As we continue our journey of exploring books of the Bible we may not know as well, I want to take a little different approach this week and look at the author more than the content. The book we’re looking at is the letter of James in the New Testament.
The James we are talking about was probably the brother of Jesus. I say ‘probably’ because there are four men in the New Testament that had that name. The author of James could not have been the apostle James because he died too early to have written it. The other two men with the name James were not as influential or important in the church as this author, so we make the conclusion that this letter was written by James, the brother of Jesus.
James was one of many brothers of Jesus, and he was probably the oldest since he is listed first in Matthew 13:55 “’isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us?’”
What’s interesting about James is that he first did not believe in Jesus and even challenged him. In John chapter 7:2-5 it says this, “But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’ For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
James and Jesus’ other brothers are basically nudging or confronting Jesus here, as most brothers do. Galilee was far less populated and not as important as Judea (where Jerusalem is). So they are basically saying, “Stop performing your ‘miracles’ here secretly and go prove yourself in the big city.” They are urging him to fail. They are hoping the curtain is pulled back and that Jesus will be revealed not to be the son of God. They don't believe in him at this point.
Later in his life, James was a very important figure in the church:
So in conclusion, James was a younger brother of Jesus. Who, along with his other siblings, did not believe in him and even challenged him at first. He also later in life became a ‘pillar’ of the church whose letter ends up in our Bible today. What’s the connection to us today?
I think the historical person of James points to a fact that we’ve talked about before, but it is probably more relevant today with the pandemic we are facing. The fact is this: that it is OK, acceptable, etc., to have questions for God. A lot of us right now are asking a lot of why questions to God. Why did this pandemic happen? Why did my sports season have to be canceled? Why did this have to happen my senior year? Those questions are OK. In fact I believe that God welcomes them. There’s nothing he’s afraid of or trying to hide.
Questioning and/or naming things we ‘lost’ because of this pandemic are not only OK, they help us process our emotions. Naming or talking about things helps us process them. It’s when we keep those questions or emotions inside, bottled up that they can lead us down dark paths.
James and Jesus’ other siblings felt strongly enough to confront Jesus. Long term it probably helped James turn into one of the leaders of the early church. The strong emotions we are feeling right now are OK and it is healthy to name them. It will help us in the long term, and it will help us grow closer to God.
Questions for discussion/contemplation: