By Norman S. Edwards
From SVM – Winter 2014 – 2
January 17, 2014
Dear S.V. magazine, “Ask Norm!”
I am very happy to be on your mailing list and first time writing. May God’s grace and mercy be upon you and family. Me and another inmate were discussing Scripture concerning Mary, the Mother of “Jesus Christ”. Scripture plainly says she had other sons and daughters (Gal 1:19; Matt 12:46; 13:55; Mark 6;3; 15:40; Luke 3:22; 1Cor 9:5; John 6:42). Would you please write and explain or refer to other books for more information on the subject? Are these Joseph’s Children after Christ’s birth? And why didn’t His siblings take over to take care of Mary after His death?
Thank you! I will be waiting for the answer to this soon.
Thank you for your interesting question. I had wondered about this myself for some years. I did not understand it until I was involved in a ministry of my own that appeared troubled due to outside persecution. I do not believe there are any reference books that would have any direct information, other than the Bible, so I will explain it from the Bible. The key verses are Matthew 12:47-50 or its counterpart here in Mark:
And a multitude was sitting around Him; and they said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are outside seeking You.” But He answered them, saying, “Who is My mother, or My brothers?” And He looked around in a circle at those who sat about Him, and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God is My brother and My sister and mother” (Mark 3:32-35).
Here, Jesus clearly showed that his ministry was more important than His own family. And for him, it certainly was. Today, many ministers of the Gospel fight a constant battle between attention to their families and attention to their ministries. When they spend too much time on their ministries, their family frequently turns against them.
It is ever worse with a persecuted ministry. When a man serving God is denounced by other civil or religious leaders, or if he ends up in jail, many people will assume he is doing something wrong—often with no real investigation on their own. They will say, “If he had been conducting his ministry properly, he would not have gotten into these troubles.” Even though Jesus and the New Testament apostles spent a reasonable amount of time in trouble and even in jail, they still say these things today, usually without even considering that it might be unjust persecution.
When Jesus said that those who followed him were closer than his own family, it must have been very difficult for them to accept. Even though they knew he was an honest man, they must have thought he was a little bit crazy. When he was scourged and crucified, they must have been sure that he had some kind of mental or demonic difficulties. Mary, his mother, is the only member of his family that stayed with Jesus through His most difficult times, his trial and crucifixion. Mary was an exceptional woman. In the unusual events of John the Baptist’s and Christ’s birth, Mary readily accepts the things told to her by the angels and “ponders them in her heart”, whereas Zecharias and Joseph doubt them at times (Luke 1 & 2).
Were all of Mary’s children also Joseph’s children? We do not know for sure, but the evidence indicates they are. Joseph was with Mary at least until Jesus was 12 (Luke 2:42-52), but there is no mention of him living beyond that time. He could have fathered all of Jesus’ recorded four brothers and two or more sisters (Matt13:55-56) during those twelve years. In John 6:2, He is still referred to as “Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know”. If Mary had a new husband, he should have been mentioned here. If we were to theorize that Joseph never fathered any children and died when Jesus we 12, and then Mary immediately remarried and had more children, that would make all her children less than 21 years old when Jesus died (Jesus being 33 when he died, minus 12 years when Mary was with Joseph). Most of these children would have been minors at Jesus’ death and it is unlikely they would have been named in Scripture. It is much more sensible that all of Jesus brothers and sisters were fathered by Joseph, and were between 21 and 32 years old at Jesus death. (If Joseph lived a few years past Jesus 12th birthday, then some of his children could be less than 21 at Jesus’ death.)
I believe that Jesus’ brothers and sisters felt he was shirking his responsibility as the oldest son, that he had brought a bad name upon the family by getting in such trouble with the authorities and that their mother Mary should stop encouraging Jesus in all his nonsense. Mary is mentioned as being with Jesus on several occasions throughout His ministry. They may well have made her future support contingent on her leaving Jesus’ ministry. (This is a good technique to use when Jesus said that it is sometimes necessary to leave one’s own family for the sake of the Gospel Matthew 19:29; Mark 10:29-30).
So, Mary chose to stay with Jesus and His brothers and sisters chose to distance themselves from Jesus and Mary. Hence, Jesus asked John to take care of His mother as he was dying (John 19:26-27). Nevertheless, after the resurrection of Jesus, which Mary witnessed, and His brothers and sisters certainly had opportunity to witness, some of them became believers—even apostles (Galatians 1:19; 1 Corinthians 9:5).