Image: Twelfth century façade of the supposed Tomb of the Virgin Mary in Jerusalem.
Note: Devotion taken from last Sunday's sermon on Matthew 12:46-50.
“While he yet talked to the people, behold, his
mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him” (Matthew
How astonished Christ’s family members must have
been at the great throng, the multitude that had been drawn to the Lord Jesus
Many have been struck by the descriptions of
Christ’s family within the Gospels. On one hand, some of them, especially Mary
his mother, understood very early on the special person and mission of the Lord
Jesus Christ (see Gabriel’s announcement to her in Luke 1:30-33).
One of the sad things to happen later in church
history was the rise of an ungodly and inappropriate emphasis upon Mary among
some Christians that continues to this day, so that more attention was to Mary
than to the Lord Jesus himself. When that happens, it can rightly be described
We should not let that later error overshadow,
however, the fact that in the Gospels Mary is generally presented as one of the
earliest disciples of the Lord Jesus, even if her full understanding of Christ’s
identity came not immediately but, as with other disciples, only through a more
Matthew says his brethren were also there. Luke
tells us plainly that the Lord Jesus was the “firstborn [prōtotokos]”
son of Mary (Luke 2:7). Later in Matthew we have mention of his “brethren” (13:53-56).
Were these half-siblings or extended kinsmen? The old Puritan exegete Matthew
Poole observed, “For the brethren of Christ and his sisters, here mentioned,
the most by them understand his near relations.”
Although some of Christ’s family members (like
presumably Mary and James) seem to have become his disciples very early in his
ministry, others were slower to reach that conclusion. In fact, in John 7:15
the beloved disciple makes this striking statement: “For neither did his
brethren believe in him.”
Even here in Matthew 12 it says the family “stood
without” (v. 46, 47). In Mark 3:21 we read, “And when his friends [lit. “those with him”; a KJV translation note offers “kinsmen” as an alternative rendering] heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for
they said, He is beside himself.” Historians talk about the “criterion of embarrassment.” If it sounds unflattering,
it must be true. Surely this is a trustworthy
tradition. The apostles were not
embarrassed to record the fact that early on his ministry some of Christ’s
family members did not believe in him and “stood outside” his inner circle.
What this proves, in fact, is the true humanity of Christ. He came
as a true man. He did not come with a halo around his head or floating six
inches off the ground. What did Isaiah prophesy of him? See Isaiah 53:2b, “he
hath no form or comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that
we should desire him.” If he had been anything other than a true man, he could
not have accomplished what he did for us. Paul says, “For verily he took not on
him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham” (see Hebrews 2:16-17;
cf. Hebrews 4:15).
tells us who Christ was in his incarnation. That he was a true man is made
clear by the fact that even his own family members took some time to come to
faith in him. But it also tells us ultimately who he is as the Son of God,
because once he was raised from the dead, those same family members, some of
whom were slow to come to faith in him, were soundly converted.
Luke’s description of the apostles after Christ’s resurrection and ascension in
Acts 1, to which he adds in Acts 1:14, “These all continued with one accord in
prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with
his brethren.” It was the resurrection that convinced them! It’s been said that
the greatest proof of the truth of the resurrection is the fact that those who
saw the risen Jesus were forever changed by that experience.
is something to consider historically: After the resurrection, there is no
record of any family member of the Lord Jesus rejecting his claim to be the
Messiah. Believe me, if such persons had existed, they would have been called
up by the various Jewish and pagan critics and skeptics. But after the
resurrection there are no historical references to the family members of the
Lord Jesus NOT believing in him. Just the opposite, there are abundant
witnesses to the fact that his family members became faithful disciples of
Christ, many even offering up their lives for their faith in him.
and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle