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Friday, December 14, 2012

Mary, Part 5: Her Other Children

At Christmastime, we think about the virgin mother of Jesus. We know Mary was a virgin by her own admission, I know not a man (Luke 1:34). We also know that Mary and Joseph maintained purity until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). It’s interesting how this is worded: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son. We can infer from this that they did have normal marital relations after Jesus’ birth.

The Bible names Jesus’ half brothers: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. (They are mentioned, along with Mary in Matthew 12:46, 13:55; Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19; John 2:12, and Acts 1:14.) We witness an interaction between Jesus and his younger brothers in John 7:3-10. Verse 5 tells us clearly neither did his brethren believe in him.

Jesus had at least two half sisters. I have read three names for them (not in the Bible): Mary, Anna, and Salome, popular names at the time. Someone has suggested Lydia as well. (I have no idea where that came from.) What we can be sure of is that the Lord Jesus’ sisters (however many there were) believed in Him before His brothers did. They were followers of Christ. (Matthew 13:56, Mark 6:3)

Jesus appeared to James after He rose from the dead. Later, we find Jesus’ half brothers with the disciples. (If you like, read my blog about James.)

God used both James and Judas (Jude) to write the biblical books, James and Jude. I personally find it interesting that James is one of the most practical books on how to live the Christian life. Jude is about the defense of the faith against apostasy. These are not “light reading.” They are meat.

I am a first child myself, and I often felt like I was a “guinea pig” for my parents’ experiments in parenting. (My feelings, not theirs, I’m sure.) I wonder if every firstborn feels like that. My brother always looked up to me. When we were older and I realized he did, I could hardly believe it! I always looked up to him. (We have a sister, much younger, and I have no clue if she looked up to either of us.)

Jesus was the firstborn. He was also God. He was perfect. Can you imagine what His little brothers and sisters felt about Him? Surely, they admired Him and looked up to Him. But, I can imagine it must have been frustrating to have a perfect Older Brother! You could never, no matter how hard you tried, live up to His example. You could never, ever be like Him. After all, He was the Messiah! His sisters accepted Him as their Savior fairly early in their lives, but it was harder for His brothers to come to saving faith.

I think they had to see to believe. When Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7), that did it for them. Prophecy had been fulfilled, and they could now see for themselves personally that Jesus was Who He said He was, Who their mother and father said He was.

I think it must have been awkward at times for Jesus’ siblings, especially after Jesus started His ministry. Not only did He have that spectacular baptism, but then He started doing things that had no explanation—miracles! Blind men started seeing. Crippled people started walking and jumping up and carrying their beds on the Sabbath day! Jesus broke the rules.

Then, the leaders of the Jewish faith conspired with the Roman officers to get Him killed.

The end.

But it wasn’t the end! And, James got to see Jesus one-on-one after Jesus’ resurrection. I would love to have been a fly on the wall. What did they talk about? How did they relate to each other?

It was a life changer.

James and his brothers now believed in their elder Brother. They accepted Him as God in the flesh. Now, everything added up . . . His perfect life, His very different ministry, His miracles, His death and resurrection. They finally understood He came to save them.

Which brings us back to Christmas . . . For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord (Luke 2:11).


  1. I've sometimes wondered what it must have been like for Jesus's siblings living with a perfect brother. Sadly, in our perversity, we tend to be more irritated than inspired by people who never get in trouble. I'm so glad they came to see the light.

    1. Yes, exactly! Such a blessing that they became great men of God and followers of Christ!


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