Summary: While a lack of passion leads to spiritual complacency, the wrong kind of passion leads to unholy acts! Today’s sermon is going to focus on the life of Apostle James who learned firsthand that passion is only good when aligned with the will of Christ!
James: The Apostle of Passion
Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567
Do you have passion to serve the Lord? You know the kind of passion that is so strong that you cannot and will not contain your desire to serve God no matter what the cost! Are you like Abraham and are willing to “GO” not knowing where the Spirit might lead you? Are you like Moses or David and are willing to face any “GIANT” obstacle in life because you truly believe that God moves mighty mountains? Or are you like the church of Laodicea neither not nor cold? The Oxford Dictionary defines passion as a “strong and barely controllable emotion” for a very good reason. While passion for Christ is necessary to jar us free from becoming spiritually complacent in our walk with God, not all passion leads to holy living. Having passion to legalistically demand others to follow one’s “superior” knowledge of God’s law or church traditions does not make one holy but merely a good Pharisee. Wanting to see the wrath of God fall on unbelievers does not make one holy but angry and wishing like Jonah to do anything it takes to try and keep God from extending mercy to others! While a lack of passion leads to spiritual complacency, the wrong kind of passion leads to unholy acts! Today’s sermon is going to focus on the life of Apostle James who learned firsthand that passion is only good when focused on the will of the founder and Perfecter of one’s faith, Jesus!
Background on James
James’ family lived close to Bethsaida where he and his brother John had a fishing business (Mark 1:21, 29), with Andrew and Peter as likely partners (Luke 5:10). James’ father’s name was Zebedee (Matthew 4:21, Mark 1:19-20) and most likely his mother’s name was Salome (Matthew 27:56). Because Zebedee had hired servants and Salome often cared for the needs of Jesus (Mark 15:40, Matthew 27:55-56), James most likely grew up in a relatively prosperous middle class home. His father Zebedee was not only well to do but also had enough status that his brother John “was known to the high priest.” Walking beside the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called James and John who immediately left the boat and the fishing business (Matthew 4:18-22). James is always listed in the top three names of the apostles, along with Peter and his brother John (Matthew 10:2-4; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13-14) who were part of Jesus’ inner circle. James was the first to be suffer martyrdom (Acts 12:1-2), slain with the sword by Herod Agrippa I at about AD 44. Eusebius recorded a tradition that the guard or possibly the accuser of James was so deeply affected by his witness that he became a believer during the trial and was beheaded along with James.
Leadership Style - “Sons of Thunder”
Unlike his brother John who is mentioned frequently in Scripture, there are precious few accounts of James. What little that is known about James is significant. For example, James and Peter’s leadership styles were very similar. Like Peter, James was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three who alone got to accompany Jesus in the raising of the daughter of Jairus (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), to witness the transfiguration of Christ (Mark 9:2; Matthew 17:1; Luke 9:28) and to accompany Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). Also, like Peter who was often brash, clumsy, hasty and impulsive; James could be described with similar traits such as “zealous, thunderous, passionate, and fervent.” James was so passionate that Jesus gave him and his brother John the title of “Boanerges” (Mark 3:17) which meant “sons of thunder.” James lived up to this title for what little is mentioned of him in Scripture focuses on the Lord’s rebuke for impetuous speech and for seeking positions of honor in the kingdom.
The first glimpse of James and John “earning” their title “Sons of Thunder” is found in Luke 9:51-56. Luke tells us that when it was the appointed time Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem, the designated place of His crucifixion, resurrection and ascension to God’s right hand (Luke 22:69). Jesus chose the quickest path from Galilee to Jerusalem which meant going through Samaria. Before arriving at a Samaritan village Jesus sent messengers (who were probably some of the Twelve disciples) to secure lodging for the night. When the villagers found out that Jesus was going to Jerusalem they refused to welcome or help them. Upon hearing this the “Sons of Thunder” asked Jesus if He wanted them to call down fire and destroy the Samaritans, just as Elijah did. Jesus responded by rebuking James and John and then going to another village which was most likely Jewish.
To unpack this event let’s first look at why the people of the Samaritan village were so hostile towards the messengers. When Assyria conquered Israel in 722 BC (2 Kings 17), the prominent and influential people were exiled, and the land was resettled with the poor of Israel and the pagans and foreigners that were loyal to the Assyrian king (2 Kings 17:24-34). The Israelites intermarried with the foreigners and ended up trying to fear the Lord while embracing foreign gods (2 Kings 17:33). This blended race called the “Samaritans” created their own priesthood, temple and sacrificial system. The original site of their temple was on Mount Gerizim. In their view God should only be worshipped on this mountain for it was the place where Abel built the first altar and God told Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. The Samaritans were hostile to anyone passing through Samaria to go to Jerusalem to worship God! Therefore, most travelers going to Jerusalem would often cross over to the East Bank of the Jordan River to avoid entering Samaria where they would be hassled and, in some cases, put to death.