I had the perfect big brother. If I fell over and hurt my knee or if any of the neighbourhood kids picked on me, he was there, ready to give me a hug and dry my tears. He always knew what to do and I looked up to him no end. But he could be really annoying. He always did what mum and dad said. The rest of us (I have a big family) got into trouble and once I was grounded for two weeks. But never him. He was the good one. Dad had no trouble teaching him the family trade.
We got a shock when he was older because he gave up the family business to become an evangelist. I suppose, looking back, it shouldn’t have been such a big surprise because he always knew the answers in Sunday school, sometimes even surprising the church leaders with his insights into the scriptures.
He left town and made new friends who happily followed him around the country. It was like he was some kind of celebrity, with huge crowds following him everywhere. There were some spectacular rumours about healings and even demons being cast out of people. I wondered what on earth was happening. I mean, this was my big brother! And the demons were blurting out that he was God’s Son before he silenced them. It was all so confusing for us, his family. We met at mum’s house (dad had died) and had several family discussions. We agreed that the best thing was for us to travel to where he was staying and bring him home. We honestly thought he must be mentally ill, and wanted to protect him. When we got there, he was indoors teaching. The place was packed. People had travelled miles to hear him. Someone went inside and told him we were there. Everyone expected that he would come and greet us, but he didn’t – he said that anyone who did God’s will was his family. How offended and hurt we were!
He came home to Nazareth a couple of times. It was always great to see him, if rather awkward. You see, we knew some people thought he was an amazing miracle-worker but me and my other brothers and sisters didn’t think he was anything very special. He was just our deluded big brother. He did hardly any miracles in Nazareth; he said it was because people here didn’t believe in him. The neighbours were quite insulting actually. I heard them muttering together about him being ‘Mary’s son’, hurtfully resurrecting all those old rumours.
On the last occasion he visited, we all went to church together. He read a favourite passage from Isaiah about the Messiah coming and setting captives free and making blind people see, before electrifying us by announcing that this was being fulfilled right then. The worst bit was when he said that God’s Kingdom is not just for us Jews but for everyone in the world. People got really angry when they heard that, and dragged him outside and up to the cliff top so that they could throw him off. My heart was in my mouth as I ran after them, hoping and praying he’d be okay. Even if he did sound mad, he’s still my big brother! But he just calmly walked back through the crowd. It was as though they couldn’t get hold of him. He didn’t return again.
We continued to get news of him. I think the whole country was talking about him. The authorities were furious, and we were afraid for his life. But I remembered what had happened on the cliff top and told myself he would be safe.
The family travelled up to Jerusalem for the Passover celebrations. There were worrying undercurrents in the air. We heard of emergency meetings of the religious leaders, and then the worst news of all: my big brother had been arrested. Mum’s face went white when we heard. And the look in her eyes! I put my arms around her. But what could I say? It was the longest night of my life. One of the Psalms says that joy comes in the morning. But it didn’t for us – as dawn broke we learned that he was sentenced to death by crucifixion.
Of all of his family, only mum and our aunt went to support him as he hung on that wooden cross outside the city. I couldn’t bear to think of it. He had brought shame and dishonour on us, being crucified like a common criminal. And I didn’t believe he had done anything to deserve it. He never did anything wrong! Not even when we were children. I kept thinking of all the miracles we’d heard about: calming the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a fierce storm, healings of all kinds, changing people’s lives, even bringing dead people back to life. None of the rest of us had that kind of power, so where did his come from? He was one of us, but he was also different. I gripped my hair, trying to puzzle it out. Who was he really?
Late in the afternoon his closest friend, John, brought mum back. I could see by the blank looks in their eyes that he was dead. We hugged and cried. How would we ever get through this? John said that Jesus had asked him to look after mum. Even on the brink of death, he was thinking about others.
That awful weekend slowly passed. To say we were in turmoil put it mildly. His disciples kept to themselves, hiding away somewhere. I don’t blame them for being afraid of the authorities. I jumped at every little sound myself. The mum of two of his friends and some other women prepared spices to lay out his body properly for burial. There hadn’t been time on Friday evening.
Sunday brought surprising news that circulated quickly through Jerusalem. He had come back to life! I heard the news and saw the joy on his friends’ faces, their words tumbling over one another in excitement. Suddenly I understood who He is. Jesus isn’t only my big brother, He is the Son of God! Mum and I began meeting with His other followers. Over the next few weeks we saw Him regularly. He was definitely alive and no ghost. One by one, my other brothers and sisters joined us. We all believed in Him now! We began to understand what His death was all about – He had sacrificed Himself once and for all to take God’s wrath for all the wrong things we do. God showed that He accepted His sacrifice by bringing Him back to life.
A short time after He had gone back to heaven (He just rose up straight into the clouds after blessing John and His other close followers and disappeared – amazing), we received the Holy Spirit He’d promised to send. There was a sound like wind rushing into the house and flames of fire appeared on each of our heads, showing that the Spirit had arrived. We spoke in strange languages and such joy filled us! It was fantastic. We just wanted to tell everyone about Jesus.
As I looked round at these dear friends who’d become like brothers and sisters, I finally understood what Jesus meant when He’d said that his family are the people who do God’s will. He wasn’t saying families aren’t important, nor did He mean it as an insult. He meant that the ties of being part of God’s Family – the Church – are even stronger than the blood ties of our own families.
Being Jesus’s blood relative could never make me good enough for God. Only by receiving His salvation through His death, resurrection and ascension could open the way for me to have a relationship with God and be a part of His Family. Jesus isn’t just my big brother – He’s my Saviour and Lord!