Was there a favorite child in your family?
Can you imagine growing up as one of Jesus’ siblings? If you’re anything like me, you probably had that one sibling who you just knew was your parents’ favorite child, regardless of how they kept reassuring you they loved all their children equally. He or she was the perfect kid who made straight A’s, made all-state in sports, won the county-wide science fair and spelling bee, and volunteered in his spare time to feed the hungry at the local soup kitchen. His science fair project consisted of finding a cure for cancer.
Then there was you, the underachieving sibling. Parents and teachers alike constantly berated you with, “Why can’t you be more like your brother?” Of course, your perfect sibling was not so perfect when he was around you. When you two were alone together, he made your life miserable. If you dared to tattle on him, your parents never believed you because he was the perfect child.
Did Mary and Joseph have a favorite child?
I can fully empathize with Jesus’ younger siblings. Since Jesus lived a perfect life, I’m assuming His perfection also applied to his childhood. Can’t you just picture an exasperated Mary standing with her hands on her hips saying, “James and Jude! Why can’t you be more like your brother, Jesus?” It had to be hard for Mary, after having the perfect child, to have to contend with her other children who, well, acted childish and not so perfect. But no matter how hard his siblings tried, they just couldn’t live up to Jesus’ perfect image and were probably frustrated by their lack of ability to do so. And they knew, deep in their hearts, that Jesus was their parents’ favorite child. However, unlike my experience, I’m certain Jesus didn’t make his younger siblings’ lives miserable when Mary or Joseph weren’t watching.
Regardless of how perfect you believe your child is, Jesus was the only perfect child
Now, of course, as Christians, we understand that none of us can live up to His perfect example. Trying to be more like Jesus is a goal all Christians should strive for, regardless of the realization we will never quite reach that goal this side of Heaven. But how about growing up as His younger brother or sister? How difficult that must have been for His siblings who didn’t grasp who He truly was.
I realize I am speculating on how the family dynamics worked in Jesus’ childhood home. Perhaps I am way off base, but after having observed several families over the years, there always seems to be one (or more) “bad apple” in the family. Chances are Mary and Joseph had at least one child who was strong-willed and rebellious. Imagine that poor child living in the shadow of his older brother, Jesus.
If you can’t be the perfect child, you can always call the perfect child “crazy”
Scripture does tell us that Jesus’ siblings didn’t “get Him. John 7:1-5 says, “After this, Jesus went around in Galilee, purposely staying away from Judea because the Jews there were waiting to take his life. But when the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
If Jesus had to contend with his own family not understanding him, how does that bode for the rest of us mere mortals? Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” Somehow, I never applied this verse to sibling rivalry. But just think. Jesus had to put up with pesky little siblings annoying Him without giving in to the urge to smack the daylights out of them.
Mark 3:20-21 records, “Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”
Wow, I guess if sibling rivalry doesn’t work by annoying your older brother, you can always resort to calling your perfect sibling “crazy.” That justification can go a long way in alleviating the low self-esteem of a less-than-perfect sibling.
Jesus’ brothers come to the realization their brother was God in the flesh
Fortunately, as Scripture also tells us, at least two of Jesus’ brothers finally understood who He really was. 1 Corinthians 15:7 states (after Jesus’ resurrection), “Then he appeared to James.” The books of James and Jude are traditionally accepted as having been written by the brothers of Jesus. Of course, it took something monumental like the resurrection to convince them. I suppose the realization of who their brother really was must have come as quite a shock to Jesus’ siblings who had to share the bathroom with Him (or whatever the equivalent of a bathroom was in Biblical times).