January 10, 2011

Familiarity or Faith?

Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James (Jude 1a)

Last week, we noted the amazing humility behind Jude’s self-designation as Jesus’ “bond-servant” … or slave. This week, we turn to Jude’s second description of himself. Namely that he was the “brother of James.” Jude was the brother, in other words, of the man who was the senior pastor, so to speak, of the first church in Jerusalem. The apostles had begun the church, gathering in five thousand souls on the day of Pentecost. But, as time went on, James became the church’s primary spiritual leader. And remember, this James was not only Jude’s brother. He was also the son of Mary and Joseph … and, thus, the (half) brother of the Lord Jesus Himself! And, if James was Jesus’ half-brother, and Jude was James’ brother … well then, you guessed it, Jude was also the son of Mary and Joseph, and the (half) brother of the Lord!

But it’s interesting that Jude doesn’t mention that in his letter. It certainly would have been a good name to drop in case anyone questioned his authority in the matters about which he wrote: ‘Well, actually, I’m Jesus’ little brother. So I know a little bit about that of which I speak.’ But Jude doesn’t do that. He never says one word about his blood relation to Jesus!

But why? Perhaps, again, this was a display of his humility. He didn’t need to name-drop. He was content just to serve the Lord; to be His slave … whether anyone knew that he was his brother or not. But perhaps Jude’s omission of the fact that he grew up sleeping in the next bunk to Jesus is also a hint that he understood that his blood relation to Jesus was not of eternal significance. I say this reverently, but … so what if Jude was related to Jesus’ biologically? Yes, it was a distinct privilege in many ways. But could being Jesus' brother save Jude's soul? Could it make him right with God? Absolutely not! He (along with his parents, and his other brothers and sisters) had to repent and trust in his big brother, not just be related to Him! Jude had to trust in Jesus’ blood, not just share its genetic properties! And so he makes no mention at all of his biological relation to Jesus … because that was not of paramount importance to him, nor even of eternal significance. It was far more important that Jude was Jesus’ willing servant, than that he was His biological brother!

And what a reminder that can be for those of us who, because of the biological heritage that runs through our own veins, have grown up all our lives practically in the next room over from the Messiah. Some of us come from wonderful, godly families. And, because we do, we have known the gospel message, and the parables of Jesus, and the meaning of the cross since before we can remember. And we should be exceedingly thankful for that, just as Jude surely was for his family background! It is a blessing to grow up always around Jesus! But that alone will not save us! In fact, Jude reminds us that being near Jesus is not at all the same as being His bond-servant; that familiarity with Jesus is not the same as faith in Him. And only the latter of the two can save!

If you’re reading these words, it’s probably true that you are near to Jesus in some form or fashion. After all, you’re reading a religious blog right now! So you’re probably more than somewhat familiar with Jesus. You likely know more about Him than the average Joe or Jane. But are you more than just nearby? Are you more than familiar? Are you actually His “bond-servant”? Is He your everything? Your only hope? That’s the question Jude had, at some point along the way, to ask himself. Praise God he answered it correctly! I pray you will, too!

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