|(a) Matthew 13:53-57 |
____________ = James
____________ = Joses
____________ = Simon
____________ = Judas
(b) Mark 3:20-21
(c) John 7:1-7
(d) John 19:25-27
(e) Acts 1:12-14
(f) 1 Corinthians 15:1-8
(g) Galatians 1:13-19
(h) Acts 12:1-2, 16-17
(i) Acts 15
(j) Acts 21:15-26
(k) James 1:1, and Jude 1
(l) James 5:19-20, and Jude 20-25
Yes, we are looking at the four younger brothers of our Lord Jesus, the sons of Mary and Joseph. Unfortunately our Lord's critics in this text didn't bother to also recite the names of His sisters, too.
Before we go further, we need to digress a bit and discuss the matter of the translation of these names in our English Bibles. Every language has its own rules of pronunciation which at time requires modification of any particular name. For example, Mary and Joseph did not call Jesus by that name, "Jesus." They named Him "Yeshua." That's the Aramaic form of what the Old Testament folks named "Yehoshua," (which we know as "Joshua" in English). In Greek, the language of the New Testament, neither of these pronunciations is even possible, so the name appears as "Iesous." Similarly, "Yohanan" of the Old Testament is "Ioannes" of the Greek New Testament, which is translated as "John" in English, "Juan" in Spanish, and "Johann" in German.
The names of Jesus' brothers translate as follows
|OT HEBREW||NT GREEK||ENGLISH|
|2||Yosef (Joseph)||Iosef||Joseph, or Joses|
|4||Yehudah (Judah)||Ioudas||Judas, or Jude|
What self respecting Hebrew mother would name her son Judas? In New Testament times, Judas was a perfectly respectable name. It was simply the Greek & Aramaic form of the Old Testament name Judah. It was just one bad person who had that name that ruined it for everyone else.
It is clear from this passage that the home town folk in Nazareth did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. They were quite critical of him. "After all, we've known him since he was a little tike. He certainly has gotten big for his britches, hasn't he?"
If the towns folk did not believe in him, how about his own family? Did these brothers and sisters of Jesus recognize who He was? For the answer to that question, flip over to the next book of the Bible...
Well, what would you think if your big brother was out running around saying such things as, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but by me"? or "Unless you believe in Me, you will all die in your sins"? The brothers of our Lord were no different.
Now jump ahead to the scene at the cross, where Jesus was crucified, suspended half way between heaven and hell...
Jesus as the oldest son in the family was charged with the responsibility to care for his widowed mother. Since her husband Joseph disappears half way through the Gospels, we assume that he died. So why does Jesus as a friend, a disciple, who is not a relative care for his mother? Where are James, or Joseph Jr, or Simon, or Judas? Why doesn't he ask one of them?
We don't even know if any of them were even in Jerusalem at the time of the crucifixion. Even if they were, standing before the cross of the elder brother would be the last place they would want to be. If Jesus was an embarrassment to them before, how much worse was the embarrassment now.
The picture that the gospels paint of these four boys is not a pretty one. They are cynical, critical, and skeptical. Yet the story of their lives is not a story their individual particular virtues. It is a story of the grace of God - just as is your story, and mine.
What? Are those four cynical, unbelieving brothers of Jesus now suddenly believers? Why the change?
The Apostle Paul gives us a pretty strong hint...
No wonder James, and Joseph Jr, and Simon, and Judas, sons of Joseph the Carpenter, became believers in Jesus as Lord and Messiah.
Now to be honest, if I had been Jesus, after the resurrection I would have made an appearance to Pontius Pilate, and to Caiaphas and Annas, the conspiring high priests... and maybe to every single member of the Jewish court who had ordered my execution, and maybe even to the soldiers who put had nailed my wrists to the cross beam, and maybe to every member of the mob who had shouted "crucify him!" and then had mocked me while I was suspended on the cross.
