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34. The Saviour Accuses the Pharisees of Sin. Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit.

The enemies of Christ, the Pharisees, took counsel among themselves as to how to kill Jesus Christ. But the Saviour, aware of this, moved away from there. A large crowd of people followed after Him, and He in His tender-heartedness healed all their sick.

When the Saviour and His disciples entered one house, so many people came together that they could not even eat. Then, a blind and dumb demoniac was brought to the Saviour. The Lord healed him so that the dumb man spoke and saw. All the people were amazed and said, "Can this be the Son of David?" But when the Pharisees heard it, they said bitterly, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons (the Devil, Satan), that this man casts out demons."

Then, Jesus Christ said, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then, indeed, he may plunder his house. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is coming to an end. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.

"Therefore, truly I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven either in this age or in the age to come."

The mercy of God is without end; and if a person knows his sin and repents, then there is no sin which can overcome the great mercy of God. Sins and blasphemies from error or delusion occur often and are easily washed away by repentance.

However, whoever knowingly and persistently rejects the most saving mercy of God, which is a blessing of the Holy Spirit, and consciously calls the deeds of the omnipotent God the works of the Devil, he has no means of repentance, and without repentance there is not and can never be salvation.

The Holy Church thus determines that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is conscious, hardened opposition to the truth. The Holy Spirit constitutes all truth (John 16:13, 14:26, 15:26), He is the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17); thus, the Lord Himself calls Him.

While He was still speaking, the Saviour’s Mother and brothers came and stood outside, but they could not reach Him due to the crowd. (By "brothers" at that time, in Hebrew and in general, in the eastern custom, it was meant all close relatives.).

The Pharisees took advantage of this instance to interrupt His teaching and to provoke distrust in the people about His divine parentage and said, "Your mother and your brothers are outside, wishing to speak to You."

Then, Jesus Christ wanted to remind the people once again that He was the Son of the Holy Virgin Mary only physically; but that at the same time, He was, from eternity, the Son of God and had come to earth to save the sinful race of man, to fulfil the will of His Heavenly Father. Therefore, He Himself as well as His Most-pure Mother and all the faithful are obliged firstly to do the will of the Heavenly Father. Thus, it is necessary to put this lofty, eternal, spiritual obligation higher than temporal, earthly ones.

The Lord knew that His Mother kept in Her heart all His words. She herself attentively served and fulfilled His divine teaching; setting Her as an example to all He said, "Who are My Mother and 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 (as My Mother fulfils it) is My brother, and sister and mother."

Thus, the Lord held on high the dignity of His Most-pure Mother, Who was blessed not only in that She bore God Incarnate but even more so in that She became the first to perfectly fulfil His divine will.

He as the Son of God knew that His Mother now came to Him not to interfere with His preaching the Gospel about the Kingdom of God but to suffer with Him. In truth, the cruel internal pain pierced Her heart. Because of love for Her divine Son, She agonized to witness His suffering. But submission to the will of God, love for sinners, for whose redemption from eternal death Her Son and God offered himself as a sacrifice of propitiation, this submission prompted Her to accept without a murmur everything that was predestined by the plan of the Holy Trinity from the foundation of the world.

Jesus Christ as the Son of Man was pained over the grief of His Mother and as God gave Her the strength to endure this terrible ordeal. The Mother suffered over Her beloved Son surrounded by desecration and dishonour; but as the Mother of God Incarnate, She wished to be considered worthy of bearing this supernatural suffering and in everything relying on Him. She awaited this hour with steadfastness.

Note: See the Gospels of Matthew 12:22-37, 46-50; Mark 3:20-35; Luke 11:14-23; 8:19-21.

The Most-holy Mother of God accomplished the supreme spiritual feat on earth, the spiritual feat of perfect humility, which is love. She either spoke the word of God or remained quiet. "During the life of Her Son, She was in the shadows," writes the author of Humility in Christ, "and in His Ascension, She remained inconspicuous. However, having now our only Intercessor in the Most Holy Mother of God, we know that Her life was better than that of any other person whoever lived on earth." After Her Dormition, She was exalted by God not only higher than all the saints who were ever pleasing to God but higher than all the hosts of Heaven, "more honourable than the Cherubim and beyond compare more glorious than the Seraphim."

Thus in the person of the Most Holy Mother of God, there are realized the immutable words of the Lord: Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33; Luke 12:31).

Who is Meant in the Gospels by "Brothers" of the Lord?

Term "brothers and sisters" of the Lord, as used in the Gospels, has a meaning completely different than it is meant in contemporary terms. According to the custom of Eastern peoples of that time, as it is now kept in the life of the Arabic people living in Palestine and Asia Minor, "brothers" means not only the straight relation of brother but also cousins, second cousins, and, in general, all close relatives.

