James the Brother of Jesus


I could have entitled this post ” The Power of the Resurrection” because that is what, “James, the brother of Jesus”, is a testimony to.

Matthew 13:55 NIV  ““Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?”

James was the half brother of Jesus. Jesus was the older half brother of James. They grew up together. Remember that Jesus didn’t start His ministry until He was about 30 years old (Luke 3:23). The Bible doesn’t really tell us all that much about what Jesus did during the years before He began His ministry. We know that when Jesus was 12 years old He was in the temple courts of Jerusalem amazing his teachers with his knowledge of the Scriptures. ( Luke 2:41-52). We also know that “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. (Luke 2:52) But James would have been conversant with what Jesus did, how Jesus studied the scriptures, surely they talked with one another as all brothers do.

We do know that once Jesus did start His ministry, when Jesus went down to Capernaum, his mother and brothers and his disciples were with Him and they stayed there for a few days (John 2:12).  We also know that James and the other brothers of Jesus advised Jesus that He should leave Galilee and go to Judea so that His disciples there might see the works that Jesus did (John 7:3) but that His brothers did not really believe in Him (John 7:5).

John 7:2-5 NIVBut when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near,  Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”

So there was definitely uncertainty and misunderstanding and an attitude of “if you want to become known, get out there and accomplish what you want to accomplish” voiced by His brothers. I’ve often wondered if Mary spoke to the brothers and sisters of Jesus about her visitation from the angel Gabriel and the special birth of Jesus. Would they have believed her? Jesus, their older brother? Wouldn’t you and I have had doubts unless we had been there? Or did Joseph, their natural father share with them the dream he had about the birth of Jesus? We aren’t told these things so we can only wonder.

And the disbelief is really not all that hard to understand. Even the 12 disciples didn’t fully understand what was going to happen, they were expecting the Messiah as the conquering King, not the suffering servant. Was James present when Jesus did some of His miracles? The Bible doesn’t specifically tell us that James was. James and his other brothers may have heard what Jesus was doing but we have no indication that they actually witnessed Jesus performing miracles. That would mean that James probably never saw Jesus walk on water, raise the dead, heal the sick and feed the multitudes. And as the ministry of Jesus unfolded and ultimately Jesus was crucified and died on the cross, James would have obviously been aware of what had transpired, that His brother had died on the cross.


In 1 Corinthians 15: 3-8 NIV the Apostle Paul tells us: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,  and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.”

Can you imagine what that would have been like for James? 

The relationship between Jesus and James and James and Jesus changed in an instant.

James is the author of the epistle of James, which he wrote somewhere between A.D. 50 and A.D. 60. James identifies himself by name but simply describes himself as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1).

James stays in Jerusalem and forms part of the group of believers who pray in the upper room (Acts 1:14). And from that time forward, James’ status within the Jerusalem church begins to grow.

James is still in Jerusalem when the recently converted Saul arrives to meet with him and Peter (Galatians 1:19). Several years later, when Peter escapes from prison, he reports to James about the miraculous manner of the escape (Acts 12:17). When the Jerusalem Council convenes, James is the apparent chairman (Acts 15:13, 19). He is also an elder of the church, called a “pillar” in Galatians 2:9. Later, James again presides over a meeting in Jerusalem, this time after Paul’s third missionary journey. It is believed that James was martyred about A.D. 62, although there is no biblical record of his death.

In the Antiquities of the Jews (Book 20, Chapter 9, 1) Josephus refers to the stoning of “James the brother of Jesus” (James the Just) by order of Ananus ben Ananus, a Herodian-era High Priest. Because Albinus’ journey to Alexandria had to have concluded no later than the summer of 62 AD, the date of James’ death can be assigned with some certainty to around that year.

A study of James’ life provides some important lessons for us. His conversion gives testimony to the overwhelming power that came from being a witness of Jesus’ resurrection: James turned from being a skeptic to a leader in the church based on his meeting the resurrected Christ. James’ speech at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:14-21 reveals his reliance on Scripture, his desire for peace within the church, his emphasis of grace over the law, and his care for Gentile believers, although he himself ministered almost exclusively to Jewish Christians. Also worthy of note is James’ humility—he never uses his position as Jesus’ blood relative as a basis for authority. Rather, James portrays himself as a “servant” of Jesus, nothing more. In short, James was a gracious leader through whom the church was richly blessed.

Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!





Disciple of Jesus, married to Peggy, with 5 grown up children, 6 grand children, ex-Canadian military and residing in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. a.k.a. "Papa"

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Posted in Apologetics, Christian, New Testament, Religion

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