Nothing can be more fascinating than meeting the actual brothers of Jesus in this life. The ability to know the brothers of Jesus enables one to access the physical Jesus—similarly to how those of His time accessed Him. The brothers of Jesus, are basically not different from Jesus. But, the formidable question is: How does one access those brothers of Jesus, in our time?
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’” (Matthew 25:37-40) (NIV).
Notice carefully that those said to have done good things to the brothers of Jesus are not necessarily the brothers of Jesus. Those are the considered righteous ones who would inherit the Kingdom prepared for them since the creation of the world. The brothers of Jesus are not, necessarily, different from Jesus. ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’ (Verse 40).
Apparently, Jesus was not talking about catering for His physical relatives, some of whose names were James, Joseph/Josses, Judas/Jude, and Simon. Neither was He referring to the ordinary people. Basically, Jesus was talking about His followers—those having left everything in this life to follow Him. The righteous ones, as mentioned in Matthew 25:37-40, are just like those catering for the seventy-two—sent on a special gospel expedition:
“Do not take a purse or bag or sandals, and do not greet anyone on the road. ‘When you enter a house, first say, ‘peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house” (Luke 10:4-7) (NIV).
As can be seen, the man of peace, would not be aware, or expectant of the type of strangers to be catered for. That man of peace simply demonstrates hospitality to strangers, unaware of the type of strangers entertained. The righteous ones are like the Good Samaritan. This is why they get surprised when rewarded for virtuous works during their lifetimes. They are not the brothers of Jesus, necessarily. But will be among the righteous ones, treated with honor, per Matthew 25:37-40. All are encouraged to maintain this principle of hospitality:
“Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering” (Hebrews 13:2-3) (NIV).
There is a hint on who the brothers of Jesus are. Such people are not, necessarily, glamorously viewed as deserving the honor of being brothers of Jesus. Generally, what are people’s opinions about prisoners? Obviously, prisoners are not considered with high esteem, at all. In the majority of cases, people assume that all prisoners deserve incarceration. This is caused by failure to exercise empathy or inability to understand the deep things of God. Let us also be reminded of how Jesus treated one of the two criminals, crucified with Him:
“We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:41-43) (NIV).
Obviously, that criminal will be among Christ’s brothers, as suggested in Matthew 25:37-40. This is just as some of the poverty-stricken—lacking food and clothing—would be included in that group. The point is that the selection of the brothers of Jesus is not according to human expectations. This implies that there would be surprises when Jesus comes. Such brothers are revealed as coming from those least considered to be His brothers.
At some point, Jesus even hinted that the drunkards and prostitutes might, actually, attain God’s Kingdom, ahead of those considered religious (Matthew 21:31). The most important thing to remember is that God’s Kingdom does not focus on obvious assumptions by ordinary people. It portrays what is generally considered as opposite of what most people place their hopes in:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18:10-14) (NIV).
This was another parable providing a hint on how the special group, identified as brothers of Jesus are cataloged. Tax collectors were considered among the worst sinners, at that time. They were the government agents—but also corrupt as not faithfully taking everything collected to the governing authorities. Therefore, Jesus used a tax collector, to illustrate an example of required behavior, leading to inclusion in God’s Kingdom.
However, this has got nothing to do with bragging about being in sinful conditions, necessarily. This is confirmed in that, unlike his counterpart, the other thief could not be in paradise with Jesus. Reality is in that people’s opinions have got nothing to do with the selection of Christ’s brothers. What should be borne in mind is that the righteous do not, necessarily, comprise the brothers of Jesus. His brothers are a special group, without the reputation of doing good things to strangers, necessarily.
The brothers of Jesus are not admirable to most people. Jesus Himself was prophesied as not being one who would be acceptable to everyone. He was, actually, rejected by His own people and treated scornfully at the cross. A lot of pomposity and bragging, observed among Christians, today, grossly portrays the opposite of the personality of Jesus:
“He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of the dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:2-5) (NIV).
Of course, this prophecy appears as pointing at one, bearing our sins, whose name is Jesus. But, Matthew 25:37-40 talks about His brothers who, apparently, are not different from what the above Scripture portrays. The only difference is that those brothers would, actually, comprise those plucked out from appalling sinful conditions. But His cleansing blood enables them to appear with white garments—crowned to rule with Him (Revelations 19:7-8).
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God. For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God, the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18-24) (NIV).
Those desiring to be included among the brothers of Jesus—when sincerely committed to Christ—have to renounce everything (Luke 14:25-33). There is no need for consideration of one’s sinful background, necessarily. There is no sin too titanic, for Jesus to fail to handle. What is important is the willingness to walk the walk with Christ—even through despicable conditions.
“When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ Peter replied, ‘Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38 (NIV).
The key lies in what the last part of that Scripture portrays: “And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). The gift of the Holy Spirit seals those people as brothers of Jesus. What made Jesus different from other humans is that He had the Holy Spirit. Jesus was the Son of God because He had the Holy Spirit. Similarly, what makes his brothers different from others in this life is that they have the gift of the Holy Spirit. They became the Sons of God, and therefore, the brothers of Jesus, because of the Holy Spirit in them. Nothing else justifies a person to become the brother of Jesus.
“The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled not by the sinful nature cannot please God. You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness” (Romans 8:6-10) (NIV).
When Peter told those Jews to repent and be baptized, at Pentecost, he was reiterating what Jesus said in Luke 14:25-33. No-one can force himself into being a brother of Jesus. Except by first renouncing everything that the person would have all along considered as important. While that appears difficult, or impossible to some, it is as easy as adopting humility, ahead of pride. The only hindrance towards God’s Kingdom is pride, labeled as the seed of all evil.
When the Helper—described as the Holy Spirit—enters into a person’s life, that person no longer has responsibility for what happens later. Jesus would have taken over. The role of that person would, simply, be to submit to the power of the Holy Spirit, which enables doing God’s will, only. That is exactly what makes those people similar to Jesus Christ. And that is the only reason for calling them His brothers. There is no effort required, to be one of the brothers of Jesus, except surrendering everything to Jesus:
“A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, ‘Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.’ ‘Who are my mother and my brothers?’ he asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:32-35) (NIV).
Before the death and resurrection of Jesus the Holy Spirit had not yet been accessible. But, His physical presence had been sufficient to sustain those willing to follow, listen and apply everything taught by Him. This is why to those Jews, Jesus had said He was the bread of life (John 6:51). Jesus is still the bread of life, to those, yet to receive the Holy Spirit. Although that bread is contained among His fellow brothers—comprising those whom the world cannot recognize, just as it did not recognize Jesus.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from the current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing relief to those having witnessed the strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long-awaited providential oasis of hope.
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