Broadcasting now. Watch Live.

Trilemma: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Mark 3:20-35

  • 2015-12-13 AM
  • Sermons


Last week we began to respond to the question Jesus asked of His disciples in Matthew 16:15 when He said to them, "Who do you say that I am?" There really is no more important question that you will ever answer than that question: who do you say that Jesus is? During this Christmas season we hear so many different answers to that question. You'll hear on the internet, in the news, on TV specials claiming to be historical, in casual conversation—you will hear many different responses to that simple but profound question.

Last week, sort of an introduction to the passage that we will begin to study today, we considered three wrong answers, old and tired answers, to that question. Wrong answer number one we considered last week is that Jesus is a myth. Jesus is simply a myth. There are people who believe that Jesus never really existed at all. I noted two basic lines of defense to this wrong answer last week.

First of all, secular sources confirm Jesus' existence and the key events of His life. Within 150 years of the ministry of Jesus, nine, separate, secular, pagan sources, that historians view as reputable, confirm and affirm the existence of Jesus of Nazareth and the primary events of His life.

We also looked into the Scripture itself for another line of defense, and that is that Jesus intentionally selected eyewitnesses of His life. He chose 11 men. Of course, you know He chose 12, but He knew one of them was a traitor; He prophesied it beforehand. So, in reality, He chose 11 men who would accompany Him, and who would eventually bear testimony to all that He did and all that He taught. In the New Testament we have eyewitness testimony, handpicked by Jesus Himself, as to the historicity of His existence and the key events of His life.

The second wrong answer to the question (Who do you think I am? that we addressed last week) is, Jesus is a mystery. These people will acknowledge (because history won't let them do otherwise) that Jesus existed, but they'll say, "Because of a scarcity of documentation, we really can know very little, if anything, about Him. We can't really be sure what He did or what He taught." As I noted, this is really an attack of the basic reliability of the New Testament, because this view argues that since all we have is the New Testament, we have no legitimate, historical documents about the life of Jesus. In other words, the New Testament isn't, they would say.

Now I mentioned two lines of defense to this attack as well. First of all, just point them to the existing New Testament manuscripts. We have more manuscripts of the New Testament than any other ancient document—period. We have more than 5,700 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. More than 25,000 if you not only take into account the Greek manuscripts, but you add the early translations of the New Testament into languages such as Latin and Syriac and Coptic, and if you add in the quotations of the New Testament that appear in the writings of the early church fathers.

In addition, I noted for you that not only do we have this mass of manuscript evidence, but the manuscripts that we have date closer to when the originals were written than any other ancient document. In most ancient documents we have copies that are separated 700 to 1,400 years from when the original was written. But when you look at the New Testament, we have a fragment of the Gospel of John that dates within 25 years: the Rylands Papyrus. In addition, we have complete copies of the New Testament that date within 100 to 150 years, instead of the average 700 to 1,400 years. So, whether you look at the sheer volume, or whether you look at the proximity to the originals, by every standard used with ancient documents, there is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament we possess is historically authentic; that is, that it records what the original authors in the 1st century wrote.

We also looked at the Scripture itself to argue against this idea that Jesus is a mystery. And the response we gave to this is, Jesus' own authorization of the New Testament documents. Jesus appointed these 11 apostles (an official title meaning official representatives or legal proxies), and then He authorized them to write. We saw this from a number of New Testament texts last week. And in doing so, Jesus preauthenticated the New Testament as the authorized record of His life and ministry. In other words, what you have in the New Testament is Jesus' authorized biography. He picked the men who would write it, and they accompanied Him throughout His life. So, the gospels then are reliable accounts of what Jesus did, of what He taught, and what He claimed.

Now that brings us to wrong answer number three that we discussed last week. And that is that Jesus is a real man, but He never claimed to be God. There are people who will say, "Of course Jesus existed, and much of what the New Testament records is true. But the writers embellished Jesus' true teaching, made Him out to be more than He claimed. He never claimed to be God." Now once you establish the historical reliability of the New Testament, this answer is completely and quickly disproved. We've already done that. We've seen the reliability of the New Testament, and therefore we can look at the New Testament to see what Jesus claimed. And unequivocally in the New Testament Jesus again and again claims to be God.

There're so many texts. We looked at two profound ones last week. In John 8, Jesus says, "Before Abraham was, I am." He claims for Himself the name of God, the sacred name of God from Exodus 3. And the people around Him understood. They picked up stones to stone Him, because they thought He was blaspheming.

We looked at Mark 14 where Caiaphas, in the presence of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish leaders of the nation), puts Jesus under oath at His Jewish trial. And he asked Him this question. He says, Jesus, I put you under oath, "Are You the [Messiah] …, the Son of the Blessed One?" To which Jesus responded, "I am." It was for that claim that He was crucified, because they didn't believe Him and therefore saw it as blasphemy. But the fact that He claimed it, they affirmed, and that's why they presented Him to Pilate to be crucified.

So, it's clear that Jesus made this claim. In fact, I love what William Biederwolf writes. He says, "A man who could read the New Testament and not see that Christ claims to be more than a man can look all over the sky at high noon on a cloudless day and not see the sun." That's an exact equivalent. It's the same thing.

Now do you understand how remarkable and singular Jesus' claims to be God are? Thomas Schultz writes this, "Not one recognized, religious leader." And of course, the key word there is "recognized." There were nuts who had little small groups of people who claimed to be God. But he says, "Not one recognized, religious leader, not Moses, Paul, Buddha, Mohamed, Confucius, etc., not one has ever claimed to be God; that is, with the exception of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only religious leader who has ever claimed to be deity, and the only individual ever who has convinced a great portion of the world that He is." Jesus is completely singular in His claims to be God.

But the question that arises from that is, were Jesus' claims legitimate? Are they to be believed? So today we need to address a fourth wrong answer to Jesus' question "Who do you say that I am?" It's wrong answer number four: Jesus is only a good man in spite of His claims to be God. In other words, they would say, "We don't want to deny the fact that historically He claimed to be God. Nor do we want to say He was a bad man. So instead, we're going to say He was a good man in spite of the fact that He claimed to be God." On the face of it, this is a ludicrous, ridiculous response, as we will see.

The fact is, when it comes to Jesus' extraordinary claims to be God, there are only three basic alternatives. Think this through with me. Jesus' claims to be God. The documentation is there. There are only three alternatives.

Number one, His claims were false, and He knew they were false. He knew in His heart of hearts He wasn't speaking the truth. He had some other agenda: self-aggrandizement, self-enrichment—something. In this case, Jesus was a hypocrite and a liar.

A second option is that His claims were false, and He didn't know that they were false. In this case, Jesus was sincere in His claims, but He was sincerely deluded. In other words, Jesus was a lunatic.

The only other possibility—if Jesus made the claims He made in the New Testament, which we've established that He did, the only other possibility is that His claims were true, and that He is in fact the Lord of Glory, God incarnate.

Now the argument that focuses on these three alternatives has historically and traditionally been called the trilemma. It demonstrates the inconsistency of believing that Jesus was a great moral teacher, and yet at the same time denying that He was deity as He claimed. C.S. Lewis popularized the trilemma on his BBC radio program, and of course later in his book that many of us have read, Mere Christianity. But the argument was not original with C.S. Lewis. In modern times this trilemma argument first appeared in the 19th century. In 1846, an American named Mark Hopkins used this very argument in his book Lectures on the Evidences of Christianity.

And around 1860, the Scottish preacher, John Duncan, put it very clearly. Listen to what he wrote in 1860, "Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable." (end quote) That's John Duncan in 1860. But what I want you to see this morning is that the trilemma predates C.S. Lewis and Mark Hopkins and John Duncan. The very first time this argument was presented was in the mid-50s AD in the work we call the Gospel of Mark, where I invite you to turn this morning. Turn with me to Mark 3.

