James

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Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

Today is the day that James, the brother of Jesus, is honored. James is a curious fellow really. We don’t really know what to do with him. We don’t really give him the right name. James is an aglicized version of Jacob. The New Testament doesn’t have a book of James. It does have a letter written by Jacob, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. But, tradition is tradition I suppose — and so instead of Jacob we call him James. He’s also mysterious because he is the brother of Jesus, and we don’t really know what to do with Jesus’ family, other than Mary. He shows up in Acts 15 as a rather important character, yet he wasn’t around during the Gospels. Something happened in the in between, and something happened which made him the head of the church in Jerusalem. Once again we are given only a taste. We do not have the whole story, only the parts that bear on our part.

Martin Luther called the short book of James an “epistle of straw” because Luther’s interpretation of James, the brother of Jesus, head of the church in Jerusalem, dared to disagree with Luther’s intepretation of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Luther wanted this book out of the Book because of this passage from chapter 2:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but do not have works ? Can faith save you? If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,” and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Of course, Luther later showed some straw of his own and also showed that while he could earnestly read a part of Romans, he didn’t quite get around to reading the whole thing, including what seems to be more the point of the book as found in chapter 12. James and Paul agree quite a bit, much more than Luther’s limited questions were willing to accept.

James is also mysterious because of a brief passage Eusebius, the great early church historian, writes about him. This passage makes a lot more of James than we generally consider. But, if Mary was the Mary we honor, and Jesus was the Jesus we worship, then is it really a surprise that a younger brother would also be a special, holy sort of person?

Have a read of this passage from Eusebius on this feast day of Jacob, brother of Yeshua, then open your Bible and turn to the book just past the book of Hebrews to read what such a man had to say to the Church.

Chapter XXIII.–The Martyrdom of James, who was called the Brother of the Lord.

1. But after Paul, in consequence of his appeal to Caesar, had been sent to Rome by Festus, the Jews, being frustrated in their hope of entrapping him by the snares which they had laid for him, turned against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the episcopal seat at Jerusalem had been entrusted by the apostles. The following daring measures were undertaken by them against him.

2. Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of all the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Saviour and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man who, on account of the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, was esteemed by all as the most just of men, and consequently they slew him. Opportunity for this deed of violence was furnished by the prevailing anarchy, which was caused by the fact that Festus had died just at this time in Judea, and that the province was thus without a governor and head.

3. The manner of James’ death has been already indicated by the above-quoted words of Clement, who records that he was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club. But Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account in the fifth book of his Memoirs. He writes as follows:

4. “James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James.

5. He was holy from his mother’s womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath.

6. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woolen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

7. Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, `Bulwark of the people’ and `Justice,’ in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

8. Now some of the seven sects, which existed among the people and which have been mentioned by me in the Memoirs, asked him, `What is the gate of Jesus?’ [498] and he replied that he was the Saviour.

On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one’s coming to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James.

10. Therefore when many even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees, who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ. Coming therefore in a body to James they said, `We entreat you, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat you to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in you. For we bear you witness, as do all the people, that you are just.

11. Therefore, persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus. For the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in you. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position you may be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.’

12. The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said: ` you just one, in whom we ought all to have confidence, for as much as the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.’

13. And he answered with a loud voice, `Why do you ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sits in heaven at the right hand of the great Power, and is about to come upon the clouds of heaven.’

14. And when many were fully convinced and gloried in the testimony of James, and said, `Hosanna to the Son of David,’ these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another, `We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus. But let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him.’

15. And they cried out, saying, `Oh! oh! the just man is also in error.’ And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah, `Let us take away the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.’

16. So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other, `Let us stone James the Just.’ And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said, `I entreat you, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

17. And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying, `Cease, what you do? The just one prays for you.’

18. And one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom. And they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ. And immediately Vespasian besieged them.”

19. These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement. James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him.

20. Josephus, at least, has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says, “These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.”

One Response to “James”

  1. Debby Says:

    Wow! This is all news to me. I’ll study your post more in depth soon O wise one.