Posted by: mikenicholsblog | August 5, 2015

died too soon?

Who is in your inner circle? There are probably just a few people in your life with which you mutually share deep confidences. For most of us, the names of those in our inner circle could probably be counted on one hand. The world we live in has billions of people, but the world in which we are genuinely comfortable narrows to a select few.  If you look at any organization, the same dynamic will typically be in play. Leaders in most organizations have people with whom they feel the greatest comfort, and most often that circle is very small. It seems to me the dynamic of an inner circle had a definite place in the relationship between Christ and the Apostles.

It is interesting that Christ’s inner circle of apostles consisted of Peter, James and John.  I am not sure why Andrew (Peter’s brother) wasn’t included in some of the critical events of Jesus’ earthly ministry, but unquestionably Peter, James and John were Christ’s inner circle. Most Christ-followers would agree, however, in my study this week I was reminded how easy it is to know their names without knowing many details of the stories. Allow me to illustrate by sharing some thoughts about one of the “Sons of Thunder” that you may have forgotten or never knew.

James was the older brother of John.  From my study, I found him to be a man of great passion and intensity. The notes in my Chronological Life Application Study Bible (NLT) read:

“He was ambitious, short-tempered, judgmental and deeply committed to Jesus.”

Defining James and John as the “Sons of Thunder” gives some suggestion as to their makeup.  The intensity of James and John can be seen in Luke chapter nine where the story is told of the brothers asking Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven and destroy a Samaritan village. Jesus rebuked them, but there is no doubt the “Sons of Thunder” had passion. It may be just me, but as I view the passion of James and the impulsiveness of Peter, I can visualize some animated and strong-willed discussions between the two of them also!

If someone asked you who the first apostle to be martyred was, would you know it was James? Sometimes, in reading his name so often, I forget his gruesome execution. I also find it compelling that James is the only apostle whose death was recorded in Scripture. After the resurrection of Christ, James took the lessons learned from his mentor (Jesus) and, through the power of the Holy Spirit, was used in spreading the Good News of the kingdom of God.

James’ death is a picture of God’s power and control over human events. Acts 12:1-3 chronicles the event, as well as Peter’s arrest.

About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword. When Herod saw how much this pleased the Jewish people, he also arrested Peter. (This took place during the Passover celebration.) 

Continuing on in chapter twelve we see Peter miraculously released from prison. Why was Jesus’ close friend James executed, and his equally close friend Peter arrested, but then supernaturally released from prison?  That is the kind of “why” question we could ask a million times over in our lifetime. And it is one which must be answered with the same confident answer each time — God is in control and has a design for all of our lives.

Some could say, “James died too soon,” but James died and Peter lived under the will and control of God.  My feelings are that James lived a full life, and his commitment to the gospel cost him his life … for God’s glory.

James was in the ultimate inner circle. Many years after his Mentor was resurrected, the lessons learned still bore fruit. He may have been the first apostle to die, but his death counted. His mentor (Jesus) will guide you, and your life, too,…. can count!

And by the way, make sure your inner circle challenges your faith!


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