Why didn’t all of Jesus’ family believe in him?

Image: Why didn’t all of Jesus’ family believe in him?

They saw almost everything he did, but still didn't know who he really was.

Would you have believed?

Sometimes you can read something a hundred times before the significance of it really sinks in. That’s exactly what happened to me when I was completely taken back by what John writes in his gospel about Jesus in John 7:5: 

For not even his brothers believed in him.

Here’s why this is surprising.

The brothers of Jesus (James, Joses, Simon and Judas are all named in Matthew 13:55, and no not that Judas), had grown up with the very son of God living under the same roof:

  • Some of them would have been old enough to remember their older brother Jesus, at the age of 12, going to the Temple and teaching the religious leaders (Luke 2:39-52).
  • They were also likely invited guests at the same wedding when Jesus performed his first miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:1-11).
  • Some of them would likely have been present, or at least would have been aware of when their older brother turned the tables in the temple, and how this act carried with it the bold messianic statement that the temple was ‘my father’s house’.
  • They would also have known that Jesus healed an official’s son (John 4:46-54), healed the man on the sabbath at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-17), fed 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish (John 6:1-14) and walked on water (John 6:16-21).

In John’s gospel, all of these events took place before John’s statement that, ‘…not even his brothers believed in him.” 

Why didn't they believe?

It’s easy to wonder how Jesus’ brothers could have been witnesses, or at least heard about all of these things, but still not believed that Jesus was the very Son of God. Our temptation would be to think that surely we would have understood it, even if they didn’t. The truth is we probably wouldn’t have.

Jesus was completely man and completely God. Just as we can’t fully understand this mystery, neither could Jesus’ brothers. Because Jesus walked among them, they would have had no trouble believing that Jesus was at least a very special man, or an incredible prophet. But they hadn’t come to the vital conclusion that sets Jesus apart from any other person who had gone before or would come after - Jesus was God incarnate. God was truly walking among them. 

It’s possible for us to call ourselves friends of Jesus, exist around the church, be witness even to miracles, but still not believe that Jesus is exactly who he said he is. If this was the case for Jesus’ own brothers, how much more true will it be for us?

Are you looking for a sign?

In Luke 11:16, we read that the people had been testing Jesus, ‘seeking a sign from heaven.’ Jesus answers their test, but not how they had expected.

He speaks about the Old Testament prophet Jonah, who spent three days inside a whale. Jesus tells them that the answer to their test will be similar ; a reference to his own death and resurrection three days later. It could be for exactly this reason that Jesus said in Luke 11:29,

This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.

How often do we look for signs to confirm that Jesus was who he said he was? We sometimes pray asking God to prove himself through a miracle, as though God has something to prove to us. Clearly Jesus isn’t saying that all prayer for miracles is wrong, but it is wrong, if our intention is to have God do a trick as though he was a seal with a basketball.

Having faith in Jesus Christ means believing he is exactly who he said he is. Miracles, signs and wonders can certainly help increase our faith, but they don’t take us the entire way. As Christians, we musn’t say, "I see miracles, so I believe Jesus is the Son of God". Instead, our attitude should be, “Jesus is the Son of God, and because of this truth, I believe he can perform miracles.’

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

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