I GREW UP IN JESUS’ SHADDOW (Matthew 10:3: Mark 3:18; Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13)
I am James and I was born and raised in Nazareth. Jesus and I grew up together. We were much more than playmates — we were family like cousins. My mother, the other Mary, was married to my father Alphaeus who was a brother to my uncle Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. We played as children and wrestled as boys. We were loved and respected, not just by our parents. I tended more toward mischief than Jesus. He was not always as playful as I wanted Him to be. Still, I felt attached to Him and for good reasons. He kept me out of many things that could have embarrassed me. Jesus seemed to sense what we could and could not do. I liked to follow Him and learned the way He behaved. Unlike other children and the boys, Jesus tended to occupy Himself more and more with what adults did and talked about. It did not take long and the adults were surprised with what He knew about morality and religion. I was not surprised when He challenged our religious leaders at the age of twelve in the Temple. In our local synagogue, Jesus began to read early and our teachers encouraged Him. I felt elevated in His company because He made me feel smarter that the other boys. At that time, I had no idea that our attachment would last endlessly. Even the notion that Jesus, my cousin, would grow up, leave town, and start a new movement was not on my mind. That announcement would take us all by surprise. But because of our friendship, I remained faithful to Him after the town tried to throw Him off a cliff. Because of me, my mother, the other Mary also joined our small group that began the new mission of Jesus. Uncle Joseph had passed away, but my aunt Mary and my cousins were not ready to regard Jesus as the “One” whom God had called. Gradually, my mother must have convinced Mary, the mother of Jesus and her sons to follow her Son. At the end, my mother stood by her sister-in-law Mary while her Son was being crucified.
I was not going to be known for my opinion or accomplishment. But then those who express opinions and accomplish things need men like me to back them. It takes quite a few of us to make one of them famous. We, the silent ones, are those that labor and sweat in their behalf. We carry their burdens and ease their pains. If things go wrong, we get the blame. If things go well, they get the praise. We are very much like buffers between the main leaders and the people. We are ordered to do things. Woe unto us if the orders do not turn out and woe unto us if they do. In essence, we are the scapegoats. For instance, a father brought his demon-possessed son to us while our leaders were with our Lord on a mountain. We could not handle the situation and were reprimanded for it as being men of little faith. This was one time when I felt that too much was expected of us. After all, we were hardly more than hewers of wood and carriers of water. Our Teacher reminded us often enough that we were to serve rather than be served. And serving we did.
Before I go on almost feeling sorry for myself, let me tell you a little about my name. I was called “Jacob” (James) son of Alphaeus. Like my more prominent colleague James Zebedee, I too, bore the name of our father Jacob-Israel. I suppose I knew how to make out in life by hanging on to someone’s heel and when I got a good hold of him, I could easily end up in his place. Perhaps, this is how I became attached to Jesus as a boy, a man, and as a disciple. In hanging on to Jesus, I proved myself worthy to be His follower. To me, he was what He claimed He was. Perhaps, this is what Jesus may have appreciated while Nazareth did not. I, too, was of the House of David, but I did not possess the qualities Jesus displayed. Like David, we were good shepherds that could tend flocks, even human sheep. We definitely regarded Jesus as our head-shepherd. I was not exactly thrilled when James Zebedee was chosen as one of three to accompany Jesus. I was, nevertheless content that our Master needed my loyalty elsewhere.
Tenacity was my virtue. I must have impressed Jesus, for when the time came to appoint twelve men to supervise His mission, I too was chosen. For once, I had done something that was right. I had been enlisted as a member of a group that was going somewhere. Jesus promised us that what we were doing for the Kingdom on earth would also count in heaven. Of course, we had no idea what the Kingdom was all about, but it most definitely boosted our hope in the restoration of our nation of Israel. We understood that our twelve tribes would reappear and we would be their governors.
I also paid close attention to our Teacher’s wisdom sayings. One was, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” That was right down my alley. I did everything the humble and quiet way. I made sure that whenever any task had to be done, no matter how menial, I did it. In fact, it pleased me greatly that the others began to depend on me in our daily chores. As I said at the start, I was the silent disciple. I let the others toot their horns. I recall when we returned from our first mission. How most of my fellow disciples boasted over their success. Some of us had forgotten our lesson on humility. Jesus was not too pleased with us. Our pride was getting in the way of our mission. Far too many pretenders lost their lives to bragging. We too were playing roulette with Satan. We just did not understand what kind of a kingdom Jesus had in mind. It was after Jesus was removed forcefully from our midst that I, too, began to recall that He spoke of a world that could not possibly exist on earth. If we had only paid attention to the prayer He taught us, we would have grasped that His Kingdom was not of this world. It had something to do with what God wanted us to do. We were to guard against evil and be content with our daily bread. It had something to do with the human heart and the way we lived. Jesus had come to reclaim the human heart for God and not the world. Then it became clear to us why He wanted our names written in heaven rather than on earth. This “Moral Kingdom” had universal applications and would not be limited to Israel. How could I have missed that there would be no earthly kingdom for meek James Alphaeus?