Pastor Scott L. Harris
October 3, 1993
Jesus Christ Our Brother
How would you respond if you could pick your family? If you could select who would be your brothers and sisters? If you could choose who would be your relatives? Many of you would pass on the idea because you love your family just the way it is, but I know others of you would jump at that idea. You look at a family picture viewing your siblings as people you got “stuck” being related to. You would think it would be wonderful to exchange them for someone else.
This morning as we continue our study of the Gospel according to Matthew, we are going to see something that is absolutely mind boggling when you think about it. We can be related to people that are loving, kind, good, patient, gentle, and joyful. People with the character traits we would like to have in our brothers and sisters. God will allow us to choose our family. If we are willing, we can have Jesus Christ as our brother, which would also make us the adopted sons and daughters of God.
Turn to Matthew 12:46, our passage for this morning’s study begins with:
A Family’s Concern
“While He was still speaking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers were standing outside, seeking to speak to Him. And someone said to Him, ‘Behold, your mother and your brothers are standing outside seeking to speak to You.'”
Matthew 12:46 tells us that Jesus was still busy talking to the multitudes of people that had gathered around Him inside a house. Notice that Jesus’ mother and brothers were “outside.” Mark 3:20 tells us that Jesus had “come into a house, and the multitude gathered again, to such an extent that they (Jesus and the Apostles) could not even eat a meal.” It was quite a crowd that had gathered around Jesus, so much so that Jesus’ family could not reach Him. Instead, they had to send a message to Him by word of mouth letting Him know they were outside and would like to see Him.
The question immediately comes up, “Why did they want to see Him? What did they want to talk with Him about?” The specific answer to those questions might be somewhat speculative, but we can get a general sense of their purpose by looking at what had been going on and what Mark’s account has to say.
First of all, remember that there has been quite a battle going on between Jesus and the religious leaders. They had been accusing Jesus and His disciples of breaking God’s laws. In truth Jesus had only broken their legalistic traditions, and was in fact, in complete accord with the Mosaic Law in everything that He did – and Jesus told them so. This only caused the Scribes and Pharisees to increase in their hatred for Jesus. When Jesus healed the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath – against the tradition of the Pharisees – they became so incensed they began plotting to kill him (Matthew 12:9-14). When Jesus cast out the demon and healed the man who was blind and mute, the Scribes and Pharisees began to tell the people that Jesus was doing His miracles by the power of the devil (Matthew 12:22-24). (See: The Unforgivable Sin) Jesus sternly rebuked them for this false accusation (Matthew 12:25-45), (See: What Sign Are You Looking For?) but the accusation was still being made.
Remember that the Scribes and Pharisees were the religious leaders of the people. The people looked up to them as the authorities on what was and was not from God, so their accusation – though false – still swayed many of the people. Add to it that the people themselves did not understand the Scriptures as they should have and they were confused by all that Jesus was doing, and especially by His claim to be the Son of God. How could a man be God? How could God become a man? And who would dare confront the Scribes and Pharisees in such a manner? The result of all this we find in Mark 3:21 is that some of the people began to say that Jesus had lost His senses. There is even some indication in that text that Jesus’ family might have been thinking the same thing.
Now that may surprise you, but remember that Jesus’ brothers did not believe that He was the Messiah until after His death, burial, and resurrection. John 7:5 tells us plainly that, “not even His brothers were believing in Him.”
Now as a footnote here, I should also point out for those of you raised in Roman Catholicism that Jesus did have blood brothers and sisters. Roman Catholic doctrine has attempted to elevate Mary to a god-like stature, and one of the ways it has done so is claim that Jesus was her only child and that she remained a virgin all her life. The truth is that Mary and Joseph had children half brothers and half sisters to Jesus. In fact in Matthew 13:55, we are even told the name of Jesus’ half brothers. “Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary, and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?”
I think it is safe to say that it was out of a concern for Jesus that His mother, Mary, and His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas, have come to see Him. In some manner they want to rescue Him from the cruelty of the crowd and the plot to kill Him. Perhaps they wanted to persuade Him to flee to a safe place or come home with them until the religious leaders forgot about him or lost interest.
But Jesus does not need rescuing, does He? Jesus uses this opportunity to teach an important truth. Jesus has a family related by blood, but He also has
A Greater Family
Matthew 12:48 “But He answered the one who was telling Him and said, ‘Who is My mother and who are My brothers?’ And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, ‘Behold, My mother and My brothers!'”
