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Why did Jesus’ siblings not believe?

In Mark 3 we read the reaction that Jesus’ family had to his teaching and performing miracles.

“Now Jesus went home, and a crowd gathered so that they were not able to eat. When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind’” (Mark 3:20-21 NET).

What a sad, and possibly shocking statement! Jesus’ own family did not believe in him and thought that he was out of his mind. Why would they think such a thing?

Perhaps if you have siblings, you can relate a bit to what they were thinking. I have an older brother. I grew up looking up to him as my older brother. He helped pave the way in so many ways during high school, having had the teachers before me, helped me get into singing groups, and the list goes on. He was my big brother.

But what if he suddenly left home and began travelling around, preaching about God, and gathering disciples (students) who travelled with him and listened to his every word. And soon word began to reach you that he was actually healing people of diseases and even casting out demons.

The problem is – you know him! He’s your big brother! And he’s never done anything like this before. After all, he is a carpenter, not a teacher! Despite his growing popularity, you know better because you know who he really is. Or so you think.

What we don’t see is how the family in Nazareth were treated because of his claims. We know what people are like and despite the two thousand year difference, people haven’t changed all that much.

It was earlier than this that Jesus visited Nazareth after spending time in the wilderness (this is recorded in Luke 4 and Mark 1). Luke records that Jesus went into the temple, read from the prophet Isaiah about the coming Messiah, sat down, and said, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled even as you heard it being read” (Luke 4:21). They were amazed at what he said, knowing who he was – he was Joseph’s son (as they knew him). But they were filled with rage and wanted to throw him down the cliff, but Jesus escaped.

Again, can you imagine what the locals said to the family about Jesus? Did they taunt them, jeer at them when they walked outside because of the statements their older brother had made? No wonder his brothers even taunted him when Jesus acted like he wasn’t going to the Feast in Jerusalem:

“So Jesus’ brothers advised him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ (For not even his own brothers believed in him)” (John 7:3-5).

It took Jesus appearing to one of his brothers, James (1 Corinthians 15:7), to convince them that he was more than their big brother – that he was indeed the Messiah, the Son of God.

It is wonderful seeing them gathered in the upper room with the apostles, the women, and Mary as believers in Acts 1:12-14. Two of the brothers, James and Judas, from what we can tell, went on to write New Testament books. The New Testament as well as first century historians record that James became a very active and prominent Christian leader in Jerusalem.

We have the evidence of who Jesus was and what he did. What is stopping us from believing?

Readings for next week:
11 April – Mark 6:1-29
12 April – Mark 6:30-56
13 April – Mark 7
14 April – Mark 8
15 April – Mark 9:1-32

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Jon Galloway

After graduating from Freed-Hardeman College and teaching school for three years, as well as preaching for small congregations in West Tennessee, Jon & Arlene moved back to her home of Glasgow, Scotland. Since 1985 Jon has been involved in evangelistic work in the Glasgow area, currently serving the congregation in East Kilbride. They have three grown children. Besides writing 'Bible Bytes', Jon is also one of the editors of the "Christian Worker," a news magazine for congregations in the UK, and is a teacher and governor for the British Bible School.

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2 thoughts on “Why did Jesus’ siblings not believe?

  1. Some good thoughts. Too, can you imagine growing up in a family where your elder brother seems to never get blamed for anything, and you can never measure up, maybe being told, “Why can’t you be more like Jesus?” Jesus was truly the PERFECT ONE in the family. There could have been some sibling jealousy. Just a thought. –Ron Bartanen

    1. Thanks Ron. And you are right – what would it have been like having to measure up to your older brother, Jesus, all the time? I think you are right about the possible sibling jealousy. Yet – on another level – he is our perfect older brother and our example to follow.

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