The Disciples: James, who was always there

(Written by Ange van der Leeuw)

James, the Elder, Boanerges, son of Zebedee and Salome, and was the brother of John the Apostle. Like Andrew and Peter, the brothers James and John also had a fishing business at Bethsaida on the Sea of Galilee. The family was apparently quite affluent. It was possible to make a good profit by salting the fish and transporting it to inland towns, and this is probably where their wealth came from. Certain passages in the Bible have raised the possibility that James and John might have been cousins of Jesus, but this cannot be verified.

James was called to full-time ministry together with John, and too immediately followed fellow fishermen Peter and Andrew. He was one of the three so-called “inner circle” apostles, and although he is not as famous as John and Peter, he was privileged to be in Jesus’ company with them at times when some of the others were not permitted. When Jesus was slighted, he apparently took it very personally, for when Jesus was refused hospitality by a Samaritan village, James said along with his brother, Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did? (Lk 9:54). Jesus rebuked them, saying, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them” (Lk 9:56).

James is also mentioned in connection with a request to sit with his brother John at Jesus’ left and right hands when Jesus came into his “glory” (Mk 10:37), a request which was supported by their mother. This is often thought of as an arrogant and selfish request, and the other disciples were indignant when they heard it, but their motivation might have been sincere. Either way, Jesus did not rebuke them, but gently informed them, “To sit on my right hand and on my left is not mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared” (Mk 10:40). Jesus then goes on to explain to him, Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:44,45)

A servant heart: How does it look? What are the priorities of those with a servant heart? What are some of the ways that you serve your God? Is He calling you to serve Him in a new way? What’s the difference between a servant heart and being a walkover? James must have learnt a lot as he becomes known as James the Less.

James preached in Jerusalem and Judea. The New Testament tells us very little about James. His name never appears apart from that of his brother, John. They were an inseparable pair (Mark 1:19-20; Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11).   He was a man of courage and forgiveness, a man without jealousy, living in the shadow of John, a man of extraordinary faith. James was the first of the apostles to be martyred, and the only one whose death is mentioned in the New Testament. He was beheaded and his death is recorded in Acts and took place in 41 A.D. in a persecution of Christians by King Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great who killed the babies in Bethlehem). Luke writes, Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (Acts 12:1- 2)

PRAYER: Lord God, please help me to want what you want, to do what you want me to and to put aside my own selfish, self-serving desires so as I might be free to serve others. Please give me a servant heart to serve a world that is often seeking self-gratification above all else. Lead me to someone today whom I can encourage. In Jesus Name, AMEN

SONG: Brother Let Me Be Your Servant –