Summary: James had character flaws like being brash, bragging who'd be the greatest, wanting to call down fire on people and asking to sit on a throne next to Jesus. But he became an Apostle of love and became the first apostle to be martyred.



Mk. 3:17



1. I was running a service station outside of Springfield Missouri one time. I had 16 pumps. It was a large station and along a major highway.

2. There were two men on the pay phones. I was outside taking money from a lady who was wearing shorts.

3. Suddenly a stream of Harley-Davidson motorcycles started pouring off the highway and around the corner and began pulling into the station.

4. They were all big men, wearing black jackets, with long hair and tough looking. They had chains around their waists. It was the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang from California!

5. The first biker was the leader -- a huge man with a head of hair like a lion and a massive beard that was divided up into several forks. As he pulled into the station, he revved his motor and roared like a lion.

6. The young woman screamed, threw her money into the air and jumped in her car and took off. I went inside the station.

7. They pulled up 10 bikes to each pump and filled them up. After they had finished, they all filed in and politely paid for their gas. I was surprised how nice they were.

8. The two men on the phone were goggle-eyed, describing the scene on the phones to whoever they were talking to. This has connection to today’s scripture.


1. Mark 3:13-17; “13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”).”

2. Jesus had some disciples who, if they were alive today, they would’ve probably been in a motorcycle gang.

3. The Lord Himself named James and John the "Sons of Thunder!" Wouldn't it have made a great name for a motorcycle gang? He described their characters as ‘Sons’ (offspring) of Thunder – ‘lightning’ is the product of thunderclaps.

4. They were swift, bright, and loud. James and John were brash, bold, and judgmental.

5. We're going to look at the true spirit of Christianity and see a transformation all of us need to make. The title of this message is “The 12 Apostles: James Son of Zebedee.”



James son of Zebedee and Salome, brother of John the Apostle; was a fisherman who lived in Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem.


1. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. He was inseparable from his brother (Mark 1:19-20; Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11).

2. Strangely, he is always listed in the apostolic lists ahead of his brother John.

3. Another strange thing, he’s never mentioned in the Gospel of John or his epistles! It must have been a painful memory for John which he avoided.


There are 3 conjectures as to why James is always listed before John:

1. James may have been older than his brother John, or 2. He may have had the more bold, fiery temper than John, or

3. Be listed first because of his early martyrdom.

However, he was always listed first even early in his call, leading to the conclusion it was one of the 1st 2 factors.


His parents seem to have been people of wealth.


Zebedee, his father, was a fisherman of the Sea of Galilee, who probably lived in or near Bethsaida, perhaps in Capernaum; and had some boatmen or hired men.


1. Salome, his mother, was one of the pious women who afterwards followed Christ and "ministered unto him of their substance".

2. Salome was at the crucifixion: “Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joseph, and Salome” Mark 15:40, Mt. 27:56.

3. Salome at the Tomb on Easter morning: “When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body” Mark 16:1.


And his brother John was personally known to the high-priest Annas (John 18:15-16), and must have had wherewithal to provide for the Mother of Jesus.



1. Mark’s abbreviated account of the call of the first disciples (1:16-20) seems to place the calling of James and John on the same day as Peter & Andrew. However, scholars see John 1:35-51 as the earliest description. Therefore, it was probably just after the Wedding of Cana that James & John were called.

2. Matt. 4:21 records how James & John were with their father Zebedee in the boat when Jesus called them. It says, “and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (4:22). That probably left their father in a difficult spot. But it reminds us that there are costs we’re going to have to pay to serve Jesus!

3. NAMED ONE OF THE 12. James was named as one of the 12 Apostles (Mt. 10:2; Mk. 3:17; Lk.6:14).


1. At JAIRUS’ HOUSE, to witness the resurrection of his daughter (Mark 5:37, Luke 8:51).

2. TO SEE THE TRANSFIGURATION, where Jesus’ deity was revealed and Moses & Elijah appeared in heavenly glory, and the Father spoke, confirming Jesus as His spokesman & Son (Matt. 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28). It occurred as Jesus was praying.

3. In the GARDEN OF GETHSEMANE, to accompany Jesus in praying. They were supposed to be praying FOR Jesus, but instead they fell asleep (Mark 14:33).



