Yesterday, we looked at the four “James” mentioned in the Scriptures. We discovered, through investigating God’s Word, that James, the half-brother of Jesus, is most likely the letter’s author. This is good to know, and of historical significance, but there is something more important in all these historical facts.
What was this bigger and more important discovery? Seeing James’ complete change of heart, from skeptic and critic, to follower of Christ and pillar of the Jerusalem church.
Scripture tells us that Jesus had no older siblings – He was the oldest (Matthew 1:24-25). Scripture also tells us that Jesus had a brother named James (Matthew 13:55). James was likely the closest brother in age to Jesus, as he was listed first in the family lineup.
So Jesus leaves home, and start out on His ministry in Matthew chapter 3. Jesus then preaches the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew chapters 5 through 7. Jesus’ family had already unsuccessfully tried an intervention in another town (Matthew 12:46-47). As next-oldest, James was likely told to keep tabs on Jesus, and avoid further embarrassment to the family.
Now Jesus brought His band of followers to his hometown, along with all the controversy and seeming embarrassment to Jesus’ family. Jesus has a band of disciples, and a bunch of other followers. When Jesus arrives, He gets a very cold reception (Matthew 13:53-58, especially v. 57a).
Jesus moves on, leaving His home town. Fast forward, we see Jesus’ brothers still not believing Jesus and His message late in Jesus’ ministry (John 7:1-9, especially v. 5).
But something changed for James. Paul records that after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus met James one-on-one. Imagine James’ surprise, shock, embarrassment, humiliation, and repentance upon finally understanding who his “big brother” really is.
James’ letter is primarily to the Jewish believers in the churches (Galatians 2:9). His letter seems to pick up where Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount ends. Although Scripture does not say, it is likely that James was at the Sermon on the Mount and heard all of Jesus’ teaching.
Similar to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, James poses a series of tests to check the genuineness of our salvation. God already knows our status, but we must see ourselves from God’s point of view, to look in His mirror, not our own. It’s easy to delude ourselves into thinking that we are more than we are before we come to Christ, and to think of ourselves less than we are after we come to Christ.
James doesn’t waste any words in his introduction, but yet, it is packed with truth.
Notice the way James introduces himself: “…a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”. He had bragging rights all over, as Jesus’ brother, as the leader of the Jerusalem church, etc. But instead, he calls himself a servant. And not just any servant, but the lowest servant in the house, the one who washes the feet of the guests who enter the home.
How do we introduce ourselves? By our work title? By our family name? By our role in the local church? Or by our relationship to our Lord?