James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ . . .
Before we spend a month of study in one of the most convicting and spiritually enriching books in all of Scripture, let’s recall some facts about its human author.
James was one of five brothers born to Mary and Joseph after the birth of Jesus. The Apostle John says he was among the siblings who rejected Christ for years (John 7:5).
This indicates that Jesus’ home life was filled with turmoil and division throughout His childhood. His siblings were not supportive of His ministry, which means that before Jesus ever walked the hill to Calvary, He lived with sorrow and misunderstanding.
This didn’t change as the years progressed; when Jesus finally hung on a cross three decades later, none of His half-brothers or half-sisters were there. Only Mary showed up. Perhaps they were in their respective homes, remarking, “Thank goodness the charade is finally over. Maybe now Mom will wake up to the truth that her beloved Son isn’t the Messiah!”
But something amazing happens in the life of Jesus’ half-brother James. After years of spurning and denying his Brother, he finally believes!
The Apostle Paul gives us a glimpse of the occasion:
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas [Peter], then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep [died]; then He appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:3–7).
That last phrase says it all: then He appeared to James. Christ offered grace to this brother—the same one who’d misunderstood, refuted, and denied Him for decades.
Can you picture that encounter? Can you imagine James’ expression upon seeing his resurrected Brother and realizing for the first time that He really was the Son of God?! What a shocking epiphany that must have been!
Church historians record that Jesus later appointed James as the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and James responded by spending the rest of his life in devoted service to Christ. In fact, he would die a martyr’s death for his commitment to the Half-Brother he had once rejected.
At the beginning of this wonderful epistle, we already sense God’s grace and power: James was a lost cause . . . but Jesus came to seek and save those who are lost!
You may be living in a family that is opposed to the Gospel—surrounded by people who don’t care at all about spiritual things. Take heart from James’ incredible testimony. Even after years of unbelief, Jesus never gave up on James. His example teaches us that we should never give up on those around us, either. Keep praying for your lost family members, neighbors, and friends.
Your patient testimony just might be the seed that God uses . . . the one that produces a harvest of spiritual fruit in their lives.
Spend some time lifting up your unbelieving friends and family members in prayer. Also pray for God to infuse you with the strength and patience needed to continue loving them even when it’s difficult.
Read Acts 8–9
and discover the incredible conversion of the Apostle Paul—another man who, like James, seemed an unlikely candidate.
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