For the month of April, I get to teach the student ministry on Sundays. This past Sunday, which was Easter, was the first of four Sundays that we’re going to be talking about Testimonies after the Cross. You may wonder why we started on Easter itself… well it just worked out that way, alright. During March, I taught Wednesday nights for the students. We pretty much went through Lee Strobel’s Case for Easter. It was a lot of fun. I’ve mentioned that we have right now a pretty young core of middle schoolers who are coming. I think a lot of the ideas that we talked about were foreign to them. I may end up circling back around and hit some more apologetic type topics.
Anyway… on to April.
The story of James, the half brother of Jesus, in the Bible has always been interesting to me. I have an older brother. We are so very much alike on one hand, yet on the other hand complete opposites. Growing up we got in fights both physical and verbal. Over the years, we have been able to fight side by side in figurative trenches. We may not be as close as some siblings, but I believe a lot of that boils down to the literal distance between us as he lives in Los Angeles right now.
We as believers come to know Christ in a variety of ways. I have grown up in a family that had us at church every Sunday from before we could walk. James, literally grew up with Jesus. Let’s face it, James was going to be hard pressed and very hard to persuade that his older brother, Jesus, was the son of God.
In Mark 3:20-21, James makes the statement that “Jesus is out of His mind.” John 7:5 mentions the fact that James and other brothers and sisters did not believe that Jesus was who He said He was. This is after seeing and hearing story after story of miracles, healings, teachings… James just did not believe.
The Cross changed all of that. Well, actually the resurrection changed all of that, but either way, James’ testimony was completely flipped 180 degrees because of what happened to his brother on the cross.
He became a leader in the early church. A “Pillar” as described by Peter in Galatians 2:9. In the intro of his own letter to early Christians, James clarified it when he introduced himself as “I am a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.” Before the cross, he thought that by obeying the law, he’d be fine. Afterwards, his life completely changed as he knew that his brother was the Son of God.
I also mentioned on Sunday that James died for these beliefs. Josephus, who was a historian and non believer, wrote about James:
“Upon the death of Festus ( 62 A.D.), Emperor Nero sent Albinus to be procurator of Judea. But before he arrived, King Agrippa appointed Annas to be High priest. He was the son of the elder Annas. (Note: The elder Annas referred to here is the same Annas of the New Testament Gospels.) The elder Annas had been high priest himself for a time. He had five sons all whom secured the priesthood. Annas the younger, however, was a brute who observed the ways of the Sadducees who are known as being cold-hearted when they sit in judgement. With Festus dead and Albinus still traveling, Annas thought he could have his own way. Calling forth the members of the Sanhedrin, he brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and others with him. He accused them of violating the law, and ordered that they should be put to death by stoning.”
I like that we can look at writings and evidence that exist outside of the Bible to verify or validate what is mentioned in the Bible. James had a complete transformation that occurred once he saw his brother resurrected.
We too may know about Jesus, but it is only after encountering the cross and the resurrection that we too can be changed.