“Jesus Our Older Brother”

For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying,

“I will tell of your name to my brothers;

in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.”

Hebrews 2:11-12

There are many ways we relate to Jesus: as Savior, Lord, Creator, etc. In Hebrews 2:10-18, the Hebrew writer pictures Jesus as our older brother, the firstborn of the human race who identifies with his younger siblings (us) by coming to their aid in a place where they live, a land of sin and death, to share their fate and thereby rescue them from it. I don’t know about you but I don’t often think of Jesus as my older brother. 

I wonder how James, “the Lord’s [younger] brother” (Gal. 1:19), would have viewed Jesus growing up. We know the Lord’s brothers didn’t believe in him during his earthly ministry (Jn. 7:5; cf. Mk. 6:3) but after his resurrection and ascension, James quickly became a pillar of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 12:17; 15:13; 21:19; Gal. 2:9) and authored an epistle that largely echoed his brother’s teaching.

Though Jesus may have frustrated James at times (Mk. 3:31-35), he was and is the perfect older brother. For us, Jesus is not the kind of older brother you come to resent because of his perfection but the kind of older brother you come to trust and admire because, without a hint of arrogance, he helps us out of his perfect love and goodness of heart.

As our perfect older brother, Jesus is the trailblazer of our salvation (Heb. 2:10). Big brothers often show the way forward for their younger siblings. Through his example in life, suffering on the cross for our sins and his triumphant resurrection from the dead, Jesus cut a path through the tangled, frightening jungle that is “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psa. 23:4). And now, through him, we can find our way out the other side into life eternal.

As our perfect older brother, Jesus identifies with his siblings (Heb. 2:11-13). Because we are “sanctified” through him, the Lord “is not ashamed” to call us his “brothers.” God blessed me with three older brothers. There was nothing more comforting to me than knowing that my older brothers identified with me and counted me as one of them. Christ gives us that same show of solidarity today. With him, we are legitimate members of God’s family (Mk. 3:35; Gal. 3:28-29; Eph. 2:18-19) who will receive the imperishable inheritance of our shared heavenly Father (Eph. 1:3-5; 1 Pet. 1:4).

As our perfect older brother, Jesus delivers us from evil (Heb. 2:14-18). As ancient Israel once suffered Egyptian bondage, so we “through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” In suffering and dying for his brothers, Jesus became the true high priest who makes atonement for our sins. In his resurrection, he rendered the enemy’s tool of slavery, “death,” inoperable. Death no longer has the power to enslave us to fear anymore because Jesus took away its “sting” (1 Cor. 15:55). Big brothers protect their siblings from evil.

If we don’t do so already, we ought to think of Jesus as our perfect older brother. He is our hero who steps between us and danger. He is not willing that his beloved siblings should be enslaved by evil forces. He loves, comforts and rescues like an older brother.

And, also like an older brother, he sympathizes with us and understands our weaknesses. Jesus is the human embodiment of God’s mercy and reliability. He knows what it’s like to be tempted by evil because he experienced temptation himself. And because he overcame temptation without sin (Heb. 4:15; cf. Mt. 4) he “is able to help those who are being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). May God bless us to love one another with that same Christ-like brotherly affection.