Who is James?
by, 04-19-2012 at 08:23 AM (700 Views)
“What just happened?” James wondered as he struggled to get to his feet. It was no use, his body was broken. He looked around, trying to determine where he was. Immediately he recognized the temple and noticed the large crowds that had gathered to celebrate the Passover. His memory slowly returned as he turned over onto his hands and knees. As he knelt there in the dust, grimacing with pain as he tried to move broken bones, blood poured out of his mouth onto the ground.
The scribes and Pharisees had come to his home asking for his help. He can remember their words clearly now, “we beg you, speak to the people! They have gone astray on their beliefs about your brother Jesus, they believe he is the Christ! There’s a throng of people gathered at the temple, Jews and Gentiles alike, to celebrate the Passover, please talk to them. They know you are a just man who shows favoritism to none, we know this also, that’s why we’re asking you. Tell them, as Jesus’ brother, that he was not the Messiah!”
James had opened his mouth to rebuke them on the spot but thought of the enormous crowd that must be gathered. So many eager to hear about Christ gathered together in one location. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up so he agreed to go with them and tell the people his opinion on Jesus.
James had followed them to the pinnacle of them temple. “This must be the spot that Satan brought Jesus to tempt him by offering him the Kingdom’s of the world if he would fall down and worship him” James thought. How foolish Satan had been. The Kingdom Christ sought was not of this world. James walked out the edge of the highest point of the temple. The crowd grew quite once word spread who he was. All faces looked up to him in expectation. James knew what the religious leaders hoped for him to say but instead he spoke the words that burned inside his bones, words straight from the Holy Spirit of God…
He testified that Jesus IS THE CHRIST, and that “he now sits in Heaven, on the right hand of God Almighty, the Father, and he shall come again on the clouds of Heaven!” The scribes and Pharisees were enraged! The one they brought to deny Christ was magnifying him! Before James could continue preaching the complete Gospel of the Kingdom to the crowd, the Pharisees pushed him off the top of the temple.
James smiled as he once more tried to push himself to his feet. He made it up on one foot when the first stone hit him in the face. The push off the temple didn’t kill him, so now they began to stone him. He could hear the crowd around him asking each other, “why is he smiling? Look at the joyous expression on his face? How can that be?” To be martyred for his Lord is an honor above any he could have ever envisioned for himself. He couldn’t make it to his feet, but he was already on his knees so he decided to imitate his most blessed Savior. As the stones hit him he began to pray, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
One of the Pharisees who had come down off the pinnacle of the temple tried to stop the others. “Wait, this just man is praying for us!” he cried.
That made James smile again…that “just man”… That’s what they called him, “James the Just”. Little did anyone know anything that was good or just about him wasn’t James, it was Jesus reflected in James. It hadn’t always been that way. His life had its share of ups and downs, heartaches and mountaintops. He had had to make his own decisions about what to do with Christ…
I am James. I’ve wondered what history will think of me. There’s nothing special or spectacular about me and my life on it’s own. The only reason anyone will wonder about me at all is because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. You see I’m his earthly brother. Oh, they’ll be differences of opinions. Some may say I’m the son of Joseph and Mary born after Jesus. Some may think that I’m Jesus’ half-brother, the result of a prior marriage of Joseph to another woman. Other’s may think that I’m just a cousin of Jesus. Whatever the case may be, let’s just say I spent a lot of time with Jesus, both growing up and following him during his ministry here on earth.
When I was younger I often had looked on the miraculous circumstances surrounding Jesus’ conception and birth with skepticism. At that time all Jews were looking for the messiah because of the prophecies of Daniel and Jeremiah. I know my parents were both honorable, God-fearing people who would never lie but why would the Messiah, who was to restore the kingdom of Israel, be born to a couple so lowly and poor?
Growing up, there was no denying there was something special about Jesus, something Holy. His kindness, compassion, and wisdom were beyond explanation. As was his dedication to God. For as far back as I can remember His whole life, his entire reason for being, was centered upon the Father. You really get to know a lot about someone when you live with them for as long as I did with Christ. From his youth up he would rise before anyone else in the house to pray. He would stay up late at night to pray. Mom and dad would send me off to look for him whenever he was missing and I’d find him in a little garden a quarter of a mile from the house, by himself praying. In some ways he was just like every other child. He played, he laughed and cried. He fell down and scraped his knees. I noticed though, that while he spent many hours in prayer, he never seemed to have to study scriptures yet he knew them by heart. Years later my eyes were opened as I was listening to one of his sermons and he said that he was “the Word made flesh”. He didn’t have to study the word, he was The Word!
I’ve always believed that Jesus was the Son of God. I believed because of my parents account. I believed because of the way I watched him live his life. I believed because of the words that he said and the miracles he wrought. How could someone do these things unless he were sent from God. Have you ever considered his first miracle? We were at a friends wedding and they had run out of wine. Mary instructed the host to have me go and find Jesus. Since this was to be his first miracle, how did she know to send for him? She knew who he was, we all knew.
