MY BROTHER JAMES ZEBEDEE (Mark 5: 37; 9: 2; 14: 33; Acts 12: 2) .
James Zebedee was my older brother and King Herod deprived him of sharing his life and contribution with you. He was the first among us that Herod the King regarded as a serious threat and that is why he had him killed. He was not the kind of person that would sound off to be noticed. Rather, we knew that he was there beside us and we could count on him to protect our backs. He was our father Zebedee’s right hand man and so he was for us. I am John and I knew him best and I felt that you might want to know what he did to keep us going after Jesus had left us.
In reality, James was the second leg, rather than the third. First, there was Peter, then there was James, and then there was I, John. Yes, James or Jacob, or the Greek “Jakobon” dated back to Jacob or Israel, the father of our nation. He was the younger twin of Esau. Tradition has it that he held on to his brother’s heel for that is what the name Jacob means. And when he bought the birthright from his older brother, he was labeled the “supplanter.” Of course, James was none of those things. He was a faithful and hard-working Israelite or one that fought for God and not like Jacob who wrestled with an angel of God. As I stated, he was the third leg or pillar. Our system was based on pillars. At least three legs were required to uphold any system or structure. Even three witnesses were preferred to two. Jesus, too, followed that system and James was right in the middle of it. Peter may have been the frontrunner and I John the one that tailed, but James was the pillar in between. He did not talk as much as Peter did nor did he try to endear himself as I did; nevertheless, Jesus wanted James with him. Also, he knew how to assert himself quietly and let us know that he was one of the three close to Jesus. Peter was also very fond of James. At times, the two were inseparable.
Should you think that I am assuming too much then ask yourself why Jesus wanted James in his inner circle? I think that he was trustworthy and dependable. He also would pick up after us. He was good with details. We felt safe with James and Peter present. James was very good company because he listened and made us feel that what we said was important. Who do you think we leaned on or blamed for our mistakes? Jesus was too busy and so were Peter and I. Who was our liaison with the other disciple? He also had managerial skills. Back home, James helped his father run the fishing business. He knew how to deal with the hired hands and partners. We were not at all surprised that Jesus wanted James with Him as a witness in situations not suitable for the public. James witnessed the resurrection of the daughter of Jairus. He was with us on the Mount when Jesus changed into His heavenly glory with Moses and Elijah. And James, Peter and I were nearby when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane? We know that my brother James, at the Last Supper, had reclined on the backside of Jesus. While I was facing Jesus, James was guarding His back. Our fellow disciples were disturbed at us when they learned that we had requested to be seated on Jesus’ right and on His left in His kingdom. We were a bid presumptuous and too ambitious? Unfortunately, at that particular time, we had misunderstood our teacher on this issue. He had us with him for another reason that was important in His ministry. He wanted us to be His witnesses from the beginning to the end and in particular to His own suffering, dying and rising from the dead on the third day. And that is precisely what James was, a silent but steady witness that Jesus of Nazareth was the Chosen and Anointed One or the Son of God.
James and I, we were good students of Jesus. We always looked out for our teacher’s interest. