Saturday, January 3, 2015

Jesus and His Brother's

On The O’Reilly Factor a few days ago, Bill O’Reilly read an email a viewer had submitted of scripture that named the brothers of Jesus. Mr. O’Reilly emphatically replied that he and Martin Dugard had determined through their research that Jewish families during Jesus’ time lived in communal homes and every boy in the home was considered a brother.
Mr. O’Reilly’s research is correct, but he fails to mention that many Jews also lived in single family homes. Especially if the father worked in a carpentry shop, as Joseph would have done. In those days, a carpenter shop was often located in the front of a dwelling, while the family lived in rooms behind the shop. Instead of multiple families, the larger communal homes were usually inhabited by many generations of one family. Would cousins, uncles, fathers and grandfathers be considered brothers?
The only way to uncover anything about Jesus’ life between the time He returned from Egypt until He began His ministry at the age of thirty is through research and the study of historic customs. The only scriptural insight into those years is the incident when Jesus was twelve years old. The next verse is the only scripture mentioning the eighteen silent years between the age of twelve and thirty. Luke 2:51 states, “He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart and Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men.”
This is probably the most powerful, totally ignored verse in the entire New Testament. This scripture implies Jesus lived a very normal, well-disciplined earthly life for eighteen years. He was not a rebel as some chose to assume, because rebels do not grow in favor with God or man.
I am not trying to convince anyone that my research is more accurate than anyone else’s, but to present some facts that may suggest a different conclusion. After years of research, I have discovered that scripture holds the answers I need if I am willing to spend the time digging deeper into what is actually written. Using scripture, I would like to offer a different theory from Mr. O’Reilly’s.
Matthew 13:55 asks, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?” If Jesus lived in a communal environment where everyone is considered one big family and all the boys are brothers wouldn’t the other women in that community also be considered Jesus’ mother?  Matthew clearly recognizes Jesus’ mother and His brothers by name. In this scripture, Matthew gives the same personal relationship to these four men and sisters as he does Jesus’ mother, Mary, whom we know is Jesus’ biological mother.
In Mark 6:3, the question is again asked, “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” Mark also recognizes this same personal relationship with the mother and the brothers and sisters.
We also know Joseph and Mary had sexual relations after Jesus was born. Matthew 1:25 clearly states, “But he (Joseph) had no union with her (Mary) until she gave birth to a son.” Every word of the scripture is God-breathed so if God didn’t intend for them to have intimate union, why would Matthew add “until she gave birth to a son” to his statement.
Mary was a young healthy girl, and Joseph was a healthy young man. They had an intimate relationship. The only means of birth control was natural. The scripture offers no indication that other children were not conceived during their sexual encounters. If fact, scripture references and human behavior suggest the opposite result.  
The fact that scripture states Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man implies Jesus was not an only child. How many only children do you know who grow in favor with God and man? His family was part of His life experience. Jesus had such an in-depth understanding of the trials and tribulations of earthly life because He was exposed to everyday life including relationships between siblings and cousins.
Luke 3:23 states, “Jesus was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph”. God wanted people to think Jesus was the son of Joseph until the time came for God’s plan to be fulfilled. He did not want Jesus to stand out as being different in any way. With two healthy earthly parents, would it have been unusual for Jesus to be an only child?

The bottom line, as Mr. O’Reilly would say, I cannot disprove Bill O’Reilly’s assumption, but neither can he disprove mine. The fact that only four men were specifically mentioned as Jesus’ brothers by two of Jesus’ closest friends implies their relationship was more than a communal friend. And because they were mentioned in the same context as His mother, Mary, perhaps these men were indeed his half-brothers who shared the same mother and the same earthly father, but only Jesus had a heavenly Father. Some day we will know with certainty the final answer to all our questions. Until then, we can only make an informed decision based on research and information God provides through the scripture.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Jesus' Instructions Concerning "Share the Wealth"

Am I My Brother’s Keeper?

Today there is much talk about how people who have been greatly blessed should “share your wealth” with those who are less fortunate. Many Christians have been convinced this is their duty. I believe all Christians should and would gladly share their wealth with those who are mentally or physically incapable of helping themselves. If not for the grace of God, we could all be in that position. But what does God really say about sharing the wealth so all can be equal?

Using The Message version, in the third chapter of Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, he tells the new Christians in verse 13, “Friends, don’t slack off in doing your duty.” Many have interpreted this command to say a Christian’s duty is to help everyone.

If you go back to verse 10, Paul says, “Don’t you remember the rule we had when we lived with you? “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And now we’re getting reports that a bunch of lazy good-for-nothings are taking advantage of you.”

Paul’s next instruction to these Christians says “This must not be tolerated. We command them to get to work immediately—no excuses, no arguments—and earn their own keep.”

If you keep going up to verse 6, you can read Paul’s specific orders, “Our orders—backed up by the Master, Jesus—are to refuse to have anything to do with those among you who are lazy and refuse to work the way we taught you. Don’t permit them to freeload on the rest. We showed you how to pull your weight when we were with you, so get on with it. We didn’t sit around on our hands expecting others to take care of us. In fact, we worked our fingers to the bone, up half the night moonlighting so you wouldn’t be burdened with taking care of us. And it wasn’t because we didn’t have a right to your support; we did. We simply wanted to provide an example of diligence, hoping it would prove contagious.”

How has our government convinced so many hard-working Christians that it is their duty to “share their wealth” with the good-for-nothings among us who refuse to work? This thinking certainly did not come form God’s word. Instead God tells us that if we tolerate such behavior, we encourage people to become slothful. In I Thessalonians 4:12, Paul says, “We want you living in a way that will command the respect of outsiders, not lying around sponging off your friends.”

Ever since the beginning of the Christian church, God has never expected His children to share their hard-earned blessings to support able-bodied men who simply “choose” to not work but lie around sponging off others.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Jesus Redeemed at the Temple

This week Joseph and Mary would take Jesus to the beautiful temple to fulfill the requirement of the Redemption Ceremony. The first born son of every Jewish family belonged to God. The baby must be presented at the Gate of the Firstborn in the Court of Men in the temple. The requirement for this sacrifice was an unblemished lamb. Mary and Joseph offered two doves. Why? That is all they could afford. They held a king, but could only afford the sacrifice of the poor.
God doesn't care about the value of the sacrifice. He only cares that the commandment is obeyed.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Jesus My Son: Mary's Journal of Jesus' Ministry

My second book, Jesus My Son: Mary's Journal of Jesus' Ministry has been printed. The approval copy has been sent, but I have not received it yet. No matter how many books you write, there is an excitment when each one is published. It is almost like having a baby, but the pain doesn't come until long after it is published. Writing this book has been a very rewarding experience for me. I have learned so much about the three and one-half years Jesus walked upon the earth performing miracles and teaching parables. As Mary talks to the people who receive these miracles, she also learns much about her son and the message he is preaching. I have begun the third of the series. This will be the most difficult to write...because we all know the ending. But do we know it through Mary's eyes. What did she think when she saw Judas come down the stairs and leave the house where Jesus and his followers were observing this celebration. How did she feel when the soldiers took Jesus away? She didn't hear any of the conversation or see the betrayal kiss. What did she think happened? Give me some ideas and I will give you credit in my next book.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Jesus is Circumcised

On the eighth day Mary's son was circumcised and given the name Jesus. Matthew 1:25
Around this time of year Jesus was circumcised and given a name. This name was given to Mary by the angel Gabriel when he first spoke to Mary. What if Mary had disobeyed and given her son another name? That couldn't happen because Mary obeyed unconditionally, but do you ever think "What if?"
Where were they staying when Jesus was circumcised? Did they have enough money to return home before they had to come back 30 days later to offer Jesus in the Gate of the Firstborn for the Redemption Ceremony? They could have decided to stay in Bethlehem. If so, were they still in the cave that was the stable where Jesus was born?
Who performed the circumcision? It was not unusual for the father to circumcise his son. They could have had a priest, but Joseph probably would have assisted. Jesus suffered from that pain just as your children suffer today. Mary probably cried when he cried--just as mothers do today.
Every pain, trial, temptation we encounter today was encountered by Mary and Jesus those many years ago. He is such a loving savior because He knows our pains. He experienced them just like we do today. He can help us through rough times because He knows firsthand how we feel. All we have to do is ask.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Mary's Christmas Similiar to Ours Today

Tonight I received the best Christmas gift possible. I just got home from speaking at chapel services in PeeWee Valley Women’s Correctional Institute. The reaction of the women was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I learned that the best gift anyone can receive comes from giving your time doing something for God.

Talking about Mary’s view of that first Christmas uncovered many similarities with the Christmas most of those women will have this year. Mary certainly didn’t think she would be giving birth to the son of God in a lowly stable surrounded by animals. Many of those ladies tonight certainly didn’t think they would be spending this Christmas incarcerated. I certainly didn’t think I would ever be speaking about a book I had written.

It is amazing how we often end up in unusual situations. But it is up to each individual to make the most of each circumstance. Mary could only praise God for the blessing He had given her in the form of a baby boy. I praise God for giving me the ability to share my story and hopefully brighten their Christmas. I hope each of those women will make an effort to use the time they have to the best of their ability.

The only thing that can hold anyone prisoner is their mind. As long as God gives us the ability to think and learn, we are free. When I look at all the hustle and bustle of this season and the worried expressions on the faces of most people during this season, I almost envy the solitude and quiet within those walls. What an awesome opportunity to spend some quality time with God.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mary's Thoughts the Night Before she Begins the Journey to Bethlehem

"Everything is packed and ready to go. A good night's sleep would be wonderful, but I doubt if that will happen. All the pains, aches and swelling that women encounter when carrying a child have not made for good sleep companions. These last few months have been most uncomfortable."
Mary's excerpt from Jesus My Son reminds us that Mary endured a very normal pregnancy. How awesome is that!