Both Christ 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. He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly, I will sing your praises…I will put my trust in Him…Here am I, and the children God has given me.” (Hebrews 2:11-13)
The Prodigal’s Self-Righteous Brother
In Luke 15:11-32, Christ tells His famous parable of The Prodigal Son. The father (representing God) freely forgives his repenting younger son, just as Jesus our Redeemer renews, restores, and revitalizes all who return to Him. The elder brother is a Pharisee, self-righteous, wrongly cocksure of himself, and unthankful to God and his dad.
Pastor John P. Sartelle reminds us that this parable really involves three sons. One lost son returned home. The son who stayed home was spiritually dead and lost. Then there is God the Son (Jesus) who left His home in Heaven to search for and rescue His lost brothers and sisters here on Earth.1
Jesus: Our Perfect Elder Brother
Scripture teaches there is only one true and living God, existing in three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. These three are one God, the same in substance and equal in power, glory, and eternity. When the right time came, God the Father sent forth His Son, born of woman, to redeem us and to adopt us into God’s family.2 Jesus is one with God the Father and God the Spirit, and He voluntarily humbled Himself to take on full humanity to save us from our sins. Christ takes away our guilt, condemnation, and shame.
Christ’s greatest miracle was His incarnation. He freely left His throne above, but His deity (His God-ness) was not subtracted and He added on human nature. Jesus didn’t cling to His privileges. He made Himself nothing, a servant, a poor man, a carpenter. And Christ obeyed God’s Law that we broke and suffered God’s punishment that we deserve.3 As Lord and Savior to His believers, Jesus also becomes our Elder Brother. The next section contain one my favorite Scriptures:
Hebrews 2:11 and Thomas Shepard
Both Christ 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. (Hebrews 2:11)
This reminds me of Thomas Shepard (1605-1649). He was raised in a godly family, but while attending college, he fell into drunkenness and other sinful habits. One Sunday morning he awoke with a bad hangover and felt guilty and ashamed of himself. He had sunk low and for a year he considered suicide. But he remembered 1 Corinthians 1:30-31—“Christ Jesus has become for us wisdom from God, that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore it is written: ‘If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.’” Shepard realized that Christ was everything he needed and that Jesus had accomplished everything in his place. Christ had lived the perfect life that Shepard couldn’t live, paid for his sins in full on the cross, and now was his Advocate (defense attorney) in Heaven. Shepard could come back to God through Jesus.
Shepard also remembered John 1:12, “To all who received and believed on Christ, Jesus gave the right to become God’s children, born again by God [spiritually transformed, renewed, sanctified].”4 So all of us need to call on Christ to forgive and purify us from all unrighteousness for the first time AND for the millionth time.
J. Wilbur Chapman’s hymn says:
Jesus! what a Friend for sinners! Jesus! Lover of my soul;
Friends may fail me, foes assail me, He, my Savior, makes me whole.
Hallelujah! what a Savior! Hallelujah, what a Friend!
Saving, helping, keeping, loving, He is with me to the end.
Christians are Blameless and Unashamed in Jesus
The New Testament Greek word adelphoi (brothers) is used for blood relatives, but also refers to Christian believers, both men and women in God’s family. Hebrews 2 explains how the perfect God-Man, Jesus, can call imperfect humans His brothers and sisters. Christians don’t carry similar DNA with Christ, but we are born again by God the Holy Spirit, trust in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, are adopted into God’s family, and are blessed to share in Christ’s inheritance.
Christ our brother purchased us with His blood and made His Father our Father.5 He is not ashamed to call us brothers and sister because His righteousness is imputed (counted, reckoned) to us. Jesus makes us blameless because He is blameless.6 So there is no reason for Christians to be ashamed. We simply need to run back to God through Jesus.
Martin Luther (1483-1546) preached justification (pardon and acceptance with God) by faith alone in Jesus every week, because his congregation needed reminding. He said that Christians need to receive and rest on Christ every day because we can forget Him or wander from Him every day.
We don’t want to become like the self-righteous brother in Luke 15. We don’t want to become accidental Pharisees, relying on ourselves and our supposed goodness and missing Jesus, the only Lord and Savior.7
Thank God, Jesus the Son of Man came to seek and to save lost people!8 I admit that I am lost, dead, and guilty apart from Christ and I need Him moment by moment. How about you?
To be continued. You can read Elder Brother Syndrome
Notes (various translations): 1 Heard in a sermon. 2 Gal 4:4-6. 3 Phil 2:5-11. 4 see also 2 Cor 5:17. 5 Rom 8:15; Gal 4:4–6. 6 2 Cor 5:21. 7 I am alluding to Larry Osborne’s book Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith. 8 Luke 19:10.