Who Are My Brethren?
THE sons of Joseph were far from being in
sympathy with Jesus in His work. The reports that reached them in regard to His life and
labors filled them with astonishment and dismay. They heard that He devoted entire nights
to prayer, that through the day He was thronged by great companies of people, and did not
give Himself time so much as to eat. His friends felt that He was wearing Himself out by
His incessant labor; they were unable to account for His attitude toward the Pharisees,
and there were some who feared that His reason was becoming unsettled.
His brothers heard of this,
and also of the charge brought by the Pharisees that He cast out devils through the power
of Satan. They felt keenly the reproach that came upon them through their relation to
Jesus. They knew what a tumult His words and works created, and were not only alarmed at
His bold statements, but indignant at His denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees. They
decided that He must be persuaded or constrained to cease this manner of labor, and they
induced Mary to unite with them, thinking that through His love for her they might prevail
upon Him to be more prudent.
It was just before this that
Jesus had a second time performed the miracle of healing a man possessed, blind and dumb,
and the Pharisees had reiterated the charge, "He casteth out devils through the
prince of the devils." Matt. 9:34. Christ told them plainly that in attributing the
work of the Holy Spirit to Satan, they were cutting themselves off from the fountain of
blessing. Those who had spoken against Jesus Himself, not discerning His divine character,
might receive forgiveness; for through the Holy Spirit they might be brought to see their
error and repent. Whatever the sin, if the soul repents and believes, the guilt is washed
away in the blood of Christ; but he who rejects the work of the Holy Spirit is placing
himself where repentance and faith cannot come to him. It is by the Spirit that God works
upon the heart; when men willfully reject the Spirit, and declare It to be from Satan,
they cut off the channel by which God can communicate with them. When the Spirit is
finally rejected, there is no more that God can do for the soul.
The Pharisees to whom Jesus
spoke this warning did not themselves believe the charge they brought against Him. There
was not one of those dignitaries but had felt drawn toward the Saviour. They had heard the
Spirit's voice in their own hearts declaring Him to be the Anointed of Israel, and urging
them to confess themselves His disciples. In the light of His presence they had realized
their unholiness, and had longed for a righteousness which they could not create. But
after their rejection of Him it would be too humiliating to receive Him as the Messiah.
Having set their feet in the path of unbelief, they were too proud to confess their error.
And in order to avoid acknowledging the truth, they tried with desperate violence to
dispute the Saviour's teaching. The evidence of His power and mercy exasperated them. They
could not prevent the Saviour from working miracles, they could not silence His teaching;
but they did everything in their power to misrepresent Him and to falsify His words. Still
the convicting Spirit of God followed them, and they had to build up many barriers in
order to withstand its power. The mightiest agency that can be brought to bear upon the
human heart was striving with them, but they would not yield.
It is not God that blinds the
eyes of men or hardens their hearts. He sends them light to correct their errors, and to
lead them in safe paths; it is by the rejection of this light that the eyes are blinded
and the heart hardened. Often the process is gradual, and almost imperceptible. Light
comes to the soul through God's word, through His servants, or by the direct agency of His
Spirit; but when one ray of light is disregarded, there is a partial benumbing of the
spiritual perceptions, and the second revealing of light is less clearly discerned. So the
darkness increases, until it is night in the soul. Thus it had been with
leaders. They were convinced that a divine power attended Christ, but in order to resist
the truth, they attributed the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. In doing this they
deliberately chose deception; they yielded themselves to Satan, and henceforth they were
controlled by his power.
