If you look for James in the Bible, you might get confused because there were three men names James in the New Testament. James was a common name in Biblical times, as it is today. .
The first two men named James we encounter in the Gospels are James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of John and James, the son of Alphaeus. Both were among the original 12 disciples.
The third James we meet is James, the younger brother of Jesus. Unlike the other two men, this James had his doubts about Jesus, and along with other family members, had concerns about his brother’s mental health.
Jesus meets Elijah and Moses
James, the son of Zebedee, was sentenced to death by King Herod (Acts 12:2). He was with Peter and John when Jesus led them up a high mountain.
Jesus was transfigured right before them and meet with Elijah and Moses. It was an amazing moment, as Jesus and the two prophets stood in a bright cloud, their faces and bodies shining like the sun. Peter got the idea that they should build shelters for the three of them. At that moment, a voice from the cloud said,
“This is my son whom I love, with him I am well pleased. Listen to him.”
The disciples were terrified and fell to the ground. Jesus quickly went to them and said not to be afraid. Jesus was back to normal and Elijah and Moses were gone. Jesus told Peter, James and John not to talk of what they witnessed. James was put to death by King Herod (Acts 12:2).
James, the son of Alphaeus, is only mentioned in passing, just three times, once each in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke.
James the brother of Jesus
Perhaps the most interesting ‘James’ is James the brother of Jesus. Unlike the disciples, the brother of Jesus was not a follower and certainly had serious doubts about his older brother.
We first see him mentioned when Jesus returns to Nazareth. The townspeople were not impressed, as they saw him only as the carpenter’s son, the older brother of James, Simon and Judas.
Jesus also has sisters who lived there. People wondered, “What makes him so special?” Even his own brothers mocked him, “For even his own brothers did not believe in him.”
James had seen his brother perform miracles, but still did not believe. In his defense, it is understandable that it would be difficult to believe that your older brother was the son of God.
James sees Jesus are the resurrection
However, James sees his brother after the resurrection. He sees his dead brother alive again. At that moment it all came together for James and he went to the Apostles to pray and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit,
When that day happened, James was filled with the Holy Spirit and was a powerful servant in the new church. This once doubting brother was the author of the Epistle of James.
James was an influential church leader
James became an influential leader in the church. For example, there was a dispute those followers who believed that in order to be Christian, men first had to be circumcised and follow all of the Jewish laws.
Peter and Paul disagreed and insisted that Gentiles can be followers of Jesus without following the Jewish tradition. It was a rather contentious argument, with both sides arguing with passion and conviction.
James listened to the debate, but said nothing. Only after listening to both sides, did he render an opinion (Acts 15:13-21). He points out that God has redeemed both Jews and Gentiles. He quotes the prophet Amos, who wrote,
“After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ things known from long ago.”
James shows discernment and wisdom in quoting the Scriptures. Later the Apostle Paul would write that there is no Jew and no Gentile, just believers and nonbelievers. James’ authority and wisdom end the debate.
James became an important leader in the church. His passion was to care for the poor
James agreed with Paul
When recounting the story of the Jerusalem Council in Galatians 2:1-10, Paul describes James as a pillar of the church, a man of high reputation. He also records that when James and the other elders approved his ministry to the Gentiles, the one thing they asked was that he remember the poor.
The Epistle of James is an admonishment for the wealthy.
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire.
“You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you.
“The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter.” (James 5:1-5).
The death of James
James, the once doubting brother of Christ, was taken by the Jews and thrown from the pinnacle of the temple. The fall did not kill him. He was beaten to death with clubs.