Summary: Were you ever the left-over kid? You know what I mean…were you ever the last one picked when the two “captains” got to choose their teams for an activity? Well, no one who has been called of God is a leftover kid. God has no second-string.
Were you ever the left-over kid? You know what I mean…were you ever the last one picked when the two “captains” got to choose their teams for an activity?
You could see the quick calculations being made and know which team you were going to end up on because of the sudden crestfallen look on one of the captain’s faces when they realized that the leftover kid was going to be theirs. Was there something about your size or your look or your clothes or your ability or your intelligence or some unknown ingredient that you lacked that made you undesirable to the others? “Okay…I guess we’ll take Glen.”
The disappointment and surrender to the gods of chance you heard in their voice! Well, no one who has been called of God is a leftover kid. God has no second-string.
Millions of believers are unknown to us. In fact, in relation to how many people in history have been true believers and followers of Jesus Christ, we know hardly any of them. There are things we can know about them simply because we know that Jesus Christ called them to follow Him and they responded to that call. But we don’t know their names, their personalities, their strengths or weaknesses, their contributions, or whose lives they impacted for the kingdom.
That’s what we find when we look at James, the son of Alphaeus. All we know is his name and a tiny bit about his family. Their in no specific personal detail about his life that is recorded for us, yet he was one of the inner circle of the Twelve. That tells us a lot, but nowhere near what we know about any of the rest of the disciples. Why do you think that is? We’ll talk about that in a minute. For now, let’s look at what we do know.
This man is identified as the son of Alphaeus. We don’t know who Alphaeus was. We know that their was another disciple called “the son of Alphaeus”, and that is recorded for us in Mark 2:14. This is Mark’s account of the calling of Levi, also known to us as Matthew the tax-collector. Mark identifies him as “Levi the son of Alphaeus”. So, it very well could be that this James and Matthew were brothers, even though none of the gospels record that fact for us.
Mark also tells us who his mother is in Mark 15:40. Here we have the scene at the cross when Jesus has died. “And there were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary, the mother of James the Less, and Joses and Salome.” When we look at John 19:25 where John speaks of the group of women, he mentions “His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.” The word translated sister would actually mean sister-in-law (who would name two of their daughters Mary anyway), and the name Clopas is the Aramaic form of Alphaeus. So, “Little” James could well be Matthew’s brother, and both of them could be cousins of Jesus’.
I want to talk about James names and nicknames for a moment. The word translated “little” is the word micros and it literally means “small in stature”. It is the same term used to describe Zaccheus the chief tax-gatherer in Luke 19:3, the little man who climbed the sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus over the heads of the crowds, all of whom were much taller than he.
So, other than these little details, what can we know about James the Less? Quite a lot, actually. This is where treasure-hunting comes in. Turn with me to Luke 10:17-10. Jesus first sent out the Twelve by twos, then He sent out those twelve and an additional fifty-eight by twos. Both times, Jesus gave those He was sending out power over sickness, disease and demons. When He sent out the seventy, he told them not even to take a money belt, a bag, or even shoes, and that they would even be protected from the deadly poisons of snakes and scorpions. When they return, they are every one of them excited about “even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”
Jesus makes a remarkable statement at that point. He says, “Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
Their names are written in heaven! “Don’t focus on the miraculous,” Jesus is saying. “The most important thing of all is that your names are written in heaven. That is where you will be one day with me. That is what really maters.” This is an important message, for them and for us. In John’s gospel, the morning after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus looks out and sees that the crowd is there, waiting again to be fed. And He tells them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal (John 6:25-26).”