"You Asked for It" 2009 part 3
It's All Relative: Meeting the Family of Jesus
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
August 23, 2009

We’re continuing this morning with our August message series called, “You Asked for It.” Which is basically what it is… it’s a series of messages based on topics or themes or passages of Scripture that you requested. Two or three months ago, we made some cards available to take requests, and we’ve been talking about those requests.

Two weeks ago, we talked about the first request, Spiritual Warfare. Last week, we talked about another request, angels. This morning, we’re going to look at a third request… I was asked to speak about the family of Jesus.

Which is an interesting request, because really, we don’t know a lot about Jesus’ family. But we do know a little bit, so we’re going to talk about some of the different members of his family. And as we do, I think some of you might recognize some similarities to your own family. So let’s get going. And you can use the notes provided in your Sunrise Update to follow along and fill in the blanks. Let’s start by talking about…

The Family of Jesus:

A.    The faithful mother

I’m talking, of course, about Mary. Now, most of what we know about Mary we learn from the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. We know that Mary was a young woman who was living a pure life and living in obedience to God, and she was probably just a teenager… 13, 14, 15, years old… when an angel appeared to her with a message from God.

I’m not sure what Mary was doing at the time… maybe she was cleaning house, maybe she was preparing supper, maybe she was addressing invitations to her wedding, maybe she was watching reruns of Saved by the Bell. I don’t know what she was doing. But whatever it was, she was suddenly interrupted when the angel Gabriel appeared before her with an announcement.

And understand, this was not exactly an everyday event. We’ve all heard the story so many times over the years that we’ve kind of written it off as nothing out of the ordinary. But really, it was extraordinary. An angel appeared to Mary to tell her that she had found favour with God, and that God had chosen her – a virgin – to give birth to Jesus, the Son of God.

Now, I want you to understand what was happening here. Mary was engaged to be married, she had never slept with her fiancé, or with anyone else for that matter, but yet she was going to somehow become pregnant. What kind of consequences would she face from that?

Well, for one thing, I doubt many people would believe her. “What Mary? You’re pregnant? How? Who… Oh, an angel came to you?1? Sure, that explains everything.” No, I think most people would have thought she was lying. Or maybe a little crazy. And even beyond that, she would have been treated with contempt. In that society, she would have been looked down on, she would have been rejected, she would have been labeled as immoral, and she could have even been stoned to death.

Certainly she risked the rejection of her family. We don’t know how her parents reacted to the news, but seeing that she spent the first three months of the pregnancy living with other relatives, that may give us a clue.

And the real wildcard was how Joseph would have reacted. We’re going to talk more about him in just a moment, but for now, just consider how you would have responded if you were him. You’re engaged, your fiancée gets pregnant, and you know there’s no way you’re the father.

Mary certainly faced some pretty serious consequences by going along with God’s plan. But when the angel appeared that day, did she argue? Did she tell the angel to go find someone else? Did she refuse to play along? Take a look at her reaction…

Luke 1:38 (NLT)
Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

So Mary proves herself right there to be faithful to God and to the ways of God. And she went through with the pregnancy, and gave birth to Jesus. And that’s normally where our recognition of Mary stops.

But she does make some other appearances in the New Testament. So I want to jump ahead about 34 years… She’s raised Jesus, Jesus is now a grown man and has spent three years traveling around teaching people and healing people and proclaiming the Kingdom of God… He’s made some friends, but He’s also made some enemies. And these enemies have conspired against Him, falsely accused Him of crimes against the Roman Empire, and have orchestrated His crucifixion on the Cross.

At this point, everyone associated with Jesus was also in danger. But who do you see at the foot of the cross?

John 19:25-27 (NLT)
Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

Even as Jesus hung on the cross, there His mother was right there with Him. And it makes me wonder, when Mary first agreed to go along with this whole thing, did she know what she was getting into? Did she understand that Jesus wasn’t going to be an ordinary boy, that not everyone was going to accept Him, that someday she would have to watch her son die? I don’t know if she understood that or not. But I do know that when the time came, she was there.

And it makes me think about my own mother… she’s someone who’s always there for me. I’ve never had to worry about her turning her back on me. I’ve never had to worry about her shunning me. And even though I’m sure there have been times that I’ve done things or said things that have hurt her, she’s always been there.

And I think many of you could identify with that, too. I understand not everyone is as fortunate as this, but many of us know what it means to have a faithful mother. Some of you are those faithful mothers.

For others of you, you are still young children or teenagers, and it might be hard to recognize and appreciate what it means to have a faithful mother. So just take my word for it… even if you might be at a stage where you fight or argue a lot with your mother… a faithful mother is something we need to be grateful for.

Most mothers endure a lot of pain and heartache while raising their kids. Mary certainly did. But she remained faithful.

And in fact, in the first chapter of Acts – after Jesus has risen from the dead, spent forty days with His followers, and then ascended into Heaven – after all of that has happened, you still see Mary, and she’s active in the newly forming church. She was now faithfully carrying on the work of her Son. She was faithful.