“James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”) Mark 3:17 – radical, brash, startling behavior.


Luke 9:51-56 NKJV; “51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him. 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem. 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. 56 For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.”

1. Just a day or two before they he had been on the Mount of Transfiguration (Lk. 9:28-36), had heard the Father confirm Christ, and seen Elijah and Moses in glory!

2. Ten verses later (Lk. 9:46) James & John were undoubtedly involved in the argument about which of the apostles would be the greatest! John revealed that they’d forbid a man who wasn’t a disciple from working miracles in His name (9:49-50). Talk about ego problems!

3. Next James & John entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for the arrival of Jesus. The Samaritans basically told them, "Get lost! Get your sideshow out of here! You bunch of ugly Jews!" James & John became indignant and wanted call down fire on them.

4. PROPHET MENTALITY. God says, "Vengeance is Mine." But have you ever thought about helping Him out?

5. James and John identified with Elijah: Righteous anger. "I have the right to get mad! In 2 Kings 1:9-17, Elijah called down fire on people who rejected him.

6. Elijah burned up people. As a matter of fact, it was almost the same spot and the same people! "If people don't treat me right, I'll nuke them!" RETALIATION.

7. Elijah had said, "If I am a man of God, may fire come down and consume you." But Jesus was more than a Man of God! He was and is the Son of God!

8. HUMOR. A father read his son the passage about "turning the other cheek." The Dad said, “If they hit you on one cheek, you’re supposed to turn the other cheek.” His son said, "What if they hit me on the other cheek too?" The dad answered, "Then beat the fire out of them!"


35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John.” Mark 10:35-41.

1. The same weakness we see here, of pride and presumption are also the key elements in great faith: confidence and boldness to step out.

2. These same qualities are seen in Peter, who said he’d never deny the Lord and who asked to step out of the boat on the water.

3. This shows us that Christian leaders will have bad sides to their character as well as good sides, but that both are necessary to achieve God’s greatest will.

4. [Matthew 20:20-21 indicates that it was their mother Salome who actually made the request.]



1. Acts 1:13 mentions James as being among the 120 on the Day of Pentecost.

2. So he too heard and saw the rushing mighty wind and flames of fire and spoke in tongues as the Spirit gave him utterance. He was “endued with power from on high.”


1. Acts 12:1-2 tells how Herod Agrippa 1 put James to death with the sword. His death is thought to have been in 44 AD. He is considered the first apostle to be martyred.

2. F. F. Bruce contrasts this story to that of the liberation of Peter, and notes that "James should die while Peter should escape" is a "mystery of divine providence." Both were in jail: one lived and one died.

3. His symbol is three shells, the sign of his pilgrimage by the sea. James the Greater is the patron saint of Spain.



1. James was martyred early (Acts 12), so his life is not visible after Pentecost. But the apostle John came so much under the Holy Spirit’s influence, that he was called the Apostle of Love!"

2. The Gospels -- Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the word "love" issues 26 times. The writings of John use the word love 58X with 1 John alone having it 33X!

3. Listen to John later in his life: “8 Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 11 Dear friends…12 No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 16 God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. 20 Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” 1 John 4:7-8,11-12,16,20.

4. May we experience the same transformation of love that effected James & John!


1. What kind of spirit are we of? What kind of spirit do you exude? Do you give off a feeling of grace or is there jealousy, strife, or bitterness?

2. John Wesley spoke on the Parable of the Talents. A lady came up, "My talent is to give people a piece of my mind." John Wesley replied, "Lady, I think the Lord wouldn’t mind if you buried that talent!"

3. The apostle Paul spoke of "the more excellent Way."

4. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE. POEM: Learning from Living

If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn.

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight.

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy.

If a child lives with shame, he learns to feel guilty.


If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient.

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns confidence.

If a child lives with praise, he learns to appreciate.

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice.

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith.

If a child lives with approval, he learns to like himself.

If a child lives with acceptance & friendship, he learns to find LOVE in the world!

5. If God can change a harsh, critical, judgmental man such as James and turn him into the “Apostle of Love,” can’t He change you too?

6. Have you been insulted? Suffer it! Overcome evil with good, and with love.