Richard Hess is a Bible teacher who has studied the scriptures in depth. He is also a friend and brother in Christ.
May the Lord bless you, Dear Reader, as you read Brother Hess’ expounding of the Holy Word of God.
Who are Jesus’ brothers, sisters and mothers?
By Richard Hess
In Matthew chapter 12 we find Jesus talking to a group of people which included some of the Jewish scribes and Pharisees as well as His disciples.
While He talked with them in the house, His mother and His brothers (brethren), were standing outside and wanted to talk with Jesus. Vs 47 we see that one of them told Jesus that His mother and His brothers were outside and wanted to talk to Him.
Listen very closely as to how Jesus answered them in verse 48. Many times throughout the gospels, we hear Jesus answering people with a question instead of giving a direct answer to the question.
Here, Jesus does this once again by asking them the question, “who is my mother? and who are my brethren?” By answering their questions with a question, Jesus was trying to get them to think and understand His principles and doctrines.
In this instance Jesus wanted them to understand just who His real brothers, sisters and mothers are.
His answer is very straight forward and to the point in verse 49 as Jesus stretches out His hand towards those disciples and followers of His and declares, “behold, these are my brothers and sisters and mother”.
In verse 50 He further clarifies this by stating that, “whosoever shall do the will of my father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” This statement put a distinction between the flesh and the spirit. Jesus was talking about His spiritual brothers, sisters, and mother and not His fleshly, earthly brothers and sisters and mother.
Matthew 12:46 — While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him.
47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee.
48 But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? And who are my brethren?
49 And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.
In Matthew 28 we have the account immediately following Jesus’ resurrection.
Verse 8 says: And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word.
9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him.
Here in verse 10 Jesus tells them, “Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there they shall see me.”
Notice here that Jesus once again refers to His disciples as “His brethren.” He was not talking about His fleshly family of brothers and sisters, and He was certainly not talking about the Jews, the Scribes and Pharisees.
Watch very carefully as you read the gospels and you will see that Jesus had a very special relationship with those who “believed in Him” and not just those who followed Him from a distance looking to get something from Him. Jesus had this special relationship with His disciples that went beyond even the blood relationship of His kin.
As a side note here, I believe that we too should have a special relationship with our brothers and sisters in the Lord. We should be preferring one another as fellow believers above and beyond even that of our other friends and family. This is not to say that we should exclude these from our relationship and fellowship but that we should have preference for our family in Christ first.
Once again in Mark’s gospel we have the account:
Mark 3:33 And he answered them, saying, Who is my mother, or my brethren?
34 And he looked round about on them which sat about him, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!
35 For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.
And again in Luke we have this account:
Luke 8:20 And it was told him by certain which said, Thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to see thee.
21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
On yet another occasion, which was just after Jesus was resurrected, He again uses the word “brethren”. Let’s look at it.
John 20:17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.
18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.
Here Jesus tells Mary to go to His brethren. He clarifies who He was sending her to. In verse 18 we see Mary went to the brethren of Jesus who were His disciples. She did not go and tell the Jews and we’ll see why in a moment.
Jesus further clarifies His “brethren” when He tells Mary to say, “I ascend to my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God”.
The reason Mary did not go tell the Jews is evident in this verse:
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
Jesus’ disciples were afraid of the Jews, and Jesus calmed them by saying, “peace be unto you”.
Now, if these “Jews” were truly Jesus’ “brethren”, I’m sure the disciples would have acknowledged this and accepted them and not been in fear of them as stated in verse 19. But they were not His brethren.
Jesus never called sinners or unbelievers His brethren.
Now let’s go back to Matthew 25 and listen to Jesus talking to His disciples.
Matthew 25:31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Now after Jesus says these things, He tells them “why” these sheep were blessed….
35 For I was an hungred, and ye (His brethren/disciples) gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye (His brethren/disciples) gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye (His brethren/disciples) took me in:
36 Naked, and ye (brethren/disciples) clothed me: I was sick, and ye (brethren/disciples) visited me: I was in prison, and ye (brethren/disciples) came unto me.
Now watch this: Who answered Jesus? … the righteous!
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
If we look at this verse and read it in modern grammar, it would look like this:
“Brothers”, in as mush as you have met the needs and cared for the lowliest around you, you have done the same to me”.
Jesus is not commending His disciples for being nice and generous to the Jews. He was praising His disciples for doing the righteous thing to the down trodden, the poor and the destitute.
How do we know this to be true? Let’s look at the next group of people Jesus was addressing.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Notice that in verse 45 Jesus does not say, “my brethren” … why? Because He is addressing the “cursed,” for not doing the righteous and Godly acts towards the poor, needy, and destitute.
Once again: Luke 8:21 And he answered and said unto them, My mother and my brethren are these which hear the word of God, and do it.
The Jews (Judahites) were not the ones hearing and doing.
The disciples of Jesus were the ones hearing and doing.
Jesus actually called these Jewish Pharisees and Scribes, a bunch of snakes and told them they were of their father, the devil.
These Jewish or Judahite men were not considered Jesus’ brothers.
In the following verse we see some scathing , derogatory remarks by Jesus to these Jewish scribes and Pharisees:
Matthew 3:7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers (snakes), who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
Matthew 12:34 O generation of vipers (snakes), how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.
Matthew 23:33 Ye serpents*, ye generation of vipers (snakes), how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
Luke 3:7 Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
The word “serpent” is used symbolically throughout the Bible to denote a deadly, subtle, malicious enemy.
Remember in the garden of Eden, it was the serpent who subtly deceived Eve first.
In Revelation we see this:
Revelation 12:9 And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
Revelation 20:2 And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years.
I doubt that Jesus would be calling these Jewish scribes and Pharisees “His brethren” when here in Revelation He calls them after the name of their father, the devil and satan.
Look at John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
In the preceding verse Jesus doesn’t mince words with these Pharisees and scribes.
42 Jesus said unto them, If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.
Another interesting observation is found in Matthew chapter 23 where 7 times Jesus pronounces a “woe” to the Jewish scribes and Pharisees.
- 13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
- 14 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
- 15 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
- 23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
- 25 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.
26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.
27 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
29 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! ….
In the very beginning of chapter 23 Jesus is talking to the “multitudes and his disciples”.
He tells them 3 things they are not suppose to do.
Vs 8 … do not allow yourself to be called Rabbi …
Vs 9 … call no man your father
Vs 10 … neither be ye called master …
Jesus continues throughout this chapter with his accusations and name calling.
Vs 16 Woe unto you, ye blind guides,
Vs 17 Ye fools and blind:
Vs 19 Ye fools and blind:
Vs 24 Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
Do you think Jesus is being a little sarcastic here when he says, you choke and gag on a tiny little insignificant gnat, and then swallow a camel with no problem?
He is giving them an example of how they make a big deal and fuss about things that do not matter as far as spirituality is concerned, and then they turn right around and accept something that they should be concerned about and that affects their relationship with God.
Vs 30 And say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.
31 Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets.
Here we see the Jewish scribes and Pharisees boasting about what they would have done if they lived back when the prophets were killed and stoned. They said, “we would not have taken part in that activity, no way.” But then Jesus lays it into them again when he tells them that they are a witness to themselves in that they are the children of them who killed the prophets.
All through this chapter, as well as many others, Jesus tells them just what a bunch of hypocrites and phonies they are in their religious activities.
They were doing a lot of the acceptable things on the “outside,” but inside they were putrid and disgusting hypocrites who were full of boasting and pride.
Jesus was letting them know that they needed to take a look in their hearts and see what their motives were.
Yes, the scripture says in 1 Samuel 16:7 ….. for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
But this does not mean that we can act, say or do and live any way we want and then say, “well, God knows my heart” …. Yeah, God knows our heart, and he sees that it is filthy and black and full of evil thoughts and plans and ideas. When our hearts are filled with the righteousness of Christ then it will make its way to the surface of our lives. This is how people see Christ in us.
The things that come out of our mouths are a reflection of the condition of our hearts. All of our nastiness, hatefulness, and thinking up ways to cause trouble, telling lies about people, come from deep within our hearts. The Bible says in Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?
These Pharisees and scribes were always thinking of ways they could corner and manipulate the people and coerce them into their religious ways, and all the while they were walking contrary to the way Jesus was teaching. They were telling Jesus, hey, we’ve done it this way for over 2,000 years and it’s worked for us so don’t come here and tell us how to do things your way.
We do this very same thing when we’re not willing to unlearn wrong teachings that we have come to accept down through our few short years here on this earth.
Jesus was giving them “new light” and they rejected it so they could hold on to their old traditions.
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
These serpents and vipers that Jesus was talking about were not just your everyday garden variety of snake. These serpents and vipers Jesus was referring to were lethally poisonous and could kill with one bite. In essence Jesus was telling them that their religiousness was poisonous.
34 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city:
35 That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.
36 Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation.
Jesus wasn’t coming across as this warm, fuzzy, loving, forgiving, huggy-bear type of person. He was telling them just the way it was and is.
Now we see Jesus saying, “I tried getting through to you but you would have none of my way”. “You wanted it your way and now you must pay.”
37 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
What was “Jerusalem”?
Who was Jesus referring to?
Who killed the prophets?
What did Jesus mean by saying “your house”?
What is “desolation”?