Now let me give you some context for the passage that we'll examine together. In Mark 3, beginning in verse 13 down through verse 19, Mark records for us here the choosing of the 12 to be His official representatives, the apostles. But Mark doesn't record the next major event in Jesus' life. We know from the other gospels that what came next was His most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. Mark also skips a number of other significant events in Jesus' life during that time period.

Instead, what Mark does is skip forward to one of the longest, most significant days in Jesus' earthly ministry. When you weave the three synoptic accounts together (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), you discover that on one, single day, Jesus did all of this. First of all, in the morning, He healed a demon-possessed man. Then He taught at a home in Capernaum. He was accused by the Pharisees that He was in league with Satan. He taught all of the parables of Matthew 13, and explained several of them privately to His disciples. Then, same day, He got in a boat with His disciples, took a trip across the Sea of Galilee, during which He fell asleep, a storm arose. And you remember He awakened and calmed the storm. They reached the other side, and when they reached the other side, He healed the demoniacs in the area of the Gerasenes, one of whose name was Legion. So, it was a very, long, remarkable day.

That day, however, began with one of the most important events in Jesus' ministry. It becomes a watershed of sorts. That morning, Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, and the response of Israel's leaders marked a huge turning point. On the very same day, Jesus' own family members show their true perspective about Jesus and His claims. It was a dramatic, dramatic day. And Mark here captures all of the drama in a powerful passage in the third chapter of his gospel. Remember now, as we read it, that Peter, who provided Mark with all of this information, was there as an eyewitness to these things. So, let's read together Mark 3, beginning in verse 20.

And [Jesus] … came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal. When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, "[He's] lost His senses." The scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, "He is possessed by Beelzebul," and "He casts out the demons by the ruler of the demons." And He called them to Himself and began speaking to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished! But no one can enter the strong man's house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

"Truly I say to you, all sins shall be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemes they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin"—because they were saying, "He has an unclean spirit."

Then His mother and His brothers arrived, and standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. A crowd was sitting around Him, and they said to Him, "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You." Answering them, He said, "Who are My mother and My brothers?" Looking about at those who were sitting around Him, He said, "Behold My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is My brother and sister and mother."

Now the structure of this passage is very interesting. In a wonderful, storytelling technique, Mark starts one story, interrupts it with another, and then returns to complete the first. You'll notice verses 20 and 21, Jesus' family leaves to go to Capernaum; verses 22 to- 30, the Pharisees attack Jesus; and then in verses 31 to- 35, Jesus' family arrived where He was teaching there in Capernaum.

Now what's remarkable about this passage that we've just read is that in these three scenes, three separate scenes, we are confronted with the only three possible responses to Jesus' works and claims. Every single one of us, everyone who reads this account, has to decide how to respond to Jesus and to His claims. And there are always only the same three choices, whether in the 1st century and the choices made on that fateful day, or whether today as you sit here and listen to me. Let's look at these three responses.

Now the first one (and the one we will examine today) to Jesus' claims is this, Jesus must be out of His mind. He must be a deluded lunatic. Look at verse 20, "And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal." After a number of ministry activities in the Galilee area, Jesus returned home to Capernaum.

Early in His ministry He had left Nazareth where He grew up, where His family lived, and He had moved down to the coast of the Sea of Galilee, to the major town of Capernaum. And that's where He lived. That's where He had His ministry headquarters. It says, "He came home." We can't be sure here whose home this was. As in 2:1, it may be the home of Peter and Andrew. Jesus may have stayed there in Capernaum. Or it may be a home that one of His followers had allowed Him to use. We can't be sure. But He comes home.

And as soon as He arrives, undoubtedly tired and ready for a rest, a crowd gathered. And there was such a large crowd, and the ministry was so intense, that Jesus and His disciples (We're told here.) couldn't even make time to eat. Now, this was not unusual for Jesus and His disciples. In fact, in 6:31, Jesus said to the twelve, "'Come away by yourselves to a secluded place and rest awhile.' (For there were many people coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.)" That's Jesus' earthly ministry.

