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Even Jesus’s Brothers and Sisters Lacked Faith

 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him.

Mark 6:3

One of the more interesting questions about Jesus is; Did he have brothers and sisters? Like most things of ancient history, the answer is complicated and a little blurry. We have this very interesting verse, from today’s message in Mark. It seems to indicate that Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters. But the verse itself contains a small hidden clue, that they may have not been brothers and sisters. Notice it says, Mary’s son and not a son of Mary. Then mentions his four brothers separately. With Theologians, this has led to a considerable amount of confusion and discussion as to the state of Jesus’s family.

For the first three centuries, it was generally assumed that Jesus had four brothers and at least two sisters. However, later church writings suggest that these were half-brothers and half-sisters. In the fourth century, Catholic historian Jerome raised the issue of perpetual virginity of Mary, which took hold. A view shared by later Protestant leaders, such as Luther and Wesley. In other words, Mary had no more children after Jesus.

While this became an accepted belief, there is the problem of explaining how Jesus was related to the brothers and sisters from Mark 6:3. There are two theories. The first is that Joseph had a previous wife and was a widower. The brothers and sisters are actually half-brothers and half-sisters. Others have said that the Greek word in Mark 6:3 used for siblings, Adelphos, has a broader meaning than brothers/sisters. That they could be closely connected relatives; as in a cousin, step-brother, or half-brother. At the very least the brothers and sisters mentioned are strongly connected and very familiar with Jesus.

When I researched the writings around this issue, I found that these different interpretations were more of an opinion than solid factual evidence. Like many issues from the 1st century, little writing or records exist to support any of these assumptions. What is clear is that Jesus did not grow up alone, likely surrounded not only by his parents but also by a large group of children.

Which leads us back to the verse, where it says; people from his town, And they took offense at him. Jesus, during his three-year ministry as an adult, had gone to his hometown to preach and heal. The people he grew up with; local townspeople, relatives, and even his quasi siblings, heard Jesus preach and perform miracles. But they couldn’t reconcile that this child they knew, could be the same person. Jesus later said about this visit to his hometown; A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home. In fact, after this display of a lack of faith, Jesus could no longer heal or help those he grew up with.

In verses 5 and 6 of chapter 6, it says; He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Their lack of faith reduced Jesus’s divine power to help them.

While many in the surrounding communities fully accepted and had faith in Jesus, his own community initially could not. This was not all that unusual, even the original twelve Apostles struggled with understanding and fully accepting Jesus. Not to mention the ruling religious elite, the Pharisees and Sanhedrin.

It seems that familiarity is a big impediment in accepting Jesus as Lord and savior. But Jesus gives us a clue as to how to tap into the power he holds. Simple, just have faith. Notice Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. And faith is the most critical part of recognizing Jesus and who he is. Seven times, Jesus said, your faith has made you well. In fact, faith is mentioned 262 times in the New Testament. Faith is a critical ingredient in recognizing Jesus.

While it sounds easy that faith is all it takes, it really isn’t. That is the point of the story. Many things erode our faith; worry, temptation, ego and even our own human senses. For the townspeople and his relatives, their faith was diminished by their inability to separate what they had seen of Jesus as a child with his deity.

The Apostle Paul has a great description of faith when he writes in 2nd Corinthians; So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2nd Corinthians [4:18]) We can’t use our senses or human knowledge to have faith. History won’t work as well.  To fully experience the power of Jesus, we have to put away everything we know and simply trust. No magic formula, just believe.

Faith comes from being compelled to know Jesus and then giving up our human senses and experiences during this encounter. Taking this step is difficult for many, but when we do, we become fully engaged with Jesus. Many times it occurs when we have nowhere else to turn.

You should know some of Jesus’s neighbors and siblings eventually came around to having faith. His oldest brother, James, eventually became the leader of the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem after Peter went to Rome. I am sure after this initial encounter described in Mark 6:3, many others had their own personal journey of faith in fully accepting Jesus into their lives.

Simply, just have faith that Jesus is the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, and our personal connection with God. It will end a lifetime of wondering.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Zac Durant on Unsplash

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