But in all cases except two, our Lord appeared only to those who loved Him. And the two notable excepts were: (1) Saul of Tarsus, a.k.a., the Apostle Paul, and (2) the four sons of Mary and Joseph. And in their cases, His appearance was not to scare them and teach them a lesson. Rather, He appeared to them to offer each of them His love, His forgiveness, and to call each of them into His service, and to entrust to each of them the message of forgiveness for all. And they responded in faith. Hence we see them in the upper room, with the other disciples, worshipping as Lord and Savior, the one whom they had mocked and criticized. As I said, this is not a story of their virtue, but a story of God's grace.
And God did use them in a powerful way. As we read on through the New Testament, we see that in very short order, the one who was recognized as the senior pastor, the bishop if you will, of the Christian church of Jerusalem was not Peter, not John, not John's brother James, but James the brother of our Lord.
When we did our study of Barnabas, we read how Barnabas welcomed Paul, before anyone else would trust him, and how Barnabas introduced Paul to the fellowship of Christians in Jerusalem, and eventually to Peter himself. When Paul himself described that meeting, he provides us with some added interesting information, that Luke omits:
Now back to Luke's account in Acts. Paul's conversion is reported in Acts chapter 9. Three chapters later, in Acts 12, we read...
When Herod saw this was a hit with the Jewish leaders, he had Peter arrested with the intent of executing him. But God sent an angel to release him from prison. When he realized he was free, Peter went to the home where the Disciples were gathered for prayer on his behalf. Luke tells us that the house that just happened to belong to John Mark's mother.
The most significant episode in the book of acts involving James was an event known in church history as "The Jerusalem Council."
James gave his verdict, and that settled the problem of how the Christian Church ought accommodate non-Jews. This was the church hashing out that great eternal issue: Law and Gospel, and trying to realize, as difficult as it was to believe, that it is purely by God's grace and forgiveness that we are saved, and it is only by faith, not by works, that His grace is appropriated in our lives.
While Paul continued his ministry among Gentiles in other lands, Jamse continued to minister as the senior pastor of the predominantly Jewish Christian Church of Jerusalem.
The last reference made to James in the book of Acts occurs when Paul comes to Jerusalem at the end of his third missionary Journey.
So you see, that while Paul was sensitive to winning the Gentiles to Christ, James the brother of our Lord, remained sensitive to winning the his fellow Jews to Christ, and both Paul and James sought to remove all stumbling blocks to anyone receiving the Gospel, without ever compromising the heart of the Gospel.
Of course we can learn more about the heart of James, the brother of our Lord, in the letter that he wrote to the Jewish Christians where were scattered by the persecution which Paul himself helped to start in his pre-Christian days:
Notice how James does not regard himself as our Lord's biological brother, but merely his "bond servant." James does not presume on his common kinship for either his salvation or for his position of leadership. To do so would bring him under the same condemnation Jesus issued to those who presumed to be children of God merely because they were biological descendants of Abraham. James, of all people, understood what a sinner he was. He could not forget how he had mocked, ridiculed, and rejected Jesus for claiming to be the Messiah. So James understood that he could only come to God through faith in Jesus as his Savior, no differently than we.
James concluded his letter with these words:
And what about the other brothers of Jesus. Obviously James received most recognition. But what about Joseph Jr, Simon, and Judas? We know very little about them after Pentecost. Yet that name of one those three other brothers does appear in a significant way Scripture. He is the author of another book of the Bible, one which we in our English Bible refer to as the book of Jude.
Please note that the name of the author of this letter is not Jude. In the original Greek text, the name written here is Judas. However, early English translators of the Bible felt obliged to help ill-informed readers from mistakenly associating this letter with Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus.
Judas, the youngest son of Mary and Joseph, also understood the precious Gospel of God's grace. He, too, who had once openly rejected Jesus as the Messiah, experienced Jesus' love and forgiveness in a very personal way. Notice how he also refers to his elder brother in his closing words: