Sermon: James of Jerusalem

The podcast is available… yeah.  No.  Still no voice.


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The early patriarchs of the Israelites: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Jacob we know had twelve sons, one of which was Joseph, his favorite. Scripture says, Jacob “loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves.”  Because of his favoritism toward Joseph, the other eleven brothers became jealous of him, and it got even worse when Joseph was seventeen and began having dreams: “‘Listen to this dream that I dreamed.  There we were, binding sheaves in the field. Suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright; then your sheaves gathered around it, and bowed down to my sheaf.’  His brothers said to him, ‘Are you indeed to reign over us? Are you indeed to have dominion over us?’ So they hated him even more because of his dreams and his words.”  He had another similar dream regarding the sun, moon, and stars.  Because of the jealousy that built up around these events, Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery and told their father that Joseph had been killed by a wild animal.

As we read through Scripture, we see a number of instances of siblings not getting along, the first of which was Cain and Abel, but there was also Jacob and Esau, and even the parable of the prodigal son has its share.  Where we don’t expect to find it is with Jesus and his brothers—whether they were brothers or cousins or some other relations is a lesson for another day—but early on, in the synoptic Gospels and John, we are given a clear picture that there was tension.

Mark’s Gospel: Jesus has begun his public ministry and “When [Jesus’] relations heard about it, they set out to seize him for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”  In John’s Gospel we are told very plainly, “His brothers did not believe in him.”  They thought he was crazy, and this was true for James who we celebrate today.  However, following the resurrection, James became a devout follower and was in fact elected by the twelve Apostles (including James the brother of John) to be head of the Church in Jerusalem.

Surprisingly, it is very common for family and friends who are not believers to question your sanity or become angry when you begin to follow the will of God, but for the believer, it should not be a surprise, for Jesus says to us, “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”  

The reasons why such a thing can happen are numerous: jealousy, as in the case of Joseph; pride, as in the case of Jesus’ family (they thought he was crazy and making them look bad); or anger, because you’re no longer following the crowd.  But I think the greatest reason is fear.  Fear because they are now more personally confronted with their own lives.  Your life and obedience to God has become a testimony to them and convicts them of the sin in their own lives, leaving them with a choice of being obedient or not.

James’ initial reaction to his brother Jesus was one of anger; however, Jesus life, Jesus’ obedience to the will of the Father convicted James and brought about a conversion.  In the face of anger, fear, jealousy because of your faith, stand tall and do not be afraid.  God can even use the negative reactions of others to bring about His will in their lives.

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