Verse 21, "When His own people heard." Now, whom does Mark mean by "His own people"? In Greek this expression is used a number of ways. It's used of representatives, of friends, of associates. It's also used of family. In this case the context makes it clear. Notice in verse 21, "His own people" leave to get Jesus. And later on that same day, Jesus' mother and brothers arrive looking for Him. Verse 31,

Then His mother and His brothers arrived ... standing outside they sent word to Him and called Him. [The] crowd sitting around Him [in the house]... said ... "Behold, Your mother and Your brothers are outside looking for You."

So clearly then, "His own people" in verse 21 refers to Jesus' own immediate family, to His mother Mary and to His brothers.

Now, we meet Jesus' brothers later in this gospel. We meet them by name. Turn over to chapter 6. Jesus returns home to Nazareth to preach. And people(the hometown crowd) is so amazed at His teaching and His works that they begin to ask themselves in Mark 6:2, where did He get these things; what is this wisdom that He has and these miracles that He performs? And notice what they say in verse 3. These are the people that know Jesus, where He grew up. Nazareth was probably, at the time of Jesus, a town that was composed of no more people than are seated here in this room at this moment. So, it was a small town. They knew Him. And they said, "Is not this the carpenter?"

That tells us that Jesus had taken up the earthly occupation of His father Joseph. "The son of Mary, and brother [Here we go. the] brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?" Jesus had four brothers, and they're named here. These are Jesus' younger siblings. We're told that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until Jesus was born, and then they had these children. They had four boys. But also notice it's added in verse 3, "Are not His sisters here with us?" Notice "sisters" is plural. We're not told here how many, but obviously at least two. So, Jesus grew up then in a family of at least nine, and at least 7 children. And it may have been larger if He had more than two sisters.

Now notice in verse 3 who's not mentioned: Joseph. Joseph (And most scholars would agree.) apparently died sometime after Jesus' visit to the temple at the age of 12 (You remember we see Him there.) but before Jesus began His ministry, because we never see him in Jesus' ministry. What's remarkable about that is: in a Jewish culture that means it would have fallen to Jesus, as the oldest male in the household, to essentially raise His siblings. He would have become the spiritual leader in the home. It would have been His duty to teach them the Law of God.

That responsibility, of course, is laid out for us in Deuteronomy 6 in accompany with the great Shema, Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one, and you shall love the Lord your God. And then it goes on to explain how that love manifests itself: it's by holding to the Word yourself and by teaching your children. This would have been Jesus' duty in this home. If you're a parent, understand, Jesus knows exactly what you encounter, because while He didn't parent His own children, He was the surrogate father to His younger siblings. No family ever had a better teacher, a more consistent example, a more perfect model, than they did.

And that's what makes it so remarkable that when Jesus' siblings first came to understand that their older brother claimed to be more than the human son of Joseph and Mary (whenever they came to understand that, probably with the beginning of His ministry), they absolutely refused to believe it. All refused to believe it. But it's worse than that. Verse 21, It says, "… they went out to take custody of Him." Now, they're in Nazareth; Jesus is in Capernaum. That's about 20 miles they needed to travel, or about five-hours, brisk walk. And so, this all unfolded on a single day. They came, notice, "to take custody of " Jesus. Mark uses that Greek word six other times in his gospel, and every other time it occurs it means "to arrest someone." They came to arrest Jesus.

Jesus' brothers left Nazareth, went to Capernaum to physically force Jesus to return to Nazareth for His own good. Why? Verse 21, "For [because, here's why] they were saying, 'He has lost His senses.'" Now, the Greek word translated "lost His senses" is a very obvious and clear word. In fact, the leading Greek lexicon defines it this way: "The inability to reason normally; to lose one's mind; [in other words] to be mad."

Paul uses this expression in 2 Corinthians 5:13. He says, "If we are beside ourselves [If we're outside of ourselves. That's the idea.], it is for God; If we are of sound mind, it is for you." In other words, what Jesus' brothers are saying of Jesus is that He has exactly the opposite of a sound mind. Jesus' younger brothers, (Think about this.) the ones He had helped raise, concluded that He was out of His mind, He was crazy, He was delusional. And by the way, the verb tense there for "saying" implies this wasn't a one-time conclusion. They had discussed and repeated this conclusion many times. He's lost His mind. He's not thinking rationally. He's not behaving rationally. He is mentally unstable.

