Brethren, But not Believers
John 7:5
For neither did his brothers believe in him.

In recording this fact the evangelist shows his usual candour. The fact that some of those who were nearest akin to Jesus withheld from him their faith is at first sight surprising. It must have been very distressing to the human heart of our Lord to meet with such unbelief; and it must have been painful, and to some extent discouraging, to his avowed and ardent disciples. Yet the fact is so suggestive and instructive that, upon reflection, we cannot wonder that it was thus put upon record.

I. IT IS POSSIBLE TO BE FAMILIAR WITH CHRIST, HIS DOCTRINE, AND GOSPEL, AND YET NOT TO BELIEVE ON HIM. In reading the gospel narrative, we meet with instances of unbelief which do not surprise us, which seem easily accounted for. There were many who did not really know Christ, who simply took other people's judgment concerning him, or acted upon the prejudices natural to ignorance. We scarcely wonder that the selfish, unscrupulous, unspiritual rulers and scribes at Jerusalem rejected Christ's claims, and acted towards him with hostility; or that the Roman procurator Pilate misunderstood him, and finally abandoned him to his foes. But we are shocked when we learn that the very brethren of Jesus wanted faith - at all events, thorough faith - in Jesus. They were his kin; they had known him for many years; they must have enjoyed many opportunities of studying his character and verifying his claims. Yet they withheld their faith, at least for a time. This fact is not unparalleled. In condemning the brethren of Jesus, the hearer of the gospel may possibly be condemning himself. In our own day, in the very heart of Christian society, there may be found many who are very familiar with the gospel, who are frequent readers and hearers of the Word, who have seen in their nearest friends very favourable representatives of the Christian character, who yet have little interest, and no faith, in Christ himself.


1. There are cases in which familiarity itself seems adverse to faith. A striking illustration of the action of this principle is recorded by St. Luke. The Nazarenes knew Jesus well; he had been brought up among them, had dwelt in their town; everything they had known of him must have been favourable. "Familiarity," says the proverb, "breeds contempt;" and in vulgar natures this is true. Accordingly, the people of Nazareth, when the Divine Prophet visited them, were not only incredulous, they were hostile. In his own city he had no honour. It seems to have been the same with our Lord's kindred; it was hard for them to believe that one brought up among them, and in circumstances resembling their own, could be so far above them, in true rank and in spiritual authority, as Jesus claimed to be. To how many has the name of Jesus been familiar from childhood, without awakening sentiments of reverence and faith! When some such persons have the dignity and the power and preciousness of Jesus brought in some way with unusual vividness before their minds, it may be noticed that resentment is aroused rather than faith. Christ has occupied a familiar place in their stock of knowledge; but perhaps on that very account they are indisposed to see in him what they have never seen before.

2. There are cases in which worldliness and sluggishness of spirit are a barrier to faith in Christ. Such persons may be, through birth and association, almost as brethren to the Lord; yet their habits of mind prevent them from rousing themselves even to consider his claims. They live at a low level, and they hate everything that would raise them to a higher. They resist any demand upon admiration or faith. They may be indisposed to believe in anyone or in anything; how much mere in a Being so glorious, in doctrines so inspiring, as Christianity presents!

3. There are cases in which example explains indifference to the Saviour. No doubt our Lord's kinsmen ought to have been influenced by the better example of the mother and the disciples of Jesus. But they appear to have been more affected by the negligence and unbelief of others. It is observable that they came to believe at a later period - perhaps, under the influence of the growing numbers of the Lord's adherents. Certain it is, that many of the hearers of the gospel have no better reason to give for their incredulity than the faithlessness of others, especially of those with whom they most associate, and from whom they unconsciously take their moral tone. A "reason" this is not, but it is a sufficient explanation to those acquainted with human nature.

III. VALUABLE PRACTICAL LESSONS MAY BE LEARNED FROM THE UNBELIEF OF CHRIST'S BRETHREN. Those especially who have long enjoyed many religious advantages may gain profit from this record, which contains suggestions of very serious admonition.

1. It is foolish and wrong to rest in outward privileges; for these of themselves, if not used aright, are of no avail. If it served no valuable end for these relatives of Jesus to be so near him in blood, we shall act foolishly if we rest in our association with Christ's Church.

2. It is important to penetrate through superficial acquaintance with Christ to real spiritual knowledge of him. It is well to have an acquaintance with the facts and doctrines of Christianity. But these are merely means to a higher end, to faith and fellowship, assimilation and devotion.

3. Not to believe in Christ is to reject him in all his glorious offices. He came to earth to be a Prophet, a Priest, and a King. To refuse our faith to him in these several offices, is to forfeit the spiritual, the priceless blessings which it is his heart's desire to confer upon the children of men. - T.

Parallel Verses
KJV: For neither did his brethren believe in him.

WEB: For even his brothers didn't believe in him.

Why Christ Hid Himself
Top of Page
Top of Page