Closely connected with
Christ's warning in regard to the sin against the Holy Spirit is a warning against idle
and evil words. The words are an indication of that which is in the heart. "Out of
the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh." But the words are more than an
indication of character; they have power to react on the character. Men are influenced by
their own words. Often under a momentary impulse, prompted by Satan, they give utterance
to jealousy or evil surmising, expressing that which they do not really believe; but the
expression reacts on the thoughts. They are deceived by their words, and come to believe
that true which was spoken at Satan's instigation. Having once expressed an opinion or
decision, they are often too proud to retract it, and try to prove themselves in the
right, until they come to believe that they are. It is dangerous to utter a word of doubt,
dangerous to question and criticize divine light. The habit of careless and irreverent
criticism reacts upon the character, in fostering irreverence and unbelief. Many a man
indulging this habit has gone on unconscious of danger, until he was ready to criticize
and reject the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, "Every idle word that men shall
speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou shalt
be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned."
Then He added a warning to
those who had been impressed by His words, who had heard Him gladly, but who had not
surrendered themselves for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. It is not only by resistance
but by neglect that the soul is destroyed. "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a
man," said Jesus, "he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth
none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is
come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself
seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there."
There were many in Christ's
day, as there are today, over whom the control of Satan for the time seemed broken;
through the grace of God they were set free from the evil spirits that had held dominion
the soul. They rejoiced in the love of God; but, like the stony-ground hearers of the
parable, they did not abide in His love. They did not surrender themselves to God daily,
that Christ might dwell in the heart; and when the evil spirit returned, with "seven
other spirits more wicked than himself," they were wholly dominated by the power of
When the soul surrenders
itself to Christ, a new power takes possession of the new heart. A change is wrought which
man can never accomplish for himself. It is a supernatural work, bringing a supernatural
element into human nature. The soul that is yielded to Christ becomes His own fortress,
which He holds in a revolted world, and He intends that no authority shall be known in it
but His own. A soul thus kept in possession by the heavenly agencies is impregnable to the
assaults of Satan. But unless we do yield ourselves to the control of Christ, we shall be
dominated by the wicked one. We must inevitably be under the control of the one or the
other of the two great powers that are contending for the supremacy of the world. It is
not necessary for us deliberately to choose the service of the kingdom of darkness in
order to come under its dominion. We have only to neglect to ally ourselves with the
kingdom of light. If we do not co-operate with the heavenly agencies, Satan will take
possession of the heart, and will make it his abiding place. The only defense against evil
is the indwelling of Christ in the heart through faith in His righteousness. Unless we
become vitally connected with God, we can never resist the unhallowed effects of
self-love, self-indulgence, and temptation to sin. We may leave off many bad habits, for
the time we may part company with Satan; but without a vital connection with God, through
the surrender of ourselves to Him moment by moment, we shall be overcome. Without a
personal acquaintance with Christ, and a continual communion, we are at the mercy of the
enemy, and shall do his bidding in the end.
"The last state of that
man is worse than the first. Even so," said Jesus, "shall it be also unto this
wicked generation." There are none so hardened as those who have slighted the
invitation of mercy, and done despite to the Spirit of grace. The most common
manifestation of the sin against the Holy Spirit is in persistently slighting Heaven's
invitation to repent. Every step in the rejection of Christ is a step toward the rejection
of salvation, and toward the sin against the Holy Spirit.
In rejecting Christ the
Jewish people committed the unpardonable sin; and by refusing the invitation of mercy, we
may commit the same
error. We offer insult to the Prince of life, and put Him to shame
before the synagogue of Satan and before the heavenly universe when we refuse to listen to
His delegated messengers, and instead listen to the agents of Satan, who would draw the
soul away from Christ. So long as one does this, he can find no hope or pardon, and he
will finally lose all desire to be reconciled to God.
While Jesus was still
teaching the people, His disciples brought the message that His mother and His brothers
were without, and desired to see Him. He knew what was in their hearts, and "He
answered and said unto him that told Him, Who is My mother? and who are My brethren? And
He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples, and said, Behold My mother and My
brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My
brother, and sister, and mother."
All who would receive Christ
by faith were united to Him by a tie closer than that of human kinship. They would become
one with Him, as He was one with the Father. As a believer and doer of His words, His
mother was more nearly and savingly related to Him than through her natural relationship.
His brothers would receive no benefit from their connection with Him unless they accepted
Him as their personal Saviour.
