Yesterday, we began our study through the book of James. I really believe it’s important that we understand his life if we want to understand his letter. I wanted to provide you with a list of many of the New Testament passages where James is mentioned to give you an idea of his life, his transformation, and his influence on the early church. Some of these we mentioned yesterday, and some of them we didn’t have time to get to!
Mark 6:3; Matthew 13:55
In these parallel passages, Jesus’ teaching in his hometown synagogue caused others in Nazareth to be offended over the authority he was claiming to have. Here, we get a list of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, including James.
Mark 3:21, 31-32
The members of Jesus’ earthly family, including his mother Mary and his brother James, believed he was out of his mind. They essentially set up an “intervention” to get him to stop making the claims he was making.
Here, we get one of the clearest descriptions of how Jesus’ brothers felt about him. They say to him, “Why don’t you leave our small town, go to the big city, and see what happens.” They didn’t believe in him, and they expected that he would go to Jerusalem, experience rejection, and get over the phase he was going through. Because we have the full story, we know that Jesus would go to Jerusalem and ultimately be killed for his claims to be God.
1 Corinthians 15:7
What moved James from unbelief to belief? He saw his older brother raised from death.
Jesus’ mother and siblings (including James) joined the early church after Jesus’ resurrection.
Acts 9:27; Galatians 1:18-19
These passages are describing the same event. Three years after Paul’s conversion, he met with Peter and James for fifteen days to share about his transformation. Also, these passages show that even though James was not one of the original twelve, he was considered an apostle.
At one of the most important meetings in the history of the church, James was the one to stand up and defend the gospel. He also displays great wisdom (one of the themes of his letter) by telling Gentile believers to abstain from food offered to idols, from eating meat with blood in it, from strangled meat, and from sexual immorality. This was to avoid putting a stumbling block before their Jewish Christian brothers and sisters.
Paul says that James was a “pillar” of the church. When Paul calls you a pillar, you know you’re legit.
The author of this letter is the brother of Jesus and James called “Judas” in Mark 6:3 and Matthew 13:55. Let’s be honest, if you were a Christian in the early church and your name was Judas, you would find a nickname too. Otherwise, introductions would require a lot of clarification.
What a family! Mary was an amazing, devout, godly woman. Her daughters joined her in serving the early church. One of her sons is the center of the whole Bible, and two of her other sons authored books of the Bible. (As a side note, there’s a lesson here for us that I didn’t have time to get to yesterday: the most important ministry you do will not be the flashy things everyone sees; it will be leading your kids toward love for Jesus and laying down their lives to serve him.)
I can’t wait to dive in to the book of James together this summer. As we hear these difficult words from Jesus’ little brother, let’s humble ourselves before the Lord (James 4:10) in the hope that he might transform us into doers of the Word and not just hearers of it (James 1:22).
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