There's Hope For Unbelieving Family Members- Part 1
1 Corinthians 15:7, “Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
No doubt, most of you are like me, having family members who do not believe in Jesus. If so, we are in good company. So did Jesus. And this should give us hope.
According to the Apostle John, “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5).
In spite of what the Church of Rome teaches, Jesus grew up in a sizable family that included four half-brothers - James, Joses, Simon and Judas/Jude - and “His sisters” (The plural “sisters” means there were at least two (Matthew 13:55-56).
Why didn’t they believe in Him? What made them suddenly change? Consider first:
Familiarity with Jesus Can be a Great Obstacle to Salvation
For 25 to 30 years, these family members either lived in the same house with Jesus or near him. Yet what is amazing and incredible is that prior to Jesus resurrection none of his siblings believed that he was who he claimed to be or gave him the honor and respect due him (John 7:3-5). They thought He was mentally off balance and it seems they wanted Him gone from their home (Mark 3:21, Mark 3:31-35).
It’s not difficult to imagine that the second born son of Joseph and Mary might have been jealous and resentful of Jesus while they were growing up together.
Jesus would have been the perfect child, always obedient, never getting in trouble. That’s a difficult (impossible!) act for His brothers to follow.
The sibling Jesus chose to make a special appointment with after his resurrection was the oldest of the natural born named James. So, focusing on James, what do you think it was like for him to grow up in the same family with a perfectly righteous brother, the divine Son of God?”
Growing up, Jesus appeared in every way to be like every other child in town and every other child in that family. Luke tells us that “…the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (Luke 2:40). Also, we know that Jesus grew in wisdom, stature, favor with God, and favor with man. With each passing year His body and His mind continued to develop, and so by the age of twelve He had reached a full understanding of who He was. He realized at the age of twelve that He had to be about His Father’s business, and He was talking about Father God.
According to Hebrews 5:8, He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. We are told in Hebrews 4:15, “He was in all points” – (that is through all the chronological points of life) – “tempted as we are, yet without sin.” As a child, He suffered the temptations that come to children living in a fallen world. The temptations that are categorically summed up in the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life came at Him in the way that such temptations come to children, and then older children, and then adolescence, and then teenagers, then young men, then adult men.
He grew into all those points and experienced the temptations that are common to each of those ages and connected to these maturing features of life. The difference between Jesus and others was not that He had an abnormal development, or that He was void of temptation. He was tempted in all points like as we are so that He could be touched with the feelings of our weaknesses. The difference was He never sinned, which, frankly, would make Him a pain to His siblings.
Pastor John MacArthur observes: “He was like no one who ever lived. He never had a bad attitude; never disobeyed His parents; never complained about dinner; never bickered with His brothers and sisters; never lied; never entertained an evil thought; never said an evil word; never gossiped about a friend; never slandered an enemy, and never wasted a moment of His life. In every situation, through every form of temptation at every level of development, His entire life He was absolutely sinless. He always triumphed over every temptation of every kind. And He learned experientially through the battles with temptation to be obedient to His heavenly Father in everything all the time – absolute, holy perfection.
“Now I will tell you, as a parent, He would be the favorite kid. That is not a stretch. I mean, that is zero-maintenance parenting. He must have been the envy of His siblings. He must have been the point of jealousy. His parents could do nothing but heap on Him love. They never had to discipline or reprimand Him. And I think, from a human viewpoint, that’s why His brothers and sisters rejected Him. Even His lifelong perfection and thirty years in the house, didn’t persuade them of His messiahship.”
Consider these truths:
- His siblings heard his message many times (Matthew 13:53-58; John 7:1-5).
- They saw his ministry and no doubt saw some, and heard about many, of his miracles – (John 6)
- Yet, they rejected him as the Messiah and regarded him as a mental case – John 7:5; Mark 3:21, “And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’”
This familiarity with Jesus is pervasively shown by his hometown of Nazareth: Matthew 13:54-58, “… and coming to his hometown he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.”
Jon Bloom, staff writer for DesiringGod.org writes, “So as we assess the role our weak, stumbling witness plays in our family members’ unbelief, let’s remember Jesus—not even a perfect witness guarantees that loved ones will see and embrace the gospel. We must humble ourselves and repent when we sin. But let’s remember that the god of this world and indwelling sin is what blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).
“The story of Jesus’ brothers can actually give us hope for our loved ones. At the time his brothers claimed that Jesus was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21), it must have appeared very unlikely that they would ever become his disciples. But eventually they did! And not only followers, but leaders and martyrs in the early church.
“So take heart! Don’t give up praying for unbelieving family members. Don’t take their resistance as the final word. They may yet believe and be used significantly in the kingdom!
“It is moving to hear James refer to his brother as “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Can you imagine what this phrase meant for James? The Lord of glory had once slept beside him, ate at his dinner table, played with his friends, spoke to him like a brother, endured his unbelief, paid the debt of his sin, and then brought him to faith.
“It may have taken 20-30 years of faithful, prayerful witness by the Son of God, but the miracle occurred: his brothers believed. May the Lord of glory grant the same grace to our beloved unbelievers.”
The truth is apart from a supernatural miracle of the Spirit of God that opens sin-blinded minds and quickens sin-deadened hearts, no one past, present, or future will ever be saved. The preaching of the message of the cross to the natural man was considered foolishness in the First Century and will continue to be so apprised until the final century. But unto us who are being saved it is the power and wisdom of God.