What a support Christ would
have found in His earthly relatives if they had believed in Him as one from heaven, and
had co-operated with Him in doing the work of God! Their unbelief cast a shadow over the
earthly life of Jesus. It was a part of the bitterness of that cup of woe which He drained
The enmity kindled in the
human heart against the gospel was keenly felt by the Son of God, and it was most painful
to Him in His home; for His own heart was full of kindness and love, and He appreciated
tender regard in the family relation. His brothers desired that He should concede to their
ideas, when such a course would have been utterly out of harmony with His divine mission.
They looked upon Him as in need of their counsel. They judged Him from their human point
of view, and thought that if He would speak only such things as would be acceptable to the
scribes and Pharisees, He would avoid the disagreeable controversy that His words aroused.
They thought that He was beside Himself in claiming divine authority, and in placing
Himself before the rabbis as a reprover of their sins. They knew that the Pharisees were
seeking occasion to accuse Him, and they felt that He had given them sufficient occasion.
With their short measuring
line they could not fathom the mission which He came to fulfill, and therefore could not
sympathize with Him in His trials. Their coarse, unappreciative words showed that they had
no true perception of His character, and did not discern that the divine blended with the
human. They often saw Him full of grief; but instead of comforting Him, their spirit and
words only wounded His heart. His sensitive nature was tortured, His motives were
misunderstood, His work was uncomprehended.
His brothers often brought
forward the philosophy of the Pharisees, which was threadbare and hoary with age, and
presumed to think that they could teach Him who understood all truth, and comprehended all
mysteries. They freely condemned that which they could not understand. Their reproaches
probed Him to the quick, and His soul was wearied and distressed. They avowed faith in
God, and thought they were vindicating God, when God was with them in the flesh, and they
knew Him not.
These things made His path a
thorny one to travel. So pained was Christ by the misapprehension in His own home that it
was a relief to Him to go where it did not exist. There was one home that He loved to
visit,--the home of Lazarus, and Mary, and Martha; for in the atmosphere of faith and love
His spirit had rest. Yet there were none on earth who could comprehend His divine mission,
or know the burden which He bore in behalf of humanity. Often He could find relief only in
being alone, and communing with His heavenly Father.
Those who are called to
suffer for Christ's sake, who have to endure misapprehension and distrust, even in their
own home, may find comfort in the thought that Jesus has endured the same. He is moved
with compassion for them. He bids them find companionship in Him, and relief where He
found it, in communion with the Father.
Those who accept Christ as
their personal Saviour are not left as orphans, to bear the trials of life alone. He
receives them as members of the heavenly family; He bids them call His Father their
Father. They are His "little ones," dear to the heart of God, bound to Him by
the most tender and abiding ties. He has toward them an exceeding tenderness, as far
surpassing what our father or mother has felt toward us in our helplessness as the divine
is above the human.
Of Christ's relation to His
people, there is a beautiful illustration in the laws given to Israel. When through
poverty a Hebrew had been forced to part with his patrimony, and to sell himself as a
bondservant, the duty of redeeming him and his inheritance fell to the one who was nearest
of kin. See Lev. 25:25, 47-49; Ruth 2:20. So the work of redeeming us and our inheritance,
lost through sin, fell upon Him who is "near of kin" unto us. It was to redeem
us that He became our kinsman. Closer than father, mother, brother, friend, or lover is
the Lord our Saviour. "Fear not," He says, "for I have redeemed thee, I
have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine." "Since thou wast precious in My
sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for
thee, and people for thy life." Isa. 43:1, 4.
Christ loves the heavenly
beings that surround His throne; but what shall account for the great love wherewith He
has loved us? We cannot understand it, but we can know it true in our own experience. And
if we do hold the relation of kinship to Him, with what tenderness should we regard those
who are brethren and sisters of our Lord! Should we not be quick to recognize the claims
of our divine relationship? Adopted into the family of God, should we not honor our Father
and our kindred?