• Introduction: Today is the last Sunday of the Easter season.  Next week, we will celebrate the festival of Pentecost. Some have referred to Pentecost as the birthday of the Christian Church on earth.  It is through the church where we receive the gifts from God for the people of God.    Only in the church do we receive the sacraments of Baptism and Communion.  Through these, we receive the forgiveness of sins and faith.  These gifts do not make any sense to us unless the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sins and sinfulness, and then gives us faith to take hold of the gift of forgiveness of those sins and sinfulness.  We’ll talk more about Pentecost on next week, but for now, Pentecost is the event when the gift of promised the Holy Spirit was given.  (Act 1:4-8)
    • Today though, we want to look at the reaction of Jesus’ (half) brothers in our text which serves as the basis for the message of today found in Act 1:14 - 14 All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers[1].
    • I want to spend some time on who many theologians think the phrase, “…and His brothers”  refers to, and then look into what can we learn from the reaction of these “brothers”.
  • Let Us Pray:  Lord God, heavenly Father, we stand in awe thinking about those who were with Your one and only Son, the Lord Jesus, on the day He came back into Your heavenly home. We long for the day when we may join Him and You to spend eternity there.  We pray that You send your Spirit to be present as we ponder the reaction of Your Son’s half-brothers after He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.  Help us to understand Your Word and how to apply it in our daily life.  We bring these petitions before You, Heavenly Father, through Your Son Christ and by the aid of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.
  • Background: You are probably wondering why I have used the term “half-brothers” to refer to the male siblings of our Lord Jesus.  The Bible has the names of Jesus’ male siblings in Mat 13:55. They are James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas.  These names were given in the context of the people of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up, questioning how Jesus was able to teach in the synagogue with such wisdom and perform mighty works.  After all, they saw Jesus grow up in the house of Joseph and saw the family grow with four additional boys and at least two girls.  They were offended that Jesus would be speaking in the synagogue as he was. 
    • What they didn’t realize through the lens of faith is Jesus had a different Father than these four boys and their sisters.   The Gospel of John is clear regarding the heritage of Jesus.  Let me quote to you some familiar passages.  In John ch#1, we read - 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth[2].  Also, from John ch#3 you will probably recognize - 16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.  18 The one who believes in Him is not judged; the one who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God[3].  Jesus has a different Father than the siblings He had through His mother, Mary.  The siblings all had Joseph as their father and Mary as their mother.  This is why I like to be deliberate in referring to Jesus’s human brothers as His biological half-brothers.
    • The ascension of our Lord Jesus occurred 40 days after He rose from the dead that first Easter morning.  Recall from our Easter message, there were at least four women plus the Roman cohort guarding the tomb who saw first-hand Jesus exiting the tomb on His own power.  During those 40 days after Easter, Jesus appeared to about 500 other people. The Apostle Paul early in 1Co ch#15 mentioned Jesus’ appearances to the Apostle Peter and the “12” in addition to these 500, and then pointed out specifically in verses 7&8 - then [Jesus] appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.[4]”  Some of these people who saw Jesus on Easter morning also saw Him ascend into heaven – with some notable additions – Jesus’ half-brothers. (Act 1:14)
      • These are the same brothers who at one time did not believe in their big brother as the Messiah who would come.  John ch#7 starts out with the Feast of Booths coming up.  That was a feast in the Jewish calendar which the Lord said His people needed to celebrate as a lasting reminder of the Israelites living in tents or booths after being released from the slavery of Egypt. Jesus’ half-brothers were goading Him into showing Himself to the world.  That’s when John in his Gospel account made the observation - For not even His brothers believed in Him[5].  
      • These are the same brothers who stood outside with their mother and sisters planning to do an intervention with Jesus (Mat 12:46-50), because they probably thought He was crazy for going on tour throughout Judea and Galilee preaching a ministry of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
        • Jesus’ reaction at that time of this attempted intervention was to clarify who were His true mother, brothers, and sisters. (Mat 12:49-50)  We briefly touched on this in last week’s message on Mothers’ Day.  Jesus responded by extending His hands toward His disciples and said, “49bBehold: My mother and My brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother, and sister, and mother.[6]
    • I’m an only child so it’s a bit harder for me to identify with having siblings.  I didn’t have to live with a truly perfect sibling – not just one who claimed they were perfect.  I can imagine by the time the siblings were in their teens, they would have hated their perfect big brother, and probably picked on Him for being so perfect.  It’s in our nature to dislike people who are successful, and there is reason to believe Jesus endured persecution for His perfection even when growing up.  Even so, we see in today’s first reading, Jesus’ half-brothers became “full” brothers through faith.  They had seen their big Brother sometime after the resurrection, and came to faith despite probably hating Him when they were growing up.
      • I should note: not all theologians agree with this interpretation about who was indicated by the word “brothers” in Act 1:14.  However, the deliberate separation by Luke of the reference to brothers, *after* listing Mary the mother of Jesus, to me is an indication the brothers listed after Mary are a different group of brothers than the brother disciples and apostles.  Additionally, consider these facts about two of the four half-brothers:
        • James became the leader of the early Christian church in Jerusalem. This is certainly confirmed by Luke in Act 15:13 with the reference to James, who spoke to the ecumenical council assembled to address an issue of whether the Gentiles who were coming to the faith in Jesus Christ had to be circumcised.  This is not the same James, brother of John, because James, son of Zebedee, was the first of the Apostles to be killed.  His death preceded the James mentioned in Act ch#15.  This same James of Acts ch#15, half-brother of Jesus, wrote the NT book by his name.
        • Another writer of NT book, Jude, was Judas, brother of James and half-brother of Jesus.   We know this from v1 of Jude where he identified himself - Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James[7].  If Jude was a brother of James who in turn was half-brother of Jesus, logic dictates Jude was also a half-brother to Jesus.