Now why would His brothers have come to this conclusion? Well, there're a number of reasons that are possible. For example, His becoming a rabbi without any formal training, and then gathering so many disciples around Him. His constant opposition to the religious leaders. He'd already had several public confrontations with the leaders of the nation, the Pharisees and the Scribes. That's not how somebody who wants to be in leadership acts. That's irrational.

It might have been His authoritative teaching. Remember, He taught not as the Scribes and Pharisees, but "as one having authority." Imagine, Jesus stands up and says, I can tell you what this passage means—I mean, really means; nobody else is right, I'm right.

Think about His audacious personal claims. Earlier in Mark's gospel He claimed to forgive someone their sins—sins not against Him, but against God. They may have thought He was crazy because of His choice of companions and associates. I mean after all, He hung around tax collectors and sinners. He chose a ragtag, odd assortment of fishermen, political zealots, and tax collectors to be His followers, His students.

And frankly, Jesus' actions and His teachings sometimes confused even those closest to Him. We see this again and again in the gospels. One example would be Luke 9:45: The disciples "did not understand this statement ... and they were afraid to ask Him." Again and again, we see that.

But the primary reason Jesus' brothers concluded that He was out of His mind is here in this context. Look at verse 21, "When His own people heard ... they went out to take custody of Him." In other words, in the context here, when they heard that Jesus was constantly ministering to the crowds with no thought, no consideration, of His own needs, they came to take Him back to Nazareth by force. In other words, (Think about this.) his brothers concluded that His religious zeal had crossed the line and had become fanaticism.

Now, His brothers were religious to some extent. We know that, because later in Jesus' ministry they go to Jerusalem for a feast that was required of all Jewish males. So, they were sort of the mindset that, you know, religion's a good thing as long as it's kept in its place. But Jesus had taken His zeal for God too far. He had become a religious fanatic. They heard He was staying up all night praying, that He was not taking time to eat, that He was traveling all over Galilee preaching and teaching. And they concluded, He's out of His mind. One commentator, France, writes this,

Jesus' people back home have heard reports of the rowdy scenes in Capernaum, and they decide that it's time to take Jesus in hand for His own sake and for the family's reputation. This is a more explicit rejection of Jesus' ministry by His family than anywhere else in the gospels. This is not simply a failure to follow Jesus, but a positive and an offensive repudiation of Jesus.

Now, maybe the question that comes to your mind is the question that comes to mine when I read this text. What was Mary thinking in going with them? Well, William Lane writes, "It is unnecessary to suppose that Mary also suspected Jesus had lost His grasp upon reality. Her presence with Jesus' brothers, however, indicates that her faith was insufficient to resist the determination of her sons to restrain Jesus and bring Him home." But that still doesn't answer the question, why? What would she be thinking?

I think John Broadus, who wrote a wonderful commentary on Matthew's gospel back during the time of the Civil War, was right when he wrote this: "Perhaps Mary sometimes became perplexed, as John the Baptist appears to have been, by her son's pursuing a course so widely different from what she expected of the Messiah. And, in this frame of mind, she could more easily be prevailed upon by His brothers to accompany them without fully sharing their view or their purpose." In other words, Mary's just confused. She's concerned about Jesus as her son, His health, as any mother would be. And she's confused, because He doesn't seem to be doing what she expects.

But Jesus' brothers, on the other hand, they were convinced that He was self-deceived, deluded. By the way, their attitude didn't change in the months that followed. In fact, what happened, (an incident that occurred just six months before His crucifixion), makes their perspective about Jesus even clearer. Turn over to John 7. John 7: 1,

After these things Jesus was walking in Galilee, for He was unwilling to walk in Judea because the Jews were seeking to kill Him. Now the feast of the Jews, the feast of booths, [This would have been in late September or October, before the spring when Jesus would be crucified. It was near.] Therefore His brothers [Here are these four boys again. They] said to Him, "Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing. For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."

