Is this not the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?
– Matthew 13:55-56
While most Christians have no reservation whatsoever thinking about Christ as our Savior, our Redeemer, our Teacher, and even our friend; many overlook (to their own detriment) that He was a man and all that idea implies. Many people believe the thought of Christ as a man is contrary to their thoughts of the Savior. They picture Him as the Savior or the Son of God, however; He was called the “Son of Man” 87 times in the New Testament.
To overlook the humanity of Jesus Christ would be a mistake on our part. He is only the Messiah due to His full deity and His full humanity. He is only the Messiah if He is both the Son of God and the son of Mary. With all of that being said, this lesson will examine the role His earthly family played in His life in this world. As we explore these details, we’ll clearly see that Jesus was more than just our Savior, He was also a man who lived with His family.
First off, we must be impressed with Mary, the Mother of Jesus. When we consider the circumstances surrounding her selection as the mother of Christ, we should be amazed that someone with so little life experience was selected to be the caregiver of the infant and child Jesus. As we examine the verses of Scripture that highlight her contributions, never lose sight of the fact that she was a mother to Him just like any other mother is to their child.
In Luke 1:26-38, the Angel Gabriel is sent to Mary to prepare her for the upcoming pregnancy. His message came straight from God and contained the following information about His mother:
(a) She was pledged to marry Joseph, a Hebrew man from the “house of David” (27).
(b) She was “highly favored” by God (28).
(c) She was troubled by the statements of Gabriel. It says she “tried to discern what sort of greeting this could be” (29).
(d) She had found “favor with God” (30). That word “favor” is the Greek word charis which means “acceptance.”
(e) She was a virgin (34) according to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, which says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
(f) This would happen when the “Holy Spirit will come upon you (Mary) and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (35). The word for overshadow is episkiazo which is also found in Matthew 17:5 which says, “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud.”
(g) She responds to these statements with one of her own. She says in 1:38, “I am the maidservant of the Lord, let it happen according to your word.” That word for servant is doule and also used in Acts 2:18 which says, “And on My menservants and on My maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days, and they shall prophesy.”
In Luke 2:41-52 we see the only glimpse of Jesus as a teenager and his mother is right in the middle of the greatest sign that Jesus was growing into the Messiah. On their yearly trip to Jerusalem for the Passover (41), when Jesus was twelve (roughly 12-15 A.D.), He “stayed behind” (43) and taught in the Temple in the “midst of the teachers” (46). After some frantic searching for the boy she questioned Him in 2:48 saying, “Child, why did you treat us like this?” She had been worried, just like her husband Joseph, whom she called Jesus’ father. His response to them is something all of us know, “did you not know I must be about my Father’s business (or in my Father’s house)?” What’s really worth noticing from Mary’s perspective is the second part of 2:51 which says, “his mother treasured all that was said in her heart.”
Why would Scripture describe Mary’s reaction to Jesus’ life that way? Is it merely the thoughts of any mother or is there something special about this particular description? Could Luke 2:34-35 and her previous encounter with Simeon the prophet have anything to do with it? It seems obvious to me that she was aware of Jesus special place in this world (how could she not). She saw these events as something unusual for a common child, but not for her firstborn.
In John 2, she was the one who asked Jesus to fix the problem when “they had no more wine” (3) at the wedding feast in Cana. When Jesus rebuked her, she is the one who said to the servants “do whatever He tells you” (5). It seems fairly obvious that she knew what He was capable of without prior physical proof. That matches Hebrews 11:1’s definition of faith almost perfectly, “it is the evidence of things not yet seen, the assurance of things hoped for.”
Notice also that in Matthew 27:56; Mark 15:40; and John 19:25, Mary is the only member of Jesus’ immediate family at the crucifixion. The three lists of women seem to describe a sister of Mary, Salome, the mother of James and John, but none of His brothers, sisters, or Father. More than likely, His brothers chose to stay away due to their unbelief (see John 7:5) and it makes sense to believe that Joseph had already died. That seems more plausible when you see Jesus entrust the care of His mother to His cousin John in John 19:27. If His father was dead (as eldest son), He would have been responsible for her care and those short words at the crucifixion ensured His mother’s protection and care. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, you see His mother’s dedication in Acts 1:13-14; as she waits with the disciples in the upper room.
Conversely, what are we to think of the man who taught Jesus to be a man, Joseph of Nazareth. We can have confidence because God hand-picked Him. His selection was not random. See what Matthew 1:19 says about him:
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
We should also see the genuineness of his character when he refused to embarrass Mary following her unexpected pregnancy. He had every right to forsake her, rebuke her, and publicly shame her, yet he did none of that.
In Matthew 2:13-15, we see Joseph was able and willing to protect his family, even if that meant traveling to a foreign land to avoid the evil of Herod. It says there:
Now when they (the wise men) had departed, behold, 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, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
The 150-mile journey was all-too-necessary for any father willing to love his own. That’s how Joseph thought of Jesus, even though he knew the child was not his. Think about Luke 2:48 when Mary calls Joseph the Father of Jesus. That’s what he was, Jesus’ (for lack of a better word) step-Father and caregiver. Unfortunately, Joseph’s life seems to be cut short. We are left with more questions than answers. But do not forget this – if Mary was “favored by God” (see Luke 1:28) and providentially selected to be Jesus’ mother, so true was Joseph. They were a package deal. Don’t diminish his role merely because we have so little to study and learn.
Finally, the irony of passages like John 7 is that a large part of Christianity rejects the thought that Mary and Joseph had other children. To believe that idea you must disavow the stories of John 7 and Mark 6 (something I’m unwilling to do). The key to these passages is found in John 7:5 which says, “not even His brothers had confidence (believed) in Him.” John’s highlight of that verse is problematic when you consider they were also his cousins. John and James had been quick to follow Christ, understanding and seeing His miracles, teaching, and eventually crucifixion. Why could they see and their cousins, the half-brothers and sisters of Jesus not see “the Messiah” among them?Perhaps Joseph and Mary favored Jesus. Perhaps, we just don’t know. In the end, I’m unwilling to assume any particular reason, but good old-fashioned jealousy seems to be the simplest and most understandable reason.
Thankfully, their belief in Jesus developed at a later time. It says in Acts 1:13-14 that “Mary, the mother of Jesus and His brothers” were with the Apostles in the upper room in Jerusalem awaiting the coming of the Holy Spirit. So what changed that brought about this belief from Jesus earthly brothers? It seems fairly obvious that Jesus death, burial, and subsequent resurrection convinced them of His qualities.
We know that James became a leader in the Jerusalem Church (see Acts 15:13,19) and that both he and Jude wrote letters encouraging the early Church. Both of them called themselves “a servant of Jesus” (see James 1:1; Jude 1) in the introduction to their letters. It is a great testament to them that their jealousy or bitterness was thrown away when the proof of their brother’s true identity was undeniable.
As a student of the Bible, I have to admit that this is a part of Christ’s life that I want to know so much more about. I want to know more about His childhood, upbringing, and the relationships He had with those most intimately aware of who He was. I want to know what those household dynamics looked like. I want to know what His brothers and sisters really thought of Him. While I’ll never get the answers I want in this world, I look forward to spending eternity in Heaven with those who can safely say, “He was my brother. See what great things He did.”
All Scripture is taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by Permission. All rights reserved.