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What Happened to James? (published in The Tribune 4/16/11)

posted Sep 7, 2013, 1:16 PM by Fccea Webmaster
Two boys were smoking out behind the garage. One said to the other, "I almost wish we'd get caught. Mom always thinks you're so good!"

Following in the footsteps of an overachieving elder sibling is no fun. But forget overachiveing. How about following perfection?
That's what happened to James. And the effect was toxic. James was the younger half-brother of Jesus.

He is first identified when people in Jesus hometown of Nazareth are stunned at the ministry of someone they've known for 30 years as a laborer: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us? And they took offense at him" (Mark 6:3).

Amazingly, Jesus' family was equally offended: "Then he went home (to Capernaum where he had moved, a few miles NE of Nazareth) and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, He is out of his mind" (Mark 3:20-21, ESV).

Out of his mind?! Isn't that an interesting reaction? Jesus' family attempted an intervention! They thought He was wacko. They preferred He stick to carpentry. Perhaps they took secret satisfaction from seeing people take offense at Jesus after all those years of following perfection?

Their feelings were unquestionably deep-seated. Six months before his crucifixion, James is among those actively urging Jesus to go to Jerusalem where they knew death threatened. John tells us, "So his brothers said to him, 'Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing. . . . If you do these things, show yourself to the world.' For not even his brothers believed in him" (John 7:3-5).

They didn't believe in Him, and yet they urged his public presence where His life was at risk. It doesn't take a genius to read between those lines, does it? They preferred His death to His embarrassing them further. That was James, short months before Jesus' death.

But fast forward seven months shortly after Jesus' death. Acts 1:14: "All these (Jesus' disciples) with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers." What happened to James? What in the world happened?

And, of course, the answer is, the resurrection happened. Jesus had died, for the sins of mankind according to Scripture. But James was eyewitness to the fact that the grave could not hold Him. James -- who knew Jesus as well as any earthly human being had met the risen Lord.

James soon became a follower of Christ, then the leader of the burgeoning church in Jerusalem -- a church where everyone was called Christian in honor of his perfect older brother.

I've always wondered what it was like for James. Jesus' own followers could not initially believe He was resurrected. What must it have been for James -- a total skeptic? What must have been his reaction when he met his risen brother face to face?! One can only imagine.

One thing is sure -- it changed his life. Jesus' death and bodily resurrection is always about transformed lives. If given a chance by faith, He can transform any life. I hope that He is transforming yours.

Some people still like to write off the resurrection as myth or fairytale. I say, "Ask James." Did I mention -- tradition tells us that James got a nickname. This hardened old realist became known as "Old Camel Knees" because of the time spent on his knees in prayer to his Lord and Savior -- that perfect brother he had so despised.

The gospel message is real. Ask James. Transformed lives -- what Easter is all about.

Dave McNeff is pastor of the First Congregational Church of Eaton and Ault