Open Your Bible
Mark 6:1-3, Mark 3:20-21, John 7:1-5, 1 Corinthians 15:3-7, Acts 15:1-21, James 1:1, James 1:19-27
Growing up, my family teased my brother about how he should run for president. He had the brains and the vision, and we even created a fun Facebook page with a 2028 campaign that gained a decent following of friends. He used to laugh it off and roll his eyes every time a ghost writer posted an update, while never actually denying the fact that he would make a good candidate. I’m still holding out that our playful digital campaign efforts sweep the house in 2028. Can you imagine if one day your brother became president?
Even more so, can you imagine if your brother claimed to be the Messiah? I mean, I love my brother more than anything, but that’s on a whole other level. A bold move like that would no doubt give me serious cause for concern. Even if I were familiar with Old Testament prophecies and could vouch for the integrity of my sibling, I would have all sorts of questions, namely: Of all the people out there, how could the Messiah be my brother?
I imagine that James, the brother of Jesus, wrestled with a question like this. We aren’t given a substantive origin story for James all in one place, so we have to weave together a few distinct verses like a patchwork quilt to gain a glimpse of the life of this man. We’re told that Jesus had four brothers: James, Joses, Judas, and Simon, and at least two sisters (Mark 6:2–3). We know that, after watching his brother attract a following in the synagogues while simultaneously offending the Nazarene crowds, Jesus’s family declared Him to be “out of his mind” and tried to restrain Him (Mark 3:20–21). We know that James and his brothers mocked Jesus, and didn’t believe in Him during His earthly ministry (John 7:1–5).
But then something happens. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to James (1Corinthians 15:6–7). While Scripture doesn’t give us specific details about this story, it’s evident that at some point after the resurrection, James became a convert and disciple of Jesus. I imagine that after experiencing the trauma of having a brother crucified and buried, you start to listen to what He has to say after His lungs are filled with life again.
James became a leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15:13–29; Galatians 1:18–19). He wrote the book of James—and in it, he says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (James 1:19). More than any other New Testament book, the teachings that fill these pages mirror the teachings of Jesus and His signature Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5–7). And it makes sense that Jesus would have influenced James’s communication and storytelling techniques. They were brothers, after all.
Before Jesus’s death, James didn’t understand Jesus and His ministry. But after bearing witness to His sacrificial death and resurrection, he was changed forever.