Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55-56
There is a vault of information contained in these 27 words! We see Jesus’ occupation, His heritage, the names of His brothers, and the fact He had at least two sisters. As one of four children, I cannot even imagine what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph trying to raise this brood of seven or more children. I was a mom of two and oh my at the sibling rivalry that existed! Have Mercy! I could at least send each child to their room and separate them. Knowing the culture of the day and the way the poor lived, Mary did not even have enough corners to send them too!
The sibling bond is complicated! It is at times a love-hate relationship. So many factors affect how we “get along” with our siblings. Some of the factors include: birth order, personality type, experiences outside the family, relationship with parents, and specific needs of the child to name just a few. The University of Michigan Health System report states, “sibling rivalry is particularly intense when children are close in age, same gender, or when one is intellectually gifted.” Can you imagine the challenge raising Jesus in the same household as “normal” children would create for this very young mother? Just this thought alone makes me want to give her a bow!
Sibling rivalry is defined by the University of Michigan in this way: “Sibling rivalry is the jealousy, competition, and fighting between brothers and sisters.” (emphasis mine) They further state this “is of concern for MOST parents of two or more children. It continues throughout childhood” and I believe and have witnessed this rivalry continue into adulthood, and “is very frustrating and stressful to parents.” Can I get an AMEN! It has been present from the beginning of time and we see it in Scripture repeatedly in the lives of its characters; Cain and Abel, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel, Joseph’s brothers, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, and even in the life of our Savior! This animosity between siblings can be intense and cause great pain and suffering in the life of one, both, or all family members. This is the case in the life of Jesus. Why is it we have the mistaken idea He led a simple, stress free, and idyllic childhood? Another lie of the enemy of our souls?
Jesus was a child prodigy. He was intellectually gifted. (Luke 2:47) He was different. He was kind, compassionate, humble, respectful, obedient, studious, and helpful. (Luke 2:51) Can you put yourself in the place of His siblings? How would you like to try to compete with this? The PERFECT child is in the house and NEVER gets in trouble because He does NOTHING wrong. Poor Mary and Joseph. If they said, “Why can’t you be like your brother?” once, I bet they said it a thousand times. They were after all HUMAN themselves. I am sure they must have struggled with not comparing their other children to Jesus. I am sure they held Him up as a role model. (I sure would have!) I am sure they may have been guilty of showing favoritism. All the things the experts tell parents not to do if they want harmony in the home and to minimize sibling rivalry. So, Jesus in being HIMSELF found Himself at odds with even His family members from a very early age and it did not end until after His death. Remember, not one of His siblings were with His mother at the foot of the cross. They did not want to be even associated with Him and His cause. So Jesus, because of His relationship with His mother, may have made her feel like a failure as a mom. Even doing it all right, it came out wrong for others He loved. Or so it seemed at the moment.
Mark 3:21 tells us, “When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. Jesus had begun His ministry and people are thronging to see Him and this is His family’s reaction: Let’s go get Him because He has lost His mind. John 7:1-6 is an encounter between Jesus and His brothers who do not believe He is the Messiah and with tongue in cheek encourage Him to display His power and become famous. This is classic tormenting by rivaling siblings. This is a sibling saying, “you will amount to nothing.”
Parents do the best they can: Personalities collide in the best of homes. Jesus said “turn the other cheek” (Matthew 5:38-40) and “forgive seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18:21-22) Do you wonder like I do if He was ever “tempted” to slap a sibling senseless? I believe He was! The difference, in Jesus and me, is I did and He did not. Just sayin!
Living in a family is vital to our spiritual development and social training. It is a microcosm of the world at large. We are forced to interact with different personalities, wait to have our needs met, work together for the common good, and share the resources available to us. All these trials can lead to the temptations of our individual lusts and pride.
For thirty years, Jesus remained at home dealing with the day in and day out experiences of being the oldest child, providing for His mother and siblings after Joseph passed away, and waiting on His Heavenly Father’s timing to begin His ministry. As long as Jesus was doing what each wanted Him to do, I am sure it was pleasant. But, when He said the word NO or disagreed, He was forced to deal with the unpleasant.
So many trials and temptations just come from living life where God has placed us. Colossians 3:13 reminds us, “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” What better place to learn this lesson than the family. Romans 5:3-5 is our inspiration: “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. 4 And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. 5 And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
For all of those of us who have lived sibling rivalry and caused it in our own children, take heart. When we do our very best to “raise up a child in the nurture and admonition of the LORD, when they are old they will not depart from it.” No, I do not know how old they have to be. Just trust in the Lord with all your heart! His Word will not return void. It accomplishes all it says it will. (Proverbs 22:6, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 55:10-11)
If you have a sibling, love them like Jesus. It could be just what they are in desperate need of today. Yes, it may be hard. Eternity without them………..think about it!
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