Posted by: genelnicholsblog | August 10, 2015

one of two outcomes

He was a member of Christ’s “inner circle” of apostles.  He was one of the first to be called … and the first to be martyred.  His name is always paired in Scripture with his brother, John … except at his murder.  Even though Scripture is brief in its account of the life of James, I found an encouraging nugget of promise as I read and thought about this passionate disciple.

There are some interesting tidbits in Scripture which give cause for speculation as to what could be the “rest of the story” in regards to James.  There is some historical evidence that his father, Zebedee, was a Levite and possibly related to the high priest in Jerusalem.  Could it be that James gained entrance into the courtyard of the high priest for Peter on that fateful night when he denied Christ three times?  I wonder.

Others feel James may have been “second in command” behind Peter.  His name followed Peter’s in two of Scripture’s listing of the Twelve.  I wonder if James ever felt he should be number one.  This is what I would like to focus my thoughts on today.

Jesus teased James and his brother by calling them the “sons of thunder.”  The connotation is some sparks flew between the brothers on occasion.  This nickname implies passionate, opinionated men.  A trait such as this could result in one of two outcomes.  They would either flame out (with their passion and ambition getting the better of them) or they would allow God to mold and guide them to be a firebrand for the Gospel.  To his credit, James chose the latter path.  My favorite account about James (and his brother John) can be found in Matthew 20:20:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, and kneeling down she asked him for a favor.  He said to her, “What do you want?” She replied, “Permit these two sons of mine to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.”  Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink the cup I am about to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.”  He told them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right and at my left is not mine to give. Rather, it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.”

In Jesus’ training of the Twelve, he had already told them they would sit on 12 thrones in Heaven and judge the 12 tribes of Israel.  Well, this apparently caught the attention of the 2 brothers and their mom (obviously the apple did not fall far from the tree!).  They had no idea what they had just asked Christ.  Jesus was referring to everything which would be poured into the “cup” of his upcoming Crucifixion (including taking the sins of everyone for all time on Himself), but the brothers claimed they were able to “drink” the same cup as He.  They were clueless.  I like the way John McArthur puts it in his book, Twelve Ordinary Men:  “James wanted a crown … Jesus gave him a cup of suffering.  He wanted a place of honor … he got a martyr’s tomb.”

Foxe’s Book of Martyrs gives the historical account of James’ murder.  Remember Herod who beheaded John the Baptist? Well, his nephew Herod Agrippa I, ordered the beheading of James.  All the way to the site of his execution, James loudly proclaimed the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  His guard became so convicted that he finally admitted that he had been a secret follower of Christ; he asked James to forgive him for not speaking up for Christ earlier.  James reportedly replied, “Peace be with thee,” and then kissed the guard.  Together they died by the sword of the executioner.

James – passionate, opinionated, ambitious, hot-tempered … conceited?  Somewhere along his journey, he allowed God to mold him into a man of grace, compassion and bravery.  God used him greatly in the early church … and God can use us greatly in our church, our family, and workplace if we let him work on some of our rough edges.  Let’s start today … and remember their story is every bit our story.

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