Earlier this week, in my private devotions, I was singing the familiar hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee,” and, as I came to the third stanza, I paused at the following lyrics: “Thou Our Father, Christ Our Brother, all who live in love are Thine.” Now, I am aware of the idea of Jesus as a Brother, but I was led to ask the question, “In what sense is Christ our Brother?”
There are three passages in the New Testament that refer to Jesus as our Brother—Mark 3:34-25; Romans 8:29; and Hebrews 2:11. Let’s take a closer look at each of these passages.
First, in Mark 3:34-35, after the crowd informed Jesus that His mother and brothers were looking for Him, we read: “Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, ‘Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
From this text, it is clear that Jesus is not the Brother of all mankind. He only is the Brother of those who do God’s will. That is, He is the Brother of all Christians.
Second, in Romans 8:29, Paul writes, “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.”
“Those God foreknew” is a reference to believers. According to Paul, God has predestined that all believers be “conformed to the image of His Son,” Jesus Christ. The purpose of this conformity to the image of Christ is that He “might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.” The word “firstborn” does not suggest that Jesus is the oldest of God’s children. Rather, it points to His preeminent position as the unique Son of God.
God the Father is not Jesus’ Father in the same way that He is our Father. Jesus is not a created being, like we are. He is the eternal Son of God. We become God’s children by spiritual adoption. But the fact that Jesus is the “firstborn among many brothers and sisters” emphasizes His identification with us in our humanity. In the Incarnation, the eternal Son of God took on humanity without emptying Himself of any of His deity. Christ is our Brother in the sense that, by taking on flesh, He is now essentially different from, but really like His human brothers and sisters.
Finally, Hebrews 2:11 says, “Both the one who makes people holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters.”
Jesus is the one who sanctifies (“makes people holy”), and we, Christians, are the ones who are sanctified (“those who are made holy”). Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters because in bringing us to salvation He achieved the Father’s great aim to create a family that is truly united and interwoven. Our heavenly Father wants His children to bear a family resemblance, and He gave us the perfect example in our big Brother, Jesus Christ.