Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Tree of LIfe: Reflections on Jesus as our Brother

I have never once been in a prayer session when we have been praising Jesus for who he is that someone has thanked him for being their brother. We thank him for being our Savior, our Lord, our Teacher, our Healer, our King, but not our brother.

Why do you think that is? The idea makes sense logically. If God is our Heavenly Father and Jesus is his Son, doesn’t it follow that Jesus is our brother? Why do we have an actual physical reaction when we think about it?

I assume that many of you are skeptically thinking about it being proven in the Scriptures. Let’s look at Jesus’ encounter with Mary in the garden right after his resurrection in John 20.

To set the stage: Mary is crying at his tomb because Jesus’ body is missing. Suddenly, she sees someone come up. She assumes it’s the Gardener and asks him where he put Jesus. But, it’s Jesus and he makes this statement to her:

“Don’t cling to me,” Jesus said, “for I haven’t yet ascended to the Father. But go find my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

We were taught in seminary to pay particular attention to the timing of a situation. The fact that Jesus made this statement in his first conversation after his resurrection makes it all the more important and impactful to us.

So, what does Jesus’ statement that he is our brother mean to us?

It strengthens the reality of the family of God that we are invited to be part of. We have a Father that loves us unconditionally and a brother that follows his example. Our brother, Jesus, loved us so much that he was willing to die the most torturous death on earth to show us his love.

We find some clues from Jesus’ prayer in John 17 for what we receive as Jesus’ siblings.

He was praying for us when he prayed:

“I have revealed you to the ones you gave me from this world. They were always yours. You gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything I have is a gift from you, 8 for I have passed on to them the message you gave me. They accepted it and know that I came from you, and they believe you sent me.

9 “My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you.

10 All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. 11 Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. 12 During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold.

13 “Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. 14 I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. 15 I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. 16 They do not belong to this world any more than I do. 17 Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. 18 Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. 19 And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. John 17: 6-19

I see quite a list of our benefits as Jesus’ siblings:

1. Belonging: “they were always yours.”
2. Faith: “they believe you sent me.”
3. Provision: “now they know that everything they have is a gift from you,”
4. God’s Name: “You have given me your name”
5. Protection: “protect them by the power of your name”
6. Unity: “so they will be united as we are”
7. Joy: “so they will be filled with my joy”
8. God’s Word: “I have given them your Word”
9. Sanctification: “Make them holy by our truth”
10. Significance: “I am sending them into the world”

As I go through this list, I am not surprised that the two themes of Covenant Relationship and Kingdom Partnership are present. We are first connected in relationship with the family of God and then sent in kingdom partnership to share God’s invitation with others.

When I was 13, our family moved from Denver to Kansas City. My sister was already in college, so she didn’t move with us. But, my brother was 16 so he came with us. I know that first summer we were inseparable because we relied on one another to keep company, find our way in a new place, spend time doing fun things, and to encourage one another when we felt sad, lost or lonely. I was incredibly grateful for my brother’s presence in my life that summer.

I see this same assurance of presence in Jesus.

He doesn’t send us out into the world until he has helped us get our grounding of the new place we live. He gives us the benefit of his Father’s provision, protection and presence as he teaches us how to be family to one another.

We are going to be exploring the different ways that he teaches us to be family to one another in coming weeks. I want to end by challenging you to relate to Jesus as your brother this week.

Pay attention to what comes up for you; does it make him more approachable? Does it bring up hard memories of a brother who teased you or made you feel small? Does it expand your sense of belonging to a big extended family who loves to be together and celebrates life together?

One thing is for sure: we are not orphans. Jesus tells us in John 14:18 that “you are not orphans, I will come to you.” We are part of God’s great big family and each one of us is valued, cherished and celebrated!

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