By asking and answering this question, Jesus demonstrates that spiritual ties are more important than blood ties. Jesus was not renouncing His physical family in anyway. He loved them much more than they loved Him – and even on the cross He carried out His responsibility to His mother as the oldest son in providing for her by directing the Apostle John to care for Mary (John 19:26, 27). It is through Jesus’ continual love that we find that His half brothers eventually come to believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. We find Mary, His mother, and His brothers in Acts 1:14 as part of the assembly in the Upper Room after His ascension to Heaven devoting themselves to prayer while they waited for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus loves His family and found the blood ties to be important, but here He teaches that a blood related family is not nearly as important as a spiritually related family. Eternity in heaven is not gained through blood ties. If you think you will make it to heaven because of your parents or your children or your siblings or anyone else who is a fine Christian, then think again. The Jewish leaders of that time thought they merited heaven simply because they were descendants of Abraham – and they were wrong. Here we find that even Jesus’ blood relatives are not part of His spiritual family until they come to Him personally and place their faith and trust in Him as the Messiah.
We find here an invitation to everyone to become part of Jesus’ family, but there are qualifications that must be met to become His spiritual relative.
A Relative’s Qualifications
Notice first in verse 49 that Jesus did not refer to the whole crowd as “His mother and His brothers”, but only to the disciples. In verse 50 Jesus elaborates on this saying, “For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother.”
Again, the call to salvation is universal as we see here it is “whoever does.” It is not limited by race or sex or position. The invitation is made to all, but only a few meet the invitation’s requirements and are Jesus’ “brother and sister and mother.”
What are those requirements? As stated here, it is “whoever does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.” Jesus adds in the parallel passage in Luke 8:21, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the Word of God and do it.” Now you say, “wait a minute, that sounds like works to me and salvation is by grace.” That is true, for Ephesians 2:1-10 tells us that plainly. You do not and cannot earn your way to heaven. You cannot make yourself meritorious enough to become Jesus’ spiritual relative.
What then does Jesus mean? What does it mean to do the will of God? Turn to John 6:28, 29. Here we find Jesus being questioned by the multitude about what they should do to “work the works of God” and gain eternal life. “Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.'” Faith in Jesus Christ as the Messiah sent from God is the will of God and is part of your response to the working of the Holy Spirit on your soul in which you do the will of God. Is that a “work?” Yes, in the sense that you did something, you responded to the working of the Holy Spirit in your life. To believe in Jesus requires a recognition and repentance from your sin and a turning your faith to Him alone for salvation from your sin, BUT “NO” it is not a work in the sense that you earned anything. All you have done is obeyed God’s command – that is only what should be expected, not the basis of a reward.
Sometimes we want to emphasize the “free” nature of salvation so much that we fail to also mention that there are qualifications God places on those who will receive His gift of eternal life. We can become so paranoid of “works” in relation to salvation that we forget that God does give commands and make demands upon those who will partake of eternal life. Some may think that heretical, but it is the clear teaching of the Scriptures. I find it strange that those who emphasize grace to such an extreme that salvation is reduced to something that requires no change of life lest there be some “work” involved, those same people will invariably point to some “work” to prove a person is saved – They “walked the aisle,” they “raised their hand,” they “prayed a prayer,” they “asked Jesus into their heart,” they were “baptized.”
Let’s be clear, salvation is God’s gift and He grants it to whom He desires according to whatever conditions He wants to set up. That God places conditions upon those who will accept His offer of eternal life in no way changes that gift from being one of grace to one of works.
The fact that He gives it demonstrates His grace and mercy for we deserve eternal punishment, not eternal life with Him. The fact that we cannot meet God’s conditions without His empowering us to do so demonstrates that it is not our work, it is not something we can earn. All we can do is respond.
Jesus says that those who are in His spiritual family are those who “do the will of God,” those who “hear the Word of God and obey it.” We have already seen in John 6:29 that the will of God is to “believe in Jesus whom God has sent.” What else is the will of God? What are some of the other marks of those that are Jesus’ brothers or sisters?
In the book of Matthew alone, we find among others the following directives indicating the will of God: In Matthew 4:17 we find that Jesus’ message was to, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” In Matthew 5 we have the nature of true righteousness expressed in the characteristics of those who are part of God’s kingdom including among other traits, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 10:32 tells, “Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven,” and in the next verses Jesus tells us that those who deny Him will be denied by Him. In Matthew 11:20-30, we find that we are to take upon ourselves the yoke of Christ and learn of Him for in that we shall find rest for our souls. Matthew 18:1 tells us we must come to Jesus with the same humble and trusting spirit a little child has if we are to enter into His kingdom. Matthew 22:37, 38 quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, 5 telling us to love the Lord God with all our heart, soul, and mind. Matthew 24:42-44 tells us to be on the alert for His return.
