Jesus had four brothers, and at least two sisters (Mark 6:3; Matt. 13:55-56). The names of His brothers were James, Joses, Judah, and Simon. James was the author of the book of James, and Judah was the author of the book of Jude (Jude 1:1). With Joseph and Mary having that number of children, it would not be hard for their descendants to number in the many millions today. You ought to be nicer to the person you are sitting next to— they might be related to Jesus. But of course, as we will see, the Lord calculates the importance of these things differently.
“His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come. When he had said these words unto them, he abode still in Galilee. But when his brethren were gone up, then went he also up unto the feast, not openly, but as it were in secret” (Jn. 7:3-10).
Summary of the Text
At this point in the Lord’s ministry, the Lord’s brothers were not persuaded by Him. They were not believers. They were pious Jews, observing the Feast of Booths here, but they did not believe the claims Jesus was making. They taunted Him—if you want to make a name for Yourself with these miracles that You are doing, you need to go to the big city to do them (vv. 3-4). The text then says explicitly that they were talking this way because they did not believe in Him. The reply that Jesus makes to them shows the true nature of the true antithesis. Jesus says that every time is “their time,” but His time has not yet come (v. 6). The world cannot hate them, which means that in some fundamental way, they were still part of the world system (v. 7). Members of His immediate family belonged to “the world.” Jesus, however, testified to the world that its works were evil— in a way that His brothers could not do. He told them to go up to the Feast, which they did (vv. 8-9). Jesus followed later, but went secretly (v. 10).
Sorting Some Things Out
Several of the disciples were named James also. One was a son of Alphaeus (Acts 1:13). Another was a son of Zebedee, brother to John, and he was martyred by Herod (Acts 12:1-2). A third James, James the Lord’s brother, was a leader in the church at Jerusalem, and was called James the Just by Hegesippus, a second century historian. This James is the one who wrote the book of James. His brother Jude, another half brother to the Lord, wrote the book of Jude.
All the references we have to the Lord’s siblings prior to the resurrection indicate that they were not impressed with Him. We have the evidence of our text in John 7, of course, and in Mark, when Jesus made His first big “stir,” they showed up at the crowded house in order to take Him in hand. We see this by the response the Lord gave to them.
“There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him. And the multitude sat about him, and they said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren without seek for thee. And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren? And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother” (Mark 3:31-35).
In the third century, blood relatives of the Lord were called desposyni, those belonging to the master. Now something like that would be fun to discover on ancestry.com, but look at how the Lord places it all in perspective. Anyone can be His brother, His sister, or His mother. How? By doing the will of God.
The Impact of the Resurrection
So before the resurrection, to the extent we have information about it, it shows that the Lord’s siblings did not believe in Him. We know that Mary did believe in Him, but there were family dynamics going on. But immediately after the resurrection, everything apparently changed. After the resurrection, we don’t have any record of unbelief in the Lord’s family. James, the Lord’s brother, is reckoned among the apostles (Gal. 1:19), and a pillar in the church (Gal. 2:9). The Lord’s brothers were reckoned among those in ministry (1 Cor. 9:5). The key appears to have been the fact that Jesus made an appearance to James after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:7).
What is Faith?
Scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Rom. 10:17). Scripture tells us that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). But most of all, we see in Scripture that faith is a gift, a grace, a present (Eph. 2:8-10).
The gift is not automatic. Someone could have grown up right next to Jesus—in the bedroom next to His—and not have faith. Proximity does not create faith. An encounter with the risen Christ does.
We understand the connection between the baby Jesus and the risen Jesus because we have heard the entire story. But some want a sentimental Christmas with the baby Jesus only. If He stays in the crib, He can’t mess around with my life. Genuine faith cannot function in this way.