Now if you stop there you might be tempted to think maybe they're beginning to believe; they just want Jesus to prove it. No, that's not it. Look at the next verse, "For [Here's the reason they said this.] not even His brothers were believing in Him." Do you understand what they were saying to Jesus? It was sarcasm. It was dripping with sarcasm: well, if You're really this Messiah, go show everybody, do something great, we'll all believe.

This idea that Jesus was a deluded lunatic, that He was insane, caught on. Turn over to 10:19:

A division occurred again among the Jews because of these words [that Jesus spoke]. Many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?" Others were saying, "These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?"

And so, there was this conflict. But what I want you to see is that this idea of Jesus as a deluded lunatic became one way to explain Jesus' claims. His claims were false, but He didn't know they were false, because He was out of His mind. It's a really fascinating passage. Just two verses. But so much insight.

So, what are the implications of these two verses in this remarkable account for us? Let me draw out several very quickly.

Number one, this is one of only three legitimate ways to respond to Jesus Christ and His claims. You can hear the claims of Jesus (And clearly, He made them) and you can say to yourself, you know, Jesus was a good man, He lived an extraordinary life, He demonstrated incredible devotion and extreme dedication to what He believed, and He meant well; but you know, Jesus simply came to the wrong conclusions about Himself and His mission.

Albert Schweitzer, in his book The Quest for the Historical Jesus, came to exactly this conclusion: that Jesus was in fact a good man with a messianic delusion. Listen to Schweitzer: "

"The baptist appears and cries, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Soon after that comes Jesus, and in the knowledge that He is the coming Son of Man lays hold of the wheel of the world to set it moving on that last revolution which is to bring all ordinary history to a close. It refuses to turn, and He throws Himself upon it. Then it does turn; and crushes Him. Instead of bringing in escatalogical conditions, He has destroyed them. The wheel rolls onward, and the mangled body of the one immeasurably great man, [Here it is.] who was strong enough to think of Himself as the spiritual ruler of mankind and to bend history to its purpose, is hanging upon it still. That is His victory and His reign."

Jesus had messianic delusions. Is that true? Let me challenge you. If you're even tempted to go that direction, just read the gospels. You cannot read the gospels and come to that conclusion. Philip Schaff, the great church historian, writes this:

Self-deception in a matter so momentous, and with an intellect in all respects [talking about Jesus] so clear and so sound, is out of the question. How could He be a mad man who never lost the even balance of His mind?

You have to respond to Jesus. If you're here this morning and you're not a believer, you have to respond to Jesus and to the claims that He made. And you only have three options. One of those options is for you to conclude with Jesus' brothers that He was deluded lunatic. But I suspect, even as you sit here this morning, you know that is not a legitimate option. And that leaves you with only two. Either He's a liar, a deceiver, or He is the Lord that He said He was.

There's a second implication of this little passage. As Jesus' followers, we too will often be thought of as nuts, as delusional, as part of the lunatic fringe. It's true of Jesus. It was true of Jesus' followers in the 1st century. You remember the story in Acts 26:24? Paul is speaking in his defense. And while he's speaking, Festus, a Roman official, said in a loud voice, "Paul, you are out of your mind! Your great learning is driving you mad." You're nuts! It was true then. It's still true today. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, you will be thought of by some as out of your mind. If you doubt that, go online and read the comments where something about the Christian faith has been posted. My point is: don't be surprised. They called Jesus insane.

Number three. If you're serious about your faith, you sincerely try to live by the Scripture, your unbelieving family and friends may conclude about you, as Jesus' family did about Him, that you are just taking your faith and all this Bible stuff way to seriously: "You're taking it too far. Just lighten up. You know, a little bit of religion's a good thing, but—really?" Some of you have unbelieving family and friends, and you'll see them this Christmas. And you'll get this. Don't be surprised. Jesus got it from His family.

