James 1:1 (NCV): “From James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. To all of God’s people who are scattered everywhere in the world: Greetings.”
Matt. 7:13 (ESV): “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
OUR DIFFICULT ROAD TO FAITH
Some of the most stirring passages in God’s Holy Word are the ones that sneak up on us, the ones we glide over for years as we enjoy our all-time favorites.
Surely, the opening lines of James’ short epistle are among those easily-ignored passages that pack a wallop when we focus on them: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
James was the oldest of the children born to Joseph and Mary (Jesus was born to Mary but was begat not by Joseph but by the Holy Spirit).
James no doubt was the frequent recipient of his mother’s scolding: “Jimmy, why can’t you be more like your older brother? He cleans His room, helps His father in the wood shop, is kind to the neighbors, and even tutors that young boy with the learning disability. You, on the other hand, are a scoundrel. Your room’s a mess, your grades could be improved, and you’re too rough with your sisters.”
WHEN GOD IS YOUR OLDER BROTHER
OF COURSE, THOSE CONVERSATIONS were not recorded, but we can imagine quite easily that young boys and girls 2,000 years ago acted much like their progeny today.
Except for Jesus.
Jesus was perfect. The Bible tells us He grew in “wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52 NASB). Commentary from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association says this shows Jesus knew, even as a young lad, that he was “unique” and “set apart by God for a special mission.”
There is no indication in the Bible that his half-brothers and half-sisters caught on. The Bible tells us they wanted Him to give up His public ministry and return home to tend to the carpentry shop Joseph had started. (Mark 3:31-35)
“For even His brothers did not believe in Him.” — John 7:5 (NKJV)
THE RESURRECTION CHANGED EVERYTHING
ALL OF THAT CHANGED after His resurrection.
The Bible tells us Jesus “appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Corinthians 15:7 (NET))
That certainly would do it, wouldn’t it? Imagine this … James saw his older brother’s beaten carcass stapled to a cross along the major thoroughfare only to see Him a few days later standing in front of him … very much alive.
We can only imagine the love and tenderness the risen Savior showed His unbelieving brother. We can only imagine James’ reaction! At that moment, he must have dropped to his knees in worship.
It was a personal encounter with one of His disciples, Thomas the Twin, dubbed “the Doubter,” that cleared up all cloudy issues in his mind when he could see … and feel … the nail holes and sword’s splice that remained in Jesus’ glorified body.
Thomas, overcome with worship, shouted, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28 (ESV))
YOUR OWN FAITH JOURNEY
BUT WHAT ABOUT YOU? Are you a believer? If so, what did it take to convince you that Jesus was, and is, who He said He is, the Son of God, the Second Person in the Trinity?
If you are not a believer, what would it take to convince you to give up your skepticism, your doubt, your hardened shell, and fall on your knees in worship and adoration to the Word made flesh? The One who died on the cross to satisfy God’s wrath against your sins?
James and Thomas had the advantage of a personal encounter with the risen Jesus, but Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29 (CSB))
Think back on James. James, the half-brother. James, the second-born. James, the one compared to his older sibling but, perhaps, not to his credit.
That visit must have been amazing. We read that James, once a skeptic and mocker of his older brother’s ministry, sought His brother’s forgiveness … not as his older brother … but as his Lord and Savior.
As God Himself.
… and when he received it, in grace, as we know he would, he dedicated his life to serving His God.
LET’S NOT IGNORE the sheer humility in James’ writing, when he describes himself as a “bond-servant” or “slave” of Jesus Christ, not as Jesus’ half-brother.
He was not dropping names here. He did not seek reflected glory.
That conversation must have shaken him to the core.
It was real … and he lived his faith to the end.
Our Heavenly Father, forgive us our unbelief. Many of us who have come to receive the Holy Spirit find that spot of resistance, where we hesitate to trust You completely. So many around us haven’t even taken that first step of faith to receive the Holy Spirit. Lord, You created us out of Your love to worship and adore You, yet so often we find ways to fail. James and Thomas were “all in” for the Lord, but they, and the other apostles, saw the Lord in the flesh. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who do not see and still believe.” Lord, help us to be those followers who believe, who are “all in” for Jesus, the way Jesus, dying on the cross for our sins, was “all in” for us. We ask this in His glorious and precious name. AMEN