It’s a simple reality that Joseph and Mary were Jesus’ earthly father and mother. So we can honestly say that God knows what it is like to have parents. And Joseph’s father was Jacob (Matthew 1:15-16). How well Jesus knew his grandparents on either side is conjecture, but it seems reasonable that he would have been familiar with them somehow, along with whatever aunts, uncles and cousins he might have had.
In growing up, he would have been nursed, potty trained, taught to walk, communicate, read, write, dress and bathe himself, like any other child. How do you get to be 12 years old? You first get to be 10, and before 10 you are 8 and so on.
Many know the story of Jesus’ temporary separation from his parents when he was 12 (Luke 2:41-46), but V44 states that they were traveling with relatives and friends. The key point here is that Jesus had relatives of some nature.
In a visit to his hometown, the people made the observation in response to his ministry, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matthew 13: 54-57), and in Mark 6:1-3 the people remarked that Jesus himself was the carpenter. But the family issue in those passages is the recognition of his siblings. His brothers James, Joseph, Simon, Judas (four listed), and his sisters.
Matthew says all his sisters, implying more than two. At this point he had four brothers and what appear to be at least three sisters, which is a rational calculation. Seven siblings, plus he being the oldest brings the total to eight.
Let’s consider this practical calculation: If Mary and Joseph had a child born every two and one-half years on average, then Jesus would have been almost 18 years old when the possible last child was born. Jesus as a 12-year-old would have had siblings ages 9½ , 7, 4½, 2, plus one in the oven. For many years, Jesus was in a house full of little kids. THat means diapers, nursing, crying and carrying on, runny noses all over the place, playing, fighting and screaming.
Being the oldest meant assignments of responsibility for the brood. As Jesus grew in age, his voice would have deepened, muscles developed and facial hair would have appeared; yes, God understands puberty and what it is to be a teenager and sibling. The sibling group grew in age along with their numbers.
With a steady supply of teenagers, Jesus witnessed sibling rivalry, jealousy, boyfriends, girlfriends, teen angst—the list goes on. Luke 3:23 says that Jesus was about 30 when he started his ministry. Using my math calculations, that would put his siblings’ ages at approximately 27½, 25, 22½, 20, 17½, 15 and 12½. His siblings would have been young adults and teenagers. It’s extremely plausible that some were married and he had in-law siblings of some nature, perhaps with nephews and nieces.
At 30 years old, Jesus started his ministry, and was wildly successful. Yet in Mark 6:1-4 we see problems surface with family life. Jesus makes the claim in V4: “Only in his home town, among his relatives and in his own house, is a prophet without honor.” You can reach the mountaintop in your profession and those closest to you either can’t accept it, or don’t recognize it the same way as everyone else does.
It got so bad for Jesus that, in Mark 3:21, his family went to take charge of him because they thought he had gone out of his mind. His family (mainly his brothers) came to shut him down. They came to talk some sense into him and to deprogram him. At that point in time, his brothers didn’t believe in him or his work.
This wasn’t sibling rivalry; it was their part in an intervention. Practically no one he grew up with—neighbors, community associates, siblings or childhood friends—gave him backing. The family thought he had gone dysfunctional on them and was dragging others down with him.
Does God understand family drama? You bet! Sometimes it simply takes time and patience for family to come around. Acts 1:14 relates that all his disciples were gathered together in prayer and Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers, gathered as one with them.
Who wrote the books of James and Jude? It was his half-brothers who came to believe in him. God was born a human baby, weaned as a child, grew as a teenager in a small town, developed into a man, had relatives, parents, siblings and dealt with family issues.
So when you question whether or not God really understands family life. I respond with this: No one does so more.