Number four, (and I love this). This tragic episode also teaches us the power of God in salvation. It confirms Jesus' claims, and it reinforces the reality of His resurrection. Remember, six months before His death, in spite of having lived with Him, in spite of hearing His teaching, in spite of hearing about His miracles, His brothers did not believe in Him. But then came His death and the resurrection. First Corinthians 15:7 tells us that one of the post-resurrection appearances Jesus made was to James His half-brother. And then in Acts 1 (I love this), turn with me to Acts 1. After Jesus' ascension, His followers in Jerusalem gather in the upper room. Verse 14 of Acts 1 says this, "These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers." His brothers.

James, as you know, became the leader of the Jerusalem church. He wrote what is probably the first book written in our New Testament, the Book of James, that bears his name. Another of Jesus' brothers, Judas, also called Jude, wrote the epistle that bears his name in the New Testament. In fact, I want you to turn over to James 1. This is remarkable. Look at James 1:1, "James, a [slave] … of God and [a slave] of the Lord Jesus … [the Messiah]." Now keep your hand there and turn over to Jude. The first verse of Jude is exactly the same: "Jude, a … [slave] of Jesus … [the Messiah]." And he can't even bring himself to say that he's a brother of Jesus. Instead he says I'm a brother of James.

Now how in the world does this happen? What produced such a remarkable change in these two brothers, and the others as well, of Jesus? We could say the resurrection. And of course, in a sense that's true. But many who knew about the resurrection, such as the Roman guard, such as the Jewish leaders, never believed in Jesus. They knew about the resurrection, but they never believed. So why did Jesus' brothers come to believe?

Folks, there's only one answer, and that's because of the sovereign grace of God in salvation alone. These men did not come to faith in Christ because they grew up in a home with godly parents, although they did, or because they saw a perfect example, which they did. Nor did they come to faith because they heard the Truth taught and explained by the world's greatest teacher, because they knew Jesus and knew about His claims, because they saw Him perform miracles, because they lived with Him for at least 20 years, or because they saw the resurrected Christ. None of those explains what happened in their case. What does?

Well, let's let James explain it. James 1. Here's how it happened. Verse 18, "In the exercise of [God's] will He brought us forth." James says the only reason I am a follower of Jesus Christ today is because God willed, and He gave me life. And how did He do it? "By the word of truth." It wasn't by the miracles. It was by the Word. James understood that God is sovereign in salvation in a way that you and I will never experience. He lived in the same home with Jesus Christ, and yet he rejected Him until God chose to grant him life. I don't know why God in His providence chose not to save these brothers sooner. But I do know this. It makes a powerful illustration of the deadness of the human heart. If you had lived in the home of Jesus Christ, you would have rejected Him too. And so would I.

It also illustrates the power of God. Jesus' brothers' experience should motivate you to pray for the salvation of those you love who are not yet in Christ, because God is the one who can bring their dead hearts to life. It should motivate you to share the Word with them, because it was the Word of Truth that God used in the life of James, not living with Jesus, but the Truth. And you must never lose hope for that person in your life who's not in Christ, regardless of how long you've shared the gospel with them.

Maybe in your case it's a spouse, or a child, a parent, a family member, a friend, a coworker. And you have prayed for them, and you've shared the gospel with them. Listen, don't ever give up. If God can save Jesus' brothers after all of those years of living with Christ and rejecting Him, even thinking He was nuts, then God can save that person in your life as well.

Jesus most certainly is not a deluded lunatic. Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for the truth of Your Word. Thank You for this brief insight. Lord, for those of us in Christ, I pray that You would use it to strengthen our faith, to encourage us. And may it motivate us and equip us to share the gospel with the people around us, even as we've been going through this series together.

Father, I pray as well for those who are here this morning who are still on the fence about Jesus Christ. I pray that You would do what only You can do, that You would open their hearts, that You would grant them life, that they would cry out to You in their need, and that You would do what You did for James (by the exercise of Your will), You would bring them to life through the Word of Truth which they've heard.

We pray it in Jesus' name, Amen.