  • Application: I hope you are convinced that Jesus’ half-brothers became part of the 120 believers who were around at, or not long after, Jesus’ ascension back into heaven.  They saw their big Brother after He had died on a cross.  BTW, no one *ever* survived execution on a cross, Roman style.  However, even if they had not been a part of the early church, the fact is, had Jesus not risen, we are still in our sins.  We would have no hope of one day being out of the evil we live within right now. 
    • We have the memorial for Lynette Johnson this afternoon.  By all accounts, she loved the Lord and was grateful to serve Him.  We can attend the memorial this afternoon with joy in the sense that we in Christ will see her again someday.  When she met up with Jesus after breathing her last breath, He made sure she was escorted into heaven.  Her soul is there this very instant.   The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians wrote - 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished[8].  However, that is not the end of the story, because Jesus did rise from the dead, something we celebrated on April 4th this year.  Paul responded to his own gloom & doom  a few verses later with this - 20 But the fact is, Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man death came, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead[9]
    • Not only do we have forgiveness of sins through Christ, which made Lynette sinless and we in Christ sinless, we also receive the gift of faith granted through the Holy Spirit.  Paul wrote to the Ephesians - 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might…[10]  The “enlightenment” Paul prayed on behalf of the souls at Ephesus only comes through the Holy Spirit.  Otherwise, we are not able to believe such a beautiful story that after a life of 70 or 80yrs of struggle through this life, there really is life after the first death.  That life after the 1st and only death is so great, there is nothing we experienced in this life which can compare to what God has in store for us when we get to heaven.  That new, eternal life will start with sitting down at the Lamb’s High Feast, were we already have our meal ticket waiting for us at the will-call gate, compliments of our Lord Jesus.  Since He rose from the dead, we too will rise from the dead!
    • All this came about through Christ who had to die, rise from the dead, and ascend into heaven.  God the Father rose His Son from the dead, and gave Him all authority in heaven and on earth.  This authority is far above all authority, or rule, or dominion.  This is true not just already in this Age, but certainly in the next Age – which is eternal.  The Father put everything under the feet of Jesus and made Jesus head over everything. (Eph 1:20-23)  We may see lots of threats as our beloved country dissolves before our very eyes, but remember, Jesus has all authority, including the authority over sin, death, and the devil.
  • Conclusion: What then should our reaction be to Jesus’ resurrection and ascension back to His home?  Our text for today gives a clue.
    • We should continually devote to prayer (Act 1:14), and put Jesus’ word into action (Deu 11:18-25) by taking it to heart and keeping it in our soul. Prayer isn’t just a laundry list of “I wants…”.  Prayer is rejoicing (1Th 5:16-18).  Prayer is thanksgiving.  Prayer is giving glory to God for all He has done for us.  And yes, we pour out our soul in grief, in desire and want, all before the Lord.  There should be a formal setting aside of time each day to speak with the King.  If you’re not already doing this, start with reserving just five minutes of the day to speak with Him.  However, you can also speak with Him throughout the day as well. This is something I do, because whatever it is I’m doing at the moment is something fresh in my mind that I can bring before the Father in Jesus’ name right then & there.
    • Another reaction to Jesus’s resurrection is something I repeat from last week: whoever does the will of God the Father is Jesus’ mother and siblings (Mat 12:50).  How do we know the will of the Father?  Check out His word!  We do that on Sundays, but even if your pastor is long-winded and speaks for a half hour from the pulpit, that amount of time is only 0.3% of the entire week! If you stay for bible class, that amount of additional time in the word gets you to maybe 1% of the entire week. How can you know what pleases the Lord by doing what He likes, if you’re only in His word at best 1% of the time?
    • The fact that Jesus rose from the dead with several witnesses is reason alone to believe God and His word.  How many people do you know of who rose from the dead?  We have 21st century medical science which has brought heart attack and stroke victims back from certain death.  In 30AD, there wasn’t a fraction of the medical care for Jesus’ half-brothers to consider it even plausible to come back from the dead. They became believers that their big Brother was indeed the Messiah who was to come.
      • But to truly believe, is to put faith into action.  We do that through trusting in Jesus to have our back so to speak, especially when it comes to death.  Because He rose, so shall we.  And if He is powerful enough to overcome death, imagine what He is doing for you and for me even this very moment!  The Lord kicked out of the land of Canaan the despicable people who polluted the land with their evil.  He gave His people the Israelites the power to conquer enemies much more powerful than they were (Deu 11:22).  He still does that to this day.  But, He only gave that power to those who put Him first and followed His word.
      • Jesus was once asked, “What are we to do, so that we may accomplish the works of God?”  29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.[11]”  Jesus is the one whom the Father sent.  40 For this is the will of [the] Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and [Jesus Himself] will raise him up on the last day.[12]”  None of this grand promise would be possible if Jesus had not first died the innocent death He died, rose from that horrible death, and then ascended back from where He came.  Because He accomplished all of this, it is guaranteed that all who are in Christ will also rise one day and take our seat at the Lamb’s High Feast!


 


[1] Act 1:14 from ESV at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=act+1&version=ESV

[2] John 1:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+1&version=NASB

[3] John 3:16, 18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%203&version=NASB

[4] 1Co 15:7-8 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1%20Corinthians%2015&version=NASB

[5] John 7:5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+7&version=NASB

[6] Mat 12:49b-50 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=mat+12&version=NASB

[7] Jude 1:1 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jude+1&version=NASB

[8] 1Co 15:16-18 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+15&version=NASB

[9] 1Co 15:20-21 from NASB20, IBID

[10] Eph 1:18-19 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+1&version=NASB

[11] John 6:28b-29 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+6&version=NASB

[12] John 6:40 adapted from the NASB20, IBID