Summary: Sermon examines life of James, the Lord’s brother, as author of the the Epistle of James.
James: From Unbelief to Unreserved Devotion
I want to begin this morning with a family conflict—a conflict that Jesus had with his brothers in John 7. The four brothers were named James, Joses, Jude, and Simon (Mk 6:3). Of course, they were half brothers since Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Jesus was supernaturally conceived by the Holy Spirit. But after His birth Joseph and Mary had four boys and some daughters that are not named. In John 6 many of Jesus’ followers had left Him. John 7:1 tells us that Jesus went back to Galilee to avoid being killed prematurely. Follow as we read, John 7:1 “After these things Jesus walked in Galilee; for He did not want to walk in Judea, because the Jews sought to kill Him. 2 Now the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles was at hand. 3 His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing. 4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world." 5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him. 6 Then Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always ready. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify of it that its works are evil. 8 You go up to this feast. I am not yet going up to this feast, for My time has not yet fully come." 9 When He had said these things to them, He remained in Galilee.” Here is Jesus going through a painful experience. And what does His family do, what do these four brothers do? They “pour salt on the wound.” They essentially say to Jesus, “If you’re the real deal, then why don’t you go down to Jerusalem and do your thing—why don’t you do some miracles and show us all that you’re the Messiah?” I have to believe that this was a hurtful experience for Jesus—essentially being mocked by his own brothers. James makes a comment in verse 5 that explains it all, “For even His brothers did not believe in Him.”
None of the brothers were there when Jesus was beaten and crucified. You remember while Jesus was on the cross how he committed the care of his mother, Mary, to his friend and disciple, John? The common practice would be to commit her to the next son in line. That would have probably been James. But James was not there and neither were the other brothers because they did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. I wonder, there on the cross as Jesus looked down on his weeping mother—I wonder if His heart was saddened by the absence of his brothers. I wonder what it was like for Jesus growing up with those four skeptics. Even as Jesus bled and died on the cross James and the three other brothers still did not believe His claims.
But we discover something very interesting 40 days later, after the ascension of Jesus. Acts 1 takes us to the upper room where the apostles were in prayer shortly before the day of Pentecost. The list of people in the upper room includes these four brothers. Acts 1:9 “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Isn’t that awesome? What happened that caused these four unbelieving brothers to now be with the apostles in prayer? The answer revolves around the oldest of the four, James. The New Testament tells us what turned him around. In 1 Cor. 15:7 Paul tells us that after His resurrection Jesus appeared to James. That’s when James believed. I have to believe that was a precious moment for Jesus—bringing his younger brother into faith. And what a conversion this was—this James became one of the greatest Christian that ever lived. He is probably the one who led the other three brothers to the Lord. How many know what Paul Harvey would have called “the rest of the story”?
James, the brother of Jesus became the pastor of the church in Jerusalem. He became so devoted to Christ that he was known as James the Just. Some people said his knees were calloused like camel’s knees because he spent so much time praying. When we look at his leadership in Acts it is clear that he was the most respected leader of the whole church. In Gal. 2:9 when Paul references the pillars of the church, he lists James before Peter and John. Both Peter and Paul deferred to James. In about 48 A.D. a controversy arose in Christianity that threatened to split it down the middle. The controversy revolved around the issue of Gentiles becoming Christians. Some Judaizers took a position that a Gentile had to be circumcised, become a Jewish proselyte, and keep the law of Moses in order to be a Christian. Paul and others insisted that all they had to do was accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior. So a conference of the Christian leaders was held in Jerusalem to settle the matter. The event is recorded in Acts 15. Guess who presided over the meeting? James. Guess who made the final decision as to what would be done? James. Peter submitted to James. Paul and Barnabas submitted to James. James was the most respected leader there. Isn’t it amazing how little people today know about this man?