Behold My Brethren
Mr. M.J. Michaux, a frequent contributor to Focus, makes his home in Colorado Springs, Colo. In this rather different study, he handles discreetly a difficult subject which, on the one hand, leads some to expressions of irreverence, and on the other hand, to avoidance altogether of a precious revelation.
An evangelist came to town and God used him to pierce the heart of a poor man who was drinking himself to death. The man was saved. His first impulse was to join the finest, largest, most imposing church in town. He reasoned that such a miracle as his conversion demanded the most significant, magnificent expression of it that he could think of. So he approached the board of such a church and offered himself as a candidate for membership.
“Whom do you know that will recommend you?”
He dropped his head in shame. He had fallen so low none cared for his soul.
“Do you know the mayor?”
He shook his head. No, he didn’t, but he was sure the mayor knew him.
“Do you know any prominent men who attend this church?”
No, he didn’t know any of them either. He had disgraced them all long ago.
“Well,” they repeated, “whom do you know that would recommend you?”
Suddenly he brightened. “Do you know Jesus Christ?” he asked.
They looked at each other in some alarm. Then without waiting for them to reply, he blurted out happily, “Well, He’s my brother!”
The Scriptures confirm this innocent man’s revelation. Christ said that “He is not ashamed to call them brethren” (Hebrews 2:11). No, indeed. They were His by purchase. He bought them with His own blood. He tasted death for everyone of them. He could, and He would, sing-praise in the midst of the church, declaring that name above all names. They were, in a very real sense, blood-kin.
It would have been wonder enough for the Son to stand alone in the presence of the Father, having accomplished everything His Father had given Him to do, but how much greater is the work which brought many sons into glory with Him.
It is true that Christians do not address Christ as their brother because He is more than a brother. He is their Lord and Saviour. These terms express their love better than “brother.” Brotherhood is the unifying principle of that relationship. Lord is the expression of it.
The brotherhood of man is essentially introverted and limited. But the brotherhood of Christ immerses itself in an eternal outwardness and oneness of spirit, the oneness of creation, the source from which all other creations were formed; a oneness and unity which existed before the world began and which unites man with the creator in a relationship as close as a son with his father.
There are over 400 names by which God is known. These do not reveal the multiplicity of His nature as the inability of our thoughts to express that which is inexpressible. A son who loves his father cannot always find words to express his love, although he may experience the uninterrupted joy of that relationship. Approach him at any moment and ask, “Is this man your father?” And he will answer simply, “Yes, he is my father.” But in those few words he will convey his heart. We sense the respect and unspoken love that are there.
So with God, our Father. Acknowledgment of Him expresses our joy in Him.
So with Christ. His many names express a multifaceted relationship. As a Rock, He is the foundation. As Mediator, He is counselor and intercessor. As High Priest, He leads in worship to the Father. As Head, He is the fountain from which all other blessings flow. As Son in His own house, He has the authority and power to rule it. He is our life, says Paul. At the end, says John, He is the Bridegroom longing for His bride.
With these many significant expressions of deity and humanity, why did the Lord Jesus select the term brother by which He wished to be known to us? Why did He Himself say that He was not ashamed to call us brethren, nor hold back from declaring that name in the midst of the church? Three reasons lie upon the surface, the first being:
A Designation (Matthew 12:46-50)
At the very outset of His ministry He made it clear who His brethren were to be. They would be called disciples. If the call was clear, the demands were intensely clear.
First, to become a part of that heavenly family of whom He was to be the Head, then the ties of the earthly family must be severed. Even as He spoke, “He stretched forth His hands toward His disciples.” They were the ones whom He would not be ashamed to call His brethren. His Father was in heaven, but His brother and sister and mother would be those who would do His Father’s will, even as He Himself was intent upon doing it.
Later in His ministry He designated those in the kingdom to come by this same close tie of brother (Matthew 25:31-46). Many were surprised. But how will they be recognized? How shall we know them? What mark will the inheritors have? The Lord’s answer struck to the bone and marrow of the question. Those, He said, who gave practical help as a brother would; who acknowledged those who served as brothers, not as strangers; those in substance who were not ashamed of me, but came to me in prison and served me there.
