The Bible clearly presents Jesus Christ as being one with the Father (John 10:30), a Member of the triune Godhead who set aside His rights as God and took on human flesh to dwell among us (Philippians 2:5–11; Galatians 4:4–5). Therefore, it is right to call Him Savior and Lord (Luke 2:11; 2 Peter 3:18; Jude 1:25). However, a few passages also refer to Jesus as our brother (Hebrews 2:11; Romans 8:29; Mark 3:34). In order to fully understand the concept of Jesus as our brother, let’s look more closely at each of those passages:
• Hebrews 2:11 says, “For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (ESV).
The word translated “brothers” is the word used for blood relatives, but it also refers to Christians. The generic term brother in Scripture usually also includes sisters. In this passage, the writer of Hebrews is explaining how the perfect God-Man, Jesus, could call imperfect humans His brothers and sisters.
This is more easily understood in terms of physical relationships. Jesus explained spiritual realities by telling Nicodemus that he must be “born again” (John 3:3). He used this physical term because we all understand birth. When two babies have shared the same womb or the same father, they are of the same family. They carry similar DNA, inherited traits, and rights to claim parentage. When a human being is born into the family of God, through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus, God becomes our Father (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4–6). This happens through an act of the Holy Spirit who moves into our spirits and begins to change us (2 Corinthians 5:17). God is also the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we share in that relationship as adopted children. Jesus, our brother, purchased with His blood the right for us to call His Father our Father. He is not ashamed to call us brothers because His righteousness is imputed to us, making us blameless as He is blameless (2 Corinthians 5:21).
• Romans 8:29 says, “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.”
Some cults have misinterpreted this verse to mean that Jesus was only the first of God’s many adopted children. However, in the Bible, the word firstborn does not always refer to physical or even spiritual birth; rather, being “firstborn” implies preeminence and position, as it is used in Psalm 89:27: “I will appoint him to be my firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.” In Jeremiah 31:9, God calls the nation of Israel His “firstborn son.” So when Paul uses the term firstborn in Romans 8:29, he means that Jesus holds the preeminent position of “only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16) and that, through His obedience to the Father, Christ made it possible for His holy Father to adopt unholy human beings as His own children. The resurrection of Christ was the first of many to follow, as God gathers His children home (1 Corinthians 15:20–23).
• In Mark 3:34–35, Jesus declares that those who follow Him are His brothers: “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.’”
The setting for this statement is a house where Jesus was teaching. His physical family had begun to worry about Him, and they had come to take Him home with them. As they waited outside the packed house, messengers informed Jesus of their presence. Seated around Jesus were the disciples. His statement told everyone that, while earthly relationships are important, spiritual relationships are those that last. From then on, He would be focused upon establishing those eternal relationships with everyone who trusted in Him.
It is important to note that the qualifier for being considered Jesus’ brother or sister is not the mental exercise of “believing,” since many in the room with Jesus in Mark 3 would have considered themselves believers in Him. The qualifier for being a brother or sister of Christ is “doing the will of the Father.” The ultimate will of the Father is that we love, trust, and obey His Son (John 3:36; 2 Thessalonians 1:8; Romans 2:7–8). When we believe in our hearts the gospel of Jesus Christ and surrender our lives to His lordship, God adopts us into His family and considers us “joint heirs” with His Son, Jesus (Romans 8:17; 10:9–10). Our heavenly Father wants His children to bear a family resemblance, and He gave us the perfect example in our big Brother, Jesus Christ.