And then you have Joseph…

B.    The sacrificing father

Now, we’ve already touched on this, so we’re not going to spend a lot of time on this. But Joseph was engaged to Mary, I’m sure he had all kinds of plans for their future, and then Mary shows up pregnant.

To protect his pride and reputation, Joseph could have publicly rebuked Mary and had her stoned to death. That was his option.

[Matthew 1:19 (NLT)
Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.]

But Joseph chose not to do that. Instead, he decided he would quietly break off the engagement. Sure, people would have talked, they wouldn’t have understood… they would have thought he was the father, and his reputation would have taken a hit. But he was willing to make that sacrifice.

[Matthew 1:20-21 (NLT)
As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”]

But then an angel appeared to him, and explained that Mary hadn’t cheated on him, and that the baby was in fact the Saviour of the World.

Well, sure… an angel appeared to Joseph, but that wasn’t going to convince everyone else. Most people were going to assume that Joseph was the father, that he and Mary had been sleeping together. And while in our society today that seems to be the norm, it’s not something that God condones. His design for sex is for it to be enjoyed fully, but only within a marriage relationship. And in the society that Mary and Joseph found themselves, they would have become the target of gossip all over town.

And even beyond that, here Joseph was, trying to build a carpentry business… and I wonder how many people would have stopped hiring him because of the hit to his reputation.

[Matthew 1:24-25 (NLT)
…[Joseph] did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.]

But despite all of these sacrifices, Joseph decided to go ahead with the marriage, to treat Jesus like his own son, and to raise Him in the ways of God.

But that’s not the end of it. Because shortly after the birth of Jesus, an angel appears to Joseph again to warn him that King Herod was trying to find Jesus to kill Him. So what did Joseph do?

Matthew 2:14-15 (NLT)
That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death.

In other words, Joseph left his business, he left any friends or family he had, he packed up just the few things he could carry, and he took off with his family to a totally foreign land. He didn’t know what to expect when he got there, he didn’t know how long he’d be there, but he made that sacrifice anyway.

Now, my own father never had to deal with an immaculate conception or an unplanned trip to Egypt. But he does know what it means to make sacrifices.

You see, my dad started working full time as a teenager in order to help provide some income for his family. And he’s worked hard ever since. I don’t know of anyone who has worked harder or sacrificed more than my dad has for his family.

For me, that’s my image of a father… someone who’s willing to put their family ahead of their own comfort or even their own ambitions. A father is someone who’s willing to sacrifice for their family. Some of you who are fathers here… you know what I’m talking about because you make those sacrifices. And you don’t complain about them. You know they come with the job. But you’re willing to do it because you love your family.

Jesus had a father who made sacrifices. Now, we don’t know much else about Joseph beyond the birth and dedication of Jesus, and one trip they made to Jerusalem when Jesus was 12. After that, Joseph kind of disappears from the story. Scholars tend to think that Joseph was significantly older than Mary, and had died by the time Jesus became an adult. I think that’s probably true. But I do wonder… when Jesus was growing up and saw the sacrifices Joseph was willing to make… I wonder how that impacted His willingness to make the supreme sacrifice on the cross. Joseph set a pretty good example for Him.

So Mary and Joseph… so far so good. But then you have…

C.    The critical siblings

Did you know that Jesus had brothers and sisters? Actually, I guess they’d be half-brothers and half-sisters. But after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph did have kids of their own. In fact, they had several kids.

We know of four brothers, named James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. And we know he had at least two sisters, although we’re not told their names. (See Matthew 13:55-56)

And you’d think that if anyone would believe Jesus and would follow Him, it’d be His own family, right? Wrong. His brothers thought He was nuts. Or at best, they thought He might be a con artist. Here, take a look…

John 7:3-5 (NLT)
…Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.

Mark 3:20-21, 31 (NLT)
One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said. …
Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them.

Now, just to deal with an obvious question, you might wonder what Mary was doing there. I mean, didn’t we just talk about her being so faithful? Well, truth is, I don’t know what she was doing there. But I can think of at least a few possibilities.

- Maybe she just happened to be there with her other sons when they decided to confront Jesus and she was kind of caught in the middle.
- Maybe she was there to play mediator. I mean, how many times does a mother have to play a mediator when her kids are fighting.
- Maybe she was confused. Sure, the angel appeared to her and explained it all to her, but that was like 30 years ago, and maybe she was starting to have some doubts. I mean, she was still a faithful mother, but a lot of faithful mothers have held interventions for their children.

So we don’t really know why Mary was there. But we do know that the brothers didn’t understand who Jesus was and they were highly critical of Him.

Now, did their criticism affect Jesus? I’m sure it did. But did it stop Him from doing what He was meant to do? No, He kept right on teaching people, He kept on healing people, He kept on proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and He kept on marching down the path that would ultimately lead to the cross where He would die for all of humanity.

