FAM­ILY TIME AT CHRIST­MAS

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - OPINION - CRE­ATORS.COM

In our hy­per-par­ti­san age, it seems ev­ery news­pa­per and mag­a­zine writes columns on deal­ing with crazy un­cles at hol­i­day par­ties and their crazy con­spir­a­cies. But it is true. Ev­ery fam­ily has mem­bers they prefer were not part of the fam­ily at times. The fam­ily most in fo­cus this Christ­mas sea­son was no dif­fer­ent. It was, in its own way, dys­func­tional.

The man we call Christ had four broth­ers and at least two sis­ters. Some Chris­tians be­lieve they were ac­tu­ally first cousins in a close-knit fam­ily. But they were a fam­ily nonethe­less. Scrip­ture tells us in Matthew 13:53-57 that Je­sus’ broth­ers were James, Joseph, Si­mon and Jude. Keep­ing with nam­ing con­ven­tions of the day, fam­i­lies would name the first son af­ter the fa­ther’s fa­ther and the sec­ond son af­ter the fa­ther. This sug­gests these were Joseph’s chil­dren, as Joseph’s fa­ther was Ja­cob, which also trans­lates to James, and the con­ven­tion holds.

Mark 3 tells us Je­sus’ sib­lings were less than en­am­ored with him. He was not the crazy un­cle, but the crazy brother. In Mark 3, they staged what we would re­fer to to­day as an in­ter­ven­tion. (They) “went out to seize him, for they were say­ing, ‘He is out of his mind.’… And his mother and broth­ers came, and stand­ing out­side, they sent to him and called him.”

Note that Mary is there and she is part of this in­ter­ven­tion. Per­haps the broth­ers dragged her there. Af­ter all, this is a woman who had an an­gel ap­pear to an­nounce she would give birth to the Messiah. She clearly knew he was ca­pa­ble of great things. At the wed­ding in Cana in John 2, Mary tells the ser­vants to “do what­ever he tells you.” Yet there she was, at the start of his min­istry, with fam­ily mem­bers declar­ing Je­sus was out of his mind.

In John 7, Je­sus’ fam­ily is cel­e­brat­ing the Jewish hol­i­day of Sukkot, and his broth­ers have fi­nally had enough of him. John, an eye­wit­ness of the events and Je­sus’ best friend, tells us the broth­ers told Je­sus to get out of town. “Leave here and go to Judea, that your dis­ci­ples also may see the works you are do­ing. For no one works in se­cret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show your­self to the world,” they told him. The im­pli­ca­tion was that if Je­sus re­ally thought he was all that, he should be bold and proud and show ev­ery­one. The sub­tle im­pli­ca­tion is they knew he would get him­self killed if he did that. But they were so over their crazy brother and his an­tics.

Sure enough, he got him­self killed. There are four gospel ac­counts of Je­sus’ ex­e­cu­tion, and in not one of them do his broth­ers ap­pear. In fact, ac­cord­ing to John 19, Je­sus tells his best friend, the Apos­tle John, to take care of his mother, pre­sum­ably be­cause none of his ac­tual sib­lings (or first cousins, if they were that) both­ered to show up. He died on a cross with his mother there and no im­me­di­ate fam­ily around to com­fort her. His broth­ers and sis­ters were nowhere to be seen. The crazy brother who talked re­li­gion at the ta­ble in­stead of pol­i­tics fi­nally got what was com­ing to him.

If that were all there was to the story, we prob­a­bly would not have Christ­mas. There is more to it. Scrip­ture tells us Je­sus rose from the grave and ap­peared to his sib­lings who had re­jected him. His brother James be­came a leader of the early church and was killed for pro­claim­ing his brother was God. Both James and Jude have books in­cluded in the Bi­ble.

If the God of all cre­ation could be tor­tured and cru­ci­fied and still use his dy­ing breaths to say, “Fa­ther, forgive them,” you can forgive, too. And if the risen Lord, whose own fam­ily wanted noth­ing to do with him could still build mean­ing­ful re­la­tion­ships with them, you can do it in your fam­ily, too. Do not let Christ­mas pass with­out show­ing grace and for­give­ness to your fam­ily and those around you. The world is too di­vided as it is.

Eric Erickson

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