We don’t know much about Jesus as a child other than the account of his teaching at the Temple in Luke 2:44-50. But, there were those who did know Him then. Mary and Joseph had many children after Jesus was born into this world. Jesus had four half-brothers (James, Joses, Simon and Jude, and at least two half-sisters whose names are never mentioned. Two of these brothers authored books of the New Testament after becoming avid followers of Christ. But it was not always so.
The eldest, James, and his siblings spent 30 years growing up around Jesus. Daily they were eyewitnesses of His goodness. Their problem was not with Him as a person, but with His claims to be the Messiah, the Savior of Israel. The brothers were not present at the wedding in Cana to witness Jesus changing the water into wine. Nor are they present during those months when all Israel seems to respond to His teaching.
One time, Jesus’ brothers tried to take Him away from the crowds, thinking He was out of His mind with delusions of grandeur (Mark 3:20-21). Later they encouraged Jesus to go to Jerusalem and prove His claims with a display of His miracles. To them, Jerusalem’s acceptance of Him would be a deciding factor for their own belief.
The Gospels show James and his brothers as skeptics and scoffers. What changed them? The apostle Paul says that James received a special visitation from the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:7) before He returned to heaven. Like Paul, James responded with great vigor. The next mention of James shows him as a believer along with his brothers and their mother, Mary, in the upper room, praying and waiting for the coming of Christ’s Spirit to empower them for service.
The book of Acts opens with the account of this empowerment. In the opening few chapters, Jesus sends His promised Spirit upon them, who then empowers the disciples with boldness and courage. Within a few short weeks, thousands more come to believe in Jesus as Messiah through the preaching of the apostles, and the other disciples, who witnessed the coming of the Holy Spirit.
James becomes an outspoken follower of Jesus as Messiah. James’ life is somewhat shrouded in mystery, but his letter gives us a brief glimpse into his character. He could have bolstered his credibility as an author and a leader by describing himself as Jesus’ brother. Instead, James humbly calls himself “a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).
Eusebius, the great Christian leader of the second century described James as a man of distinguished moral character. James was referred to as James the Just because of his virtuous character. Tradition describes James of receiving the nickname of “camel knees” because of the calluses that developed on his knees from spending so much time in prayer. James was martyred around AD 44 by Herod Agrippa during a great period of persecution.
James exhorted his readers (which includes you today) to live out their faith with their actions and produce works of obedient service that validate your words.
Question: How many people like skeptical James do you have in your life – in your family, at work, or in your neighborhood? No one is beyond salvation. Follow the transformed James’ advice, and show by your good works that your faith is real. Then pray without ceasing on your “camel knees” that the Spirit of Jesus will convict your unbelieving family, friends, and workmates.
As you discover the ways God has worked through His people in the past, you’ll become much better equipped for what God wants to do through you today. My book, 10 Minutes to Knowing the Men and Woman of the Bible, highlights key facts about 50 key characters in scripture and includes life lessons from each for daily living and spiritual growth.