I had no trouble believing my brother was the Messiah. I had trouble comprehending his teachings. Those were hard sayings, especially his teachings on the Kingdom. You have to understand our mindsets as Jews. We were God’s chosen people, the children of Abraham and heirs to his covenant. We remembered the splendor and glory of David and Solomon’s kingdom. Every Hebrew boy was taught the prophecies of the coming messiah who was to restore our kingdom. That is what we had been waiting for. No people on earth have been persecuted as much as we Hebrews have. No matter how difficult the circumstances we always had the promise to cling to. Now to hear Jesus say things like “you can’t say look here is the kingdom of heaven, or look over there it is, the kingdom of heaven is within you” was against 400 plus years of Jewish tradition/history. Make no mistake about it, my brother was a revolutionary. Unless you are Jewish, you can not know the pride we take in being descendants of Abraham, yet Jesus said God could rise up children of Abraham from these stones! He went on to say that being from Abraham was not enough to redeem us to God, that regardless of ethnicity, children of Abraham weren’t those of the circumcision but whoever does the will of God! This was not the kind of talk I, or any Jew, expected from the Messiah. He didn’t talk of overthrowing Rome or building an army or setting up rule. He talked of loving God, loving your neighbor, and serving others. He spoke of repenting of your sins and being “born again”. Many of the Jewish crowd turned away when Jesus began speaking like this. While they were offended that they, children of the promise, needed to be redeemed, it was absolute heresy to suggest that gentiles could be included in the Kingdom!
He had many more followers than the twelve apostles. You see, I was among the seventy he sent out with power to heal and cast out demons. Hundreds or thousands of years in the future I’m certain people will focus on the miracles we performed, the healings. Beyond that, for me anyway, were the spiritual miracles we witnessed. It was indeed a blessing to see the blind healed, the lame walk and persons freed from demons, but it was an even bigger blessing to see a soul repent of it’s sins and turn from it’s wicked ways and walk in newness of life! To see the look of glory on an individual’s face who has been free from the chain and power of sin, who has had their burden’s lifted! After following and listening for years, his teachings became revealed. The kingdom that was prophesied was not an earthly kingdom, but a heavenly. It wasn’t to be entered by one’s bloodlines but by a new birth! As we would find out at Pentecost, to be born by the Spirit of God truly makes one alive! Oh the joy and peace I felt when I at last came to see after this temporal body dies I will reign with my Christ in his eternal kingdom! To think, “where the King reigns, the Kingdom is present! Let the Lord reign in my heart! Amen!” When we came back we began to tell him of all the miracles we had performed. He then said the most curious thing. He said to not rejoice because the demons are subject to us, but to rejoice because our names are written in the Lambs Book of Life.
I’m not even going to speak of his arrest and crucifixion. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have written their accounts. Those are sufficient. To see the one you love more than any other go through what he endured tore my heart and my soul in two. We had heard his words about his death and resurrection but during those dark hours they weren’t much comfort. The biggest regret of my life is that I saw it all from afar off. My fear kept me from the one I loved most. It was told to me that some of his last words instructed John to take care of his mother. That really says it all. Bleeding to death, enduring the shame of nakedness on the cross, being crucified like a common thief and Jesus is thinking about his mother. He’s thinking about someone else, about others. His love for others is what brought him to the cross that day. We all owed a debt for our sin. He alone had lived a sinless life and he capable of paying a price for us that we couldn’t pay ourselves.
His followers were all thrown in disarray after his death. It’s like he said once, the shepherd was struck down and the sheep were scattered. Some wanted to wait at Jerusalem, some wanted to take up arms and seek revenge, some of the apostles wanted to go back to fishing, and some follows just left and were never heard from again. Two or three dozen of us gathered in a room. A debate began over what to do. It was a heated debate. I didn’t say much; the hurt was still to recent. Besides, in my heart I already knew what I was going to do. Young John Mark had compassion on me and wanted to lift my spirits. He brought me some bread and a small glass of wine on a tray and said, “what are you going to do now James?” The room grew quite. Some looked at me, others just looked at the floor. I gently pushed the tray aside, stood up and said, “I will eat no bread or drink no wine until my Lord has risen from the dead” and left to go pray at the temple. I think it was then that people began to look at me as a leader of the church.
Three days I was at the temple. Fasting and in prayer. Three days. You all already know what happened on that third day. I was alone in a corner. From behind me and to the right I saw a servant boy enter. He must have heard something behind him because he turned and was looking back through the door. I heard a voice tell the boy, “go, bring a table and bread”. Tears were streaming down my face because I knew that voice. In walked the Lamb, his glory was unveiled and I fell on my face and could do nothing except whisper “holy, holy, holy”. He picked up the bread, blessed it and said, “eat your bread my brother, the Son of Man is risen from the dead”.
Life hasn’t always been easy in the thirty years since then. It’s taken much prayer, wisdom, and patience to see the church through it’s establishment and first years. There was tension, hurt feelings, hard decisions to be made, and many sleepless nights. No matter how heavy the load became, I could always look back and remember the day the risen Lord walked into my life. That always renewed my strength. I’m still not certain why the believers started looking to me as a leader. I never sought after leadership or recognition. I just wanted to be faithful and to lead my life according to the words of the Lord.
“Wait, this just man is praying for us!” the Pharisee had cried. But he was just one voice among many. James looked up and saw a large man running towards him with a wooden staff in his hands. He could see the anger and the hatred in the man’s eyes and knew his time to leave this world had come. James just smiled. He heard the crowd continue to ask, “how can he be smiling?” He smiled because he knew that this earth was just a dressing room for eternity. This is not the end.