It is not every day that one can say their older brother is the Son of God. For James, Joseph, Simon, Judas and at least two sisters the family of Joseph and Mary enjoyed the blessing of Jesus being a son and a brother. Thanks to the Papists of long ago and the continuing doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church many people fail to realize that Jesus had brothers and sisters and lived a very normal life as a man. One of the great testimonies of God’s wisdom is the manner by which the Almighty embedded His Son into the world of humanity. The wisdom of man would have such royalty to come in grand measures of pomp and circumstance and God’s Son could only be of noble birth to noble parents and live life in a noble manner. Not so the life of Jesus. He came to save all men and to share the message of hope with the common man.
Joseph and Mary were poor folk living in Nazareth scraping out an existence in the work of carpentry. When the days of purification were complete Jesus was brought to Jerusalem at forty days to be presented at the Temple “and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons’” (Luke 2:24). The Law of Moses required a lamb to be presented but if the family was unable to afford a lamb a “young pigeon or a turtledove” could be presented “as a sin offering, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting” (Leviticus 12:6).
Jesus would be born of obscure parents in the eyes of men but royal spirits in the eyes of God. Luke records the message of the angel Gabriel to Mary, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!” (Luke 1:28). The coming of the Son of God was the eternal plan of the Father and the question would be given to whom would receive the blessing of bearing the child into the world. Joseph and Mary were chosen not for their place in the world but in their place in the heart of God. Joseph was a just man (Matthew 1:19) and Mary would bear the child of Deity for nine months and in the natural manner of creation the Creator would be born. Luke would give the details of the birth in Luke 2 when as Joseph and Mary arrived in Bethlehem “the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:6-7). One has to express a sense of admiration for Joseph and Mary as alone in an animal’s crib the cries of labor and birth are echoed in the natural manner of birth for all men. Jesus entered the world in the manner of the pain decreed in the garden when the Lord said to Eve, “In pain you shall bring forth children” (Genesis 3:16).
Cutting the umbilical cord, cleaning the newborn and wrapping him in swaddling clothes, Joseph and Mary laid God’s Son in a manger of hay. As the newborn child lay in the manager some strangers approached to behold the new child. Shepherds from the field had come to see the newborn and marvel at “Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The King of God’s people did not come to the world in the palaces of power but the power of God’s grace in a crib of poverty.
Remaining in Bethlehem for nearly two years the little child would learn to walk and talk and play with the wooden toys Joseph would make for his little boy. What a marvelous time that would be for Joseph and Mary as they woke in the night to feed little Jesus, changing his ‘diaper’, helping him see the world about him, taking the little boy to the market place, laughing and smiling as this precious gift given to them by God would fill their lives. And how precious this gift was in so many ways. Joseph and Mary knew the little face that looked back at them and giggled with toothless grins was the Son of God. Luke points out in the genealogy record of Jesus that was Joseph was the “supposed” father of Jesus (Luke 3:23). Joseph knew he was not the father. How he loved his little boy. What a beautiful time for Mary to caress and care for the Son of God.
The day came when more strangers would enter their lives. Wise men from a faraway land would seek the young child and leave great gifts of wealth for the family (Matthew 2:1-11). What did this all men for Joseph and Mary? The answer would come when “an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, ‘Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.’ When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-14). They would remain in Egypt away from the massacre of the innocent in Bethlehem and the bloody thirst of Herod (Matthew 2:16-18). When Herod died the family would return to Nazareth and live a quiet and peaceful life in the work of carpentry.
During this time at Nazareth Jesus’ brothers and sisters were born. Matthew records the names of four brothers and suggests at least two sisters of Jesus. “Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters … (Matthew 13:55-56; see also Mark 6:3). On a number of occasions the family of Jesus is mentioned. “While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, ‘Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You’” (Matthew 12:46-47). The gospel writers speak of the brothers of Jesus in Mark 3:31-32; Luke 8:19-20; John 2:12; 7:1-10. Luke again refers to the brothers of Jesus in Acts 1:14. Paul includes the reference to the family of Jesus in 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19. It is commonly accepted the book of James is written by the brother of Jesus.
It is clear that some time before Jesus began His ministry at the age of 30 (Luke 3:23) that Joseph had died. Mary is found with her sons or often alone with Jesus. How difficult that must have been on the family with the loss of such a wonderful husband and father. On the cross Jesus reflected that feeling when he prayed John would care for His mother (John 19:25-27). John also writes that there was a time the brothers of Jesus did not believe on Him (John 7:1-10). Yet we find in Acts 1:14, 1 Corinthians 9:5 and Galatians 1:19 the brothers were an integral part of the early church.
Jesus grew up in a normal Jewish family. He ate with his family and worked with his family in carpentry and was subject to the same joys and sadness of life that all men experience. Hebrews 4:15 shows He faced the same temptations as His brothers and His sisters yet without sin. He partook of flesh and blood and shared in the same and was human just like you and me (Hebrews 2:14-18). He cried, laughed, hungered, experienced pain physically and mentally, was challenged by a sinful world and lived as human a life as any man since Adam.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Son of God was flesh and lived in the world as all men and died in the flesh to save us from sin. He was like us so that we can be like Him. “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:6-8). Thank God for the life of Jesus in the form of man.