The New Testament describes a believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ in several different ways. Each name reveals certain truths about a believer. These descriptions include disciple, follower, and friend. The name “brother” suggests a greater personal proximity to Jesus than other names. But does the Bible refer to Jesus and believers as brothers?
The New Testament describes Jesus Christ and his followers as “brothers” in multiple passages. Four different authors use the familial term to represent Jesus’ relationships with his disciples. Two Gospel writers, Matthew, and John, record times when Jesus refers to his followers as brothers.
Where do the Gospels record that Jesus referred to his disciples as his brothers? What does Paul say about Jesus and his disciples being brothers? Why is the description of Jesus’ brothers so important in the book of Hebrews? Keep reading to learn the answers to these questions and others.
Are Jesus and his followers “brothers”?
The term “brother” has different uses in the New Testament. It’s used to describe males who have the same biological parents (e.g. Peter and Andrew; Matt. 4:18). Its most common use is to describe the relationship that believers have with other believers (e.g. Paul and the believers at Corinth; 2 Cor. 1:8). Yet, it’s also used to describe Jesus’ relationship with his followers.
Jesus’ use of “brothers” in the Gospels
In some New Testament passages, like those in the resurrection stories of Matthew and John, Jesus uses the term without significant emphasis. To be clear, the description is packed with meaning, but the primary topic concerns Jesus’ appearances to his disciples following his resurrection.
- Matthew 28:10, “Then Jesus said to them, Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” The context makes clear that Jesus isn’t referring to his half-brothers, born to Joseph and Mary. When he says “brothers,” he is referring to his the apostles and other believers.
- John 20:17, “Jesus said to her, Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” In this passage, Jesus refers to his followers as his “brothers when giving instructions to Mary Magdalene.
Earlier in Jesus’ ministry, he used the term brother to describe those who do God’s will. In one scene, Jesus’ biological family sought to speak with him (Matt. 12:47). However, Jesus took advantage of the moment to clearly define who his brothers and sisters truly are.
“But he replied to the man who told him, Who is my mother, and who are my brothers? And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matt. 12:48-49)
Similarly, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, Jesus identifies those in need as his brothers: “And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40).
Pau’s use of brothers in Romans 8:29
Paul’s reference to brothers at the end of Romans 8:29 is a reference to followers of Jesus. He teaches that Jesus is the firstborn brother and that he would be followed by more of his brothers.
- Romans 8:29, “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.”
In context, “brothers” is a reference to believers. The emphasis of the verse isn’t on relational description, but on how believers will follow Jesus in his resurrection. Paul makes a similar point in 1 Corinthians 15:20, “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”
Jesus’ brothers in the book of Hebrews
Hebrews includes multiple descriptions of followers of Jesus being called brothers. The verses below even emphasize that Jesus isn’t ashamed to call believers his brothers.
- Hebrews 2:11-12, “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.”
The description “brother” highlights the intimacy that Jesus shares with his followers. One scholar explains it this way: “The image of family is appropriate in this context. Because the divine Son identifies himself with the covenantal family, he is able to achieve in others that perfect consecration to God that he himself embodies.” 
In Hebrews 2:17, believers are again referred to as Jesus’ brothers. The emphasis is on the fact that he is like them “in every respect,” which is likely an allusion to his suffering (cf. 2:18).
- Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
5 More Bible verses about reconciliation
- Ephesians 1:7, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”
- 2 Corinthians 5:18, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation”
- Colossians 1:20, “And through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.”
- Romans 5:10, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
- Psalm 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”
 Hebrews 1-8 by William Lane. WBC. p. 59.
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