three-year ministry.

Conversion of James and Jude

As evidence of the Resurrection, Paul lists those to whom Jesus appeared. After visiting five hundred people, “[Jesus] was seen of James [his brother]; then the apostles.” (1 Cor 15:6-7 KJV) “Then Jesus appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Cor 15:7 NASB) Early Christian writers believed that James became a disciple after the resurrection.

Later, Peter, the eleven apostles, and the saints gathered in Jerusalem to choose an apostle to replace Judas.  About 120 believers were in attendance.

Jesus’ brothers were also present, presumably James and Jude. “They continued in prayer, along with the women [Jesus’ sisters?], and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.”  (Acts 1:13-14)

At a later church conference in Jerusalem, the new apostles, Barnabas and Paul, shared the “signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.” (Acts 15:12 NLT) “When they finished, James [Jesus’ brother] said, ‘Brothers, listen to me.” (Acts  15:13 NLT) After which, James preached a sermon.

Peter shared the account of his miraculous escape from prison and said, “Go shew these things unto James, and to the brethren.” (Acts 12:17 KJV) “Tell James and the other brothers what happened.” (Acts 12:17 NLT)

In his last recorded visit to Jerusalem, Paul visited James. (Acts 21:18)

We don’t know when his two brothers were converted, but Brother James went on to write the Epistle of James, and Brother Jude went on to write the Epistle of Jude. Both are “general epistles,” universal epistles written to the entire church. (See: Bible Dictionary, Gal 1:19, Acts 1:13-14, Acts 12:17.)

According to scholarly tradition, both James and Jude became apostles, and both died as gospel martyrs, sealing their testimony with their blood. James was stoned to death in 62/69 AD.  Jude was martyred in Armenia or Beirut, and his body was later placed in a crypt in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. (See: “Saint James, Apostle, the Lord’s Brother,” Encyclopedia Britannica; Paul wrote: “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James, the Lord’s brother.” (Gal. 1:19)

James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem.  According to Catholic tradition, James was the first “Bishop of Jerusalem.”  He was honored with the titles: “James the Just,” “James the Righteous,” and “James, the brother of Jesus.” Paul also called James one of the “pillars of the church.” (Gal 1:18-2:10)

Jude became the “Saint of Lost Causes.” He is also the “Saint for the Hopeless and the Despaired.”   (“St. Jude the Apostle,” Jude the Apostle Church; “Saint Jude,” Encyclopedia Britannica; “Jude, Brother of Jesus, Wikipedia)

In summary, at one time, Jesus had no “honor” among his own siblings and household. His brothers and sisters did not believe him, and they thought he had lost his mind.

James and Jude went from disbelieving and mocking Jesus, to becoming apostles, saints, and martyrs.

I would like to think that all of Jesus’ brothers or sisters also accepted him as the Christ. But we just don’t know.


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