What does criticism do to you? Whether it comes from a brother or a sister or anyone else, how do you react when someone attacks you? Whoever came up with that saying that “words can never hurt me” was an idiot. Words can hurt… they can sap you of any energy, they can discourage you from moving forward, they can rob you of your momentum, they can make you question what you’re even doing… words have a lot of power and they can hurt.

Let me tell you something: criticism can be avoided. Let me tell you how: By saying nothing, by doing nothing, and by being nothing. But if you want do anything of significance… if you want to accomplish anything great for God… then you’re going to face it. It’s a physical law that motion causes friction. So if you’re going to do anything great for God, it’s going to cause some friction and you will face some criticism.

So what are you going to do when you do face it? Well, Jesus pressed on in spite of it. He didn’t allow the criticism to stop Him. He knew He was doing what was right, and He kept on doing it, even though his own family didn’t understand.

And you know the great thing? Eventually, they came around.

Acts 1:14 (NLT)
[The disciples] all met together and were constantly united in prayer, along with Mary the mother of Jesus, several other women, and the brothers of Jesus.

His brother James became a leader in the early Church, and is believed to have written the letter of James included in our New Testament.
Joses and Simon apparently became traveling missionaries (apostles). (See 1 Corinthians 9:5)
And Judas… well, because of another rather infamous Judas, he changed his name to Jude and is believed to have written the letter of Jude in the New Testament.

Jesus pressed on despite the criticism, and eventually the critics came around.

D.    The embarrassing relatives

We’re not going to spend much time on this. But we all have those embarrassing relatives, don’t we? That crazy aunt or some criminal in our family tree? Well, Jesus had that, too. Think about it… most immediately, he had a relative who wandered around wearing animal skins and eating locusts… desperately needed a bath… just shouting at people randomly, “REPENT!”

I don’t know why, but every time I think of John the Baptist, I think of Exador from Mork & Mindy. Anyone remember him?

So that’s one relative of Jesus’. And if you go back through his family tree, you’ll find lots of skeleton-occupied closets. You’ll find a prostitute, a murder, an adulterer, a thief, a liar, an idol-worshipper, a few wicked kings…

Jesus had all of that in His family tree. But that didn’t limit Him. And I don’t think He wants your past… your heritage… to hold you back, either. Don’t use them as an excuse, and don’t allow a “checkered past” to dictate what God can do with your future.

E.    The adopted family

This is about you and me. This is about all Christ-followers in all places throughout all time. Those of us who have accepted that Jesus is who He says He is, that He is God who died for me to pay the penalty for my sinfulness, who rose again and conquered death and the grave… those of us who have accepted that and have chosen to live for Him are now part of His adopted spiritual family.

Ephesians 1:5 (NLT)
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.

My sister and her husband are right now in the process of trying to adopt a child. Which as you may know, can be a long process. Well, my brother’s 9-year old son just a week or two ago started to ask questions about this potential adoption, and he even asked my mother if she would love the her adopted grandchild as much as her biological grandchildren.

And of course the answer to that is yes. Because when you choose to adopt, you are welcoming a new member into your family with nothing held back.

Well, God chose to adopt us. We are part of His family. And Jesus understood this, even while His earthly mother and brothers were nearby. Remember we talked about that earlier? The brothers thought Jesus was losing it, so they came to talk to Jesus? Take a look at what happened next…

Mark 3:32-35 (NLT)
There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.”
Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

And that’s the greatest thing of all. We are not just servants worshipping some distant deity. No, Jesus considers us to be family.

Here in this room this morning, we are family. And we have family all across this city and around the world. We have a spiritual connection… a family bond… with Christ-followers on every continent and throughout time. If we could somehow perform a spiritual DNA test, it would show that we are all brothers and sisters in Christ.

Going all the way back to the first days of the Church… talking about Christ-followers then, it says…

Acts 2:42a (CEV)
...they were like family to each other.

Wow, what a powerful statement. They were like family. A couple other verses…

Romans 12:10 (GW)
Be devoted to each other like a loving family.

1 Peter 2:17b (Msg)
Love your spiritual family!

We are a spiritual family. So hey, if you couldn’t think of any embarrassing relatives when we were talking about them earlier, then look around the room. I think that spots been filled now.

Now, maybe you’re not particularly close to your biological family… or maybe your family has been a source of pain for you. So perhaps that distorts your image of what this spiritual family is. But you need to understand, when the Bible describes the Church as a family it’s not talking about a dysfunctional family; it’s talking about a healthy family. It’s not talking about a disconnected association, it’s talking about a bonded relationship. It’s not talking about an arbitrary bloodline, it’s talking about a spiritual bloodline… bonded by a shared Christian heritage, a shared mission in the world, a shared focus of worship, and a shared hope for the future. We are a family.

Can you imagine a Church like that? I can. Because I see what God is doing here at Sunrise. He’s making us into this kind of Family. He’s making us into His family. And more and more, I see Him doing this in His Church around the world.

You know, there’s a verse in the Old Testament where David wrote…

Psalm 122:1 (NLT)
I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord.”

And if the house of the Lord then was anything like the family of God now, I can understand that. Because I look forward to spending every Sunday morning with you.



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