Other books add to this. “Repent and be baptized” in Acts 2:38; “Believe in the Lord Jesus” (Acts 16:31), “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). We are to “present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices to the Lord – not being conformed to the world, but transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:1, 2). We are to use our spiritual gifts (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 14; Ephesians 4), display the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5); live with the love of 1 Corinthians 13 controlling us; be separate from the world, i.e., in it but not of it (2 Corinthians 6); have the humility of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2); set our minds on things above, not on the things that are on earth by considering our bodies as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil, desire, and greed – putting aside all anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from our mouths (Colossians 3) and instead speak the truth in love, saying what is good for building up a person in their walk with Christ (Ephesians 4). We are to approach the throne of grace and be those that pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5; Hebrews 4). We are to be those who “lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith . . . ” (Hebrews 12:1, 2).
The Scriptures state that all these things are the will of God, and Jesus says in our passage that the person doing such things will be His brothers and sisters. But you say, “WAIT A MINUTE! I CAN’T DO ALL THAT. THAT WOULD REQUIRE ME TO BE A DIFFERENT PERSON THAN WHO I AM.” You’re exactly right, that would require you to be a different person from who you may be right now. It does require a complete change of lifestyle, from one bent towards sin and selfishness to one of holiness centered in God’s will, not your own.
Now you say, “BUT I THOUGHT GOD ACCEPTED ME JUST THE WAY I AM NOW.” No, God does not accept you the way you are now if you are living in sin. Now God does love you despite your sinfulness, but take note that God requires you to repent and become obedient to Him, and that is true love. The idea that love is accepting of sinfulness without a desire and effort to direct that person to holiness is a lie from the pit of hell. Of late, the evangelical, fundamental church – of which we are a part – has been accused a lot by the media of being hateful to different groups because we will not “accept their lifestyle.” The true church will never “accept” such things as “pre-marital sex,” “open marriages,” “homosexuality” and other sexual perversions that are becoming so commonplace in our society. But it is the true Church, the body of Jesus Christ that truly loves each person involved in those activities. Why? Because we desire to see them repent and live according to God’s will. You would have to hate a person to leave them in those depraved lifestyles with all the diseases and psychological damage they cause in this life and condemnation to eternal Hell in the next.
God truly loves us and what He is seeking in us is a radical change, and it is God’s grace that makes that change in us. God does not save us because we change, but saves us so that we will change. It is the Holy Spirit that does all the work that makes us change, but from the human viewpoint unless we respond to the Holy Spirit’s work in repentance and obedience, we will never meet God’s condition for salvation. That is what regeneration is all about, and that is what Jesus is talking about here. A person dead in trespasses and sin is made alive together with Christ because of God’s rich mercy and great love from which His grace has been extended to save sinners. It is a radical change of relationship in which our blood relationships are no longer the strongest ties, but instead our spiritual relationships as part of God’s family. We are adopted into God’s family and made brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.
A Blessed Adoption
Have you considered the blessing of being adopted into God’s family? Look at Ephesians 1:3f, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ; just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him; In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved: in Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which He lavished upon us.” Before this Earth was even created God chose us and predestined us to be adopted into His family as His sons through Jesus Christ – and all of it because of His goodness, kindness, and grace. None of it was because we in any way deserved or merited such favor. That is supreme love.
Turn to Romans 8:12-17 and see further the blessing of being adopted. “So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh- for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ (Abba means, “Daddy”). The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.”
Notice again the emphasis here that the true adopted children of God are those that are yielding themselves – obedient – to the Holy Spirit, but note as well the wonderful truth that as adopted children of God we are joint heirs with Jesus Christ. I love the way the Apostle John expresses his joy over this fact in 1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are!”
What is our inheritance as joint heirs with Jesus Christ? Salvation (Hebrews 1:14); Eternal life (Matthew 19:29), an interest in the kingdom of God (Matthew 25:34), an imperishable body (1 Corinthians 15:50-54), the promises of God (Hebrews 6:12), God’s blessing (1 Peter 3:9), and a place in heaven where God Himself will comfort us and provide for us (Revelation 21:7).
What wonderful promises, what a glorious adoption to be the child of God, a brother or sister of the Lord Jesus Christ. But how was this adoption brought about? As we have already seen in so many of the Scriptures read this morning – it comes through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. Have you been redeemed from your bondage to sin by the shed blood of the Savior? If so, then rejoice for then you are an adopted child of God, a joint heir with Jesus. If not, then today is the day of salvation. Seek the Lord while He may be found. In the quietness of your own heart, confess your sin to God and ask Him to forgive you. Tell Him you do not want to control your life any more and ask God to send the Holy Spirit to change your heart and lead you.
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