Wednesday nights are special at GCC. Everyone is invited to join us for dinner at 6:15 PM and our Bible Study begins at 7:00 PM. Here is the class outline for June 21st.
James the “Late Bloomer”
We actually know more about James the brother of Jesus from historical sources, than we do about Jesus. Although he was not a follower of Jesus while Christ was ministering on earth, James became a prominent believer after the Lord made a special post resurrection appearance to him.
James was none other than a blood-brother, a half-brother, of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Gospels mention this fact (see Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). Apparently he was at first an unbeliever—“For even his own brothers did not believe in him” (John 7:5). However during the forty-day period between Jesus’ resurrection and his ascension, Jesus “appeared to James, then to all the apostles”—and James believed (1 Corinthians 15:7). James is mentioned as being in the upper room in Jerusalem, praying with his mother and the rest of the disciples (Acts 1:13) and was presumably present when the Holy Spirit descended at Pentecost. He had become the leader of the Jerusalem church when Peter was released from prison (Acts 12:17), and eventually he chaired the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15:13ff.; 21:18; Galatians 1:19; 2:9, 12).
James was a “late bloomer,” but he flowered well! James knew Christ as only a few could. For years he had eaten at the same table, shared the same house, played in the same places, and watched the development of his amazing older brother. And when he truly came to know Christ, his boyhood privilege was not wasted, for he became known as James the Just, a man of immense piety.
Hughes, R. K. (1991). James: faith that works (p. 16). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
James and the other brothers of Jesus were there in the upper room in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and James became so well-known for his piety among the Jews there, that he was called “James the Just.”
The historian Eusebius records the testimony of Hegisippus that James
“used to enter alone into the temple and be found kneeling and praying for forgiveness for the people, so that his knees grew hard like a camel’s because of his constant worship of God, kneeling and asking forgiveness for the people. So from his excessive righteousness he was called the Just.”
Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Volume 1, trans. Kirsopp Lake, The Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1965), p. 171 (II. 23.3–9).
Let’s see what the sources say about the brother of Jesus and the death of the author of our epistle from James.
The Arrest of James
Caesar sent Albinus to Judaea as procurator, when he was informed of the death of Festus. But the younger Ananus, who as I said had received the high priesthood, was headstrong in character and audacious in the extreme…. He thought that he had a convenient opportunity, as Festus was dead and Albinus still on the way. So he assembled a council of judges and brought before it James, the brother of Jesus, known as Christ, and several others, on a charge of breaking the law, and handed them over to be stoned.
Josephus, Antiquities xx, ix. I.
James is Killed
Then they said to each other “Let us stone James the Righteous”, and began to stone him, as in spite of his fall he was still alive. But he turned and knelt, uttering the words: “I beseech Thee, Lord God and Father, forgive them; they do not know what they are doing.” While they pelted him with stones, one of the descendants of Rechab the son of Rachabim -the priestly family to which Jeremiah the Prophet bore witness called out: “Stop! What are you doing? The Righteous one is praying for you.” Then one of them, a fuller, took the club which he used to beat out the clothes, and brought it down on the head of the Righteous one…. Immediately after this Vespasian began to besiege them.
Hegesippus, quoted by Eusebius
The destruction of Jerusalem is one of the saddest stories of the First Century. Josephus concludes:
These things happened to the Jews in requital for James the Righteous, who was a brother of Jesus known as Christ, for though he was the most righteous of men, the Jews put him to death.
(This quote from Josephus is no longer extant but is quoted by both Origen and Eusebius.)
The book of James has been called the “Blue Jeans Epistle.” It is intensely practical and down to earth. While Paul plumbs the depths of theology, James is concerned about how we live and what we do as Christians.
Think about those early days in Jerusalem after Pentecost. What did the Christians talk about? Those are the topics that James dealt with:
- “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” 1:19.
- “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says,” 1:22.
- “Don’t show favoritism,” 2:1.
- Faith without works is dead, 2:17.
- Tame your tongue! 3:1 ff.
- “Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming,” 5:7.
- Can you name the brothers and sisters of Jesus?
- Why didn’t they believe Jesus was the Christ?
- Do you think they were embarrassed by Jesus?
- What did it take to convince them Jesus was the Son of God?
- Why does James call himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” rather than “the brother of Jesus”?
- Do you think Mary or Joseph ever told the rest of the family that Jesus was “special”?
- How do you think Jesus felt when his family thought he was crazy (Mark 3:21)?
- Some of us may lose brothers and sisters and family members to the world. (Even the family of Jesus quit following him.) How does Mark 3:31-35 help?
Spend some time this week getting to know one of your Christian brothers or sisters.