So in church today we celebrated the onset of the advent season. I think it actually begins tomorrow, on the first day of December, but since this is the closest Sunday…
Anyways, a point in the sermon today struck me. I know I’ve read it time and time again in the Bible. But have you ever wondered what it means to have Jesus as a Brother?
We commonly refer to Him as Master, Lord, Saviour, Treasure, King, Friend, Mediator, e.t.c, but we seldom relate to Him as a Brother. To set the record straight, we should not be drawing comparisons of what He is as a brother from our earthly relations. The way we should view all our earthly relations should be through the lens of Christ. We understand friendship as he has demonstrated it. We understand marriage as a parable of Christ and the church. We understand fatherhood in relation to God as Father. So we should likewise understand brotherhood as Christ is a brother to us.
Let’s look at some of the Bible verses that point to the essence of this relationship:
- For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. – Matthew 12:50
- Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” – John 20:17
- In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, for whom and through whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” And again, “I will put my trust in him.” And again he says, “Here am I, and the children God has given me.” Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. – Hebrews 2:10-17
- For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. – Romans 8:29
The first thing of note is that the brotherly relation is in some respects one way. Jesus calls us brothers, but we don’t refer to him as brother. If I’m correct, I think the same is true of friends. We are called friends. But I don’t think the apostles ever addressed Jesus as Friend (or Brother). It was always Master or Lord. It leads me to think whether we should reconsider the use of such relational names. I think it does damage at times by constraining the transcendent glory of Christ. It almost seems a product of a generation of overemphasis on the immanence over the transcendence of God. But I digress. The main point is that we are His brothers.
It becomes clearer by looking at the other verses how we are His brothers. We are sons of God because of God’s saving grace. And God’s saving grace does not just free us from the condemnation of sin, but He is bringing us into glory. The sons of God are saved for a glorious destiny. This glorious destiny is to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus. In this way Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers, for it is His glorious likeness we are being fashioned into.
At this point I wish to stress the unique of His Sonship to our sonship, His glory to our glory. Note that in John, He distinguishes between “my Father” and “your Father”, “my God” and “your God”. The way He relates to the Father is infinitely different from the way we relate to the Father. As the Son of God, He has far greater glory than the glory we will come into, and deservedly so.
But cutting straight to the point, we are nevertheless sons of God, and thus we are the brothers of the Son of God. We know we are the sons of God, and the brothers of Christ if we do the will of God.
What did Christ achieve for His brothers? Hebrews says He was made like His brothers in every way that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for their sins. The Son of God became incarnate, being made like His brothers in every way, that He might lay His life down for them, making atonement for their sins and reconciling them to the Father.
I think what struck me about the sacrifice of Christ was when I thought about it in the relational terms of Him sacrificing Himself for His brothers. In all likelihood of embarassing my own brother when he reads this (and I’ll do it regardless), I have experienced in real and tangible ways the love of Christ to me in the love my brother has shown to me. The amount of sacrifice and tough love He has shown me echoes the gracious love of Christ towards me. I’ve seen and heard of siblings who do not get along, and many who are torn apart by jealousy, but I’m extremely thankful that God has mercifully blessed me with a brother who has been a constant pillar of love in my life, a rock I can depend on at all times. I know he’s only human, and he has struggles, yet this only helps to make the love of Christ all the more wonderful, because if I already receive this much security from my brother, then why do I still doubt in the power of Christ to work all things for my good?
So hopefully without sounding too mushy, in belated conjunction with Thanksgiving, here is a tribute to my brother, who also just turned 23 last Wednesday – you are the brother everyone would love to have, and whom I was blessed with 🙂 The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.