The Disciples: James the Less, who was always there

James is often referred to as James the Less, or the younger mainly among the 12 to differentiate him from James, the Son of Zebedee, who was known as James the Greater. Most their age or size was the rationale for the naming. James, the Lesser or Younger, son of Alpheus (Luke 6:15), or Cleophas and Mary (Mark 15:40) and he has a brother Joseph (Matthew 27:56) and a cousin to Simon and Jude. His family lived in Galilee. Except for a few details about his family, there is nothing much mentioned about him in Scripture.

There is a lot of debate as to whether he was the cousin of Jesus or the brother of Jesus. Ancient Greeks used the word adelphos to refer to any male relative, be it brother, cousin, uncle, or nephew, so precise relationships are often difficult to determine.

1. James, the son of Alpheus, Apostle— (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13)
2. James, the brother of the Lord — (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19) He must be identified with the James of Galatians 2:2 and 2:9; Acts 12:17, 15:13 & .21:18; and 1 Corinthians 15:7.
3. James, the son of Mary, brother of Joses— (Mark 15:40 Matthew 27:56) Probably son of Cleophas or Clopas (John 19:25) where “Maria Cleophæ” is generally translated “Mary wife of Cleophas”, as married women are commonly distinguished by the addition of their husband’s name.
On the whole, although there is no full evidence for the identity of James (1), the son of Alpheus, and James (2), the brother of the Lord, and James (3), the son of Mary of Clopas, the view that one and the same person is described in the New Testament in these three different ways, is the most plausible and most agreed on. There is, at any rate, very good ground (Galatians 1:19, 2:9, 2:12) for believing that the Apostle James, the son of Alpheus is the same person as James, the brother of the Lord. Legend says that James looked so much like Jesus that Mary herself could have confused them. This, too, is why Judas needed to betray Jesus with a kiss so as the authorities clearly knew who to arrest.

Although, James was somewhat in the background, he was chosen by Jesus to be one of the 12. He was trained and used by Christ in a powerful way to further the Kingdom of God. He was a man of strong character and a valuable team member. James was one of the first witnesses of the resurrection, and received a special appearance from Jesus before he ascended to heaven. James become the Bishop of Jerusalem, in Acts (Acts 15:13, 21:18) He was held in high esteem—he spoke for the people in some of the important decisions of the early Church. He was known in Jerusalem as “The Just One” because of his constancy in prayer and for the devotion with which he practiced his faith. He did not eat meat, he refrained from any ostentation in clothing, he did not drink wine, and he did not cut his hair. He spent so much time in prayer that his knees grew thick callouses. Paul consulted with him before starting his missionary journeys and referred to him as a pillar of the Church (Gal. 2:9). Tradition holds he wrote the Epistle, James which reveals a grave, meek and calm mind, nourished with the Scriptures, given to prayer, devoted to the poor, resigned in persecution, the type of a just and apostolic man.

There are many stories concerning the death of James the Less, but the most credible one comes from the Jewish historian Josephus. The leaders in Jerusalem were worried about the growing number of people who were coming to believe that Jesus was the Christ. They asked James to refute this claim, but he refused so he was thrown from the roof of the temple and then, because he was still alive, was stoned to death, then his body cut in pieces in AD62. Tradition says James was buried on the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem. Later his remains were moved to The Church of the 12 Apostles in Rome.

PRAYER: Lord I confess sometimes I don’t feel very important in my service for you. Please forgive me and help me to make the most of all the opportunities that come my way to serve you. Help me to be content in the knowledge that I am your child whom you love and adore, and that is enough.  AMEN

SONG: Oh the Bitter Shame and Sorrow  –

(Written by Ange van der Leeuw)