There must not have been any actual brothers of the Lord, as the Mother of God bore only one Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and was called by the Holy Church Ever-virgin because She until the birth of Christ, in giving the birth and after the birth of Christ remained the same as She vowed to God never to enter into marriage. St. Joseph was not a real husband to Her, but he was only Her betrothed, the custodian of Her virginity. It means that brothers and sisters of the Lord in the flesh could only be first and second cousins by maternal lineage — in the lineage of His Most-pure Mother. Blood relatives by paternal lineage did not exist for the Saviour, for He had no father in the flesh.

In the Gospel account, no clarification is given for the "brothers of Christ" although several of them are even mentioned by name: James, Joses, Simon and Judas (cf. Matt. 13:54-56). Much has been written about the ‘‘brothers of Christ," many judgements have been made and theories have been proposed, but they all contain contradictions or lack in fact.

If these "brothers" of Christ appeared in the literal sense, that is, they were actual relatives by flesh, then they could have been second cousins. The Apostle Matthew speaks of their mother as being Mary, the mother of James and Joses, the wife of Cleophas, who appears to have been a cousin of the Most-holy Mary. The Apostle John also calls her a sister of His Mother (John 19:25).

These "brothers" of the Lord could have been pseudo "stepbrothers" by the surrogate father Joseph, Her betrothed. They could have been sons of St. Joseph from his real marriage which occurred before his engagement to the Holy Virgin Mary. There is nothing amazing about this, as, for example, according to the Gospel of Mark the genealogy of Jesus Christ is given through the lineage of Joseph, the betrothed, according to Jewish law. The words of the Jews spoken about the Saviour also indicate this possibility: "Whence hath this Man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? is not His mother called Mary? and His brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this Man all these things?" (Matt 13:54-56). An indication supporting this position is given by the Apostle John. "His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest" (John 7:3). It is also known that the opinion that the "brothers" of the Lord are children of Joseph by his first marriage is from the most ancient tradition.

This ancient tradition would not have had any contradiction if the Apostle Matthew called the mother of James and Joseph not only Mary but as the Apostle John named her Mary of Cleophas, sister of His Mother (Matt.27:56; John 19:25); therefore, several scholars came to the conclusion that "brothers" of the Lord were His second cousins by blood.

But as the Holy Orthodox Church does not repudiate the ancient tradition cited above, we consider it necessary to speak about it.

In the Lives of the Saints on December 26, it says that St. Joseph the Betrothed was the son of Jacob. Jacob was the son of Matthan. But Jacob was married, according to the levirate law, to the wife of his brother Heli who died childless. The levirate law prescribes that if a man dies childless, his brother should take his wife and raise up seed unto his brother (Deut. 25:5-6). By this law, Joseph was the son of Heli although according to the flesh he was the son of Jacob. That is why the holy Evangelist Luke in presenting the lineage of Christ called Heli the father of Joseph speaking of Christ thus: "And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli..." (Luke 3:23).

Church tradition indicates that St. Joseph had a wife and children. Thus, Nikiphoros, the ancient Greek historian, following St. Hippolytus says that St. Joseph was married to Salome. "But do not think he added, that this is the Salome that was in Bethlehem and was called the grandmother of the Lord. The former was a relative of Elizabeth and the Most-holy Mother of God, and the latter was a daughter of Haggai, the brother of Zacharias, the father of John the Forerunner. Haggai and Zacharias were sons of the priest Barachus. With Salome, daughter of Haggai as a wife, St. Joseph had his four sons, Jacob, Simon, Jude and Joses, and two daughters, Esther and Thamar or, as some say, Martha. The Synaxarion for the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearers adds still a third daughter by the name of Salome who married Zebedee. But George Kedrin in speaking of the two daughters of Joseph, says that one of them was Maria, who was given in marriage to Cleophas, the brother of Joseph, already after the return of Joseph from Egypt. But it seems that this Mary is the same person as Martha or Thamar (in the Georgian lists of saints among the holy Myrrh-bearing Women St., Thamar is listed under the name of Tamara). No matter what kind of daughter she was and how many daughters Joseph had; in any case, Joseph undoubtedly was married and had sons and daughters. Upon the death of his wife Salome, Joseph lived a widower for the rest of the time passing his days in chastity.

The Holy Gospels bear witness to his holy and immaculate life with the following short but laudatory words, Her husband Joseph, being a just man (Matt. 1:19). And what could be a greater witness? He was so just that his sanctity exceeded that of the other righteous forefathers and patriarchs, for who could be worthy to be betrothed to and the surrogate husband of the Most-pure Virgin Mother of God? And to whom was given the honour to become the stepfather of Christ? Truly, he was worthy of such an honour and of such an appointment on account of his perfectly virtuous life. When he was already an old, eighty years man, the Holy Virgin Mary became betrothed to him, and She was given to him for the protection of Her virginity. So he served Her with reverence and awe as the Mother of God and as his and all the world’s Lady and Sovereign being assured of this by the angel who appeared to him in a dream. He also served the God-child born of Her earning a living for them by the work of his hands. St. Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten years.

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