Three severing actions must take place (Luke 14:26, 27, 33). The first was to love Him more than one’s own natural family. It is said that “Blood is thicker than water,” meaning, I suppose, that a relative is preferred to one outside the family. Thus even a brother who is a scoundrel would be tolerated long after a stranger guilty of the same offenses. The real test of discipleship, then, was to renounce even this claim over one’s heart. A disciple had to come to the place of hating his own life in preference to losing his place in the family of the Lord’s disciples.
Secondly, a disciple was one who did not refuse to follow Christ and take up that cross. Otherwise, said Christ, “He cannot be my disciple.” Not that such a person did not desire to be a disciple, and would not if the terms were right, but he could not. It would be as impossible to become a disciple as for a snake to grow wings or a codfish to give birth to a whale. Such things were incompatible. But a brother was, by definition, a disciple.
The third negative cut off all retreat. Was there something not mentioned? Did the Lord overlook some area of life which the followers protected, or tried to ignore, or hide, even from themselves? This would cover it all. “So likewise he that forsaketh not all that he hath…” Everything had to go into the balance. Nothing could be withheld. Else, “he cannot be my disciple.”
Encouragement (Matthew 28:9-10)
The Lord knew the strength of the material He was testing. It was true He tested it to the uttermost. Not one flaw would escape detection. But each thing had its outer limit. To go beyond what it would be expected to bear, would only be to destroy it. And the Lord came not to destroy, but to seek and to save. So on that morning of the first day of the week a messenger brought the first word of hope. “Go, tell His disciples…” This was cause for fear, but also joy enough. As they ran to do the angels’ bidding, whom should they meet but the Lord Himself!
The message was forgotten. They fell at His feet and held Him, not to detain Him but to worship Him. This was the end of their search. But He who was not ashamed to call them brethren had not forgotten. Those whom He loved still sorrowed. “Go, tell my brethren…” Not my disciples now, not my friends, not the apostles, the saints, those blessed of my Father, but “my brethren.” The word would be a word of encouragement to them. Doubt would be written all over their faces. “Did He say ‘brethren’? You are sure?” The women stoutly confirmed it. “Yes, the Saviour said, ‘Go, tell my brethren.’ There was no mistake. We all heard it.”
“I ascend to my Father and your Father,” He would say. And that surely would make them brothers. To be brothers is a horizontal relationship. “They are yours, all mine are yours, and all yours are mine.”
Involvement (Hebrews 2:11, 12, 17)
A third reason the Lord Jesus was not ashamed to call them brethren was that He desired to be so touched with their infirmities that He could say He was their brother and none would ever be able to deny it. In every point He would be tempted as they were. In every weakness of theirs He became weak. In every “motion of the flesh,” the Puritan fathers would have said, He would feel for them, suffer with them, and understand and know their sorrow as no man ever would know it. They could say, “He was here! He knew what it was like. He tasted death for me. He went down into death itself. But He returned! He is alive! We saw Him with our own eyes!”
It was true that this guiltless, flawless, suffering One reconciled them to God. It was true that He took all their sins upon Him, even as the Scriptures said. It was also true that He became their High Priest and rose up to sit at the right hand of God to intercede for them. It was all true. He was who He said He was. Every promise of His was yea and amen. He was indeed the beginning and the end. And He was all theirs by faith alone.
But this Christ, this Son of God, was He actually their brother?
Their dismay and unbelief have been preserved for us in an indelible picture written by a doctor who, though he was not there that day, relived the moment through the eyes of those who were. “And while they believed not for joy, and wondered…” watching Him eat broiled fish and a honeycomb, “…He opened their understanding.”
The dismay and wonder remain after two millenniums. But so also does the joy. A secret hidden in the hearts of His own. A secret seldom expressed except with the deepest reverence, that He, the creator of the universe, the origin of life itself, “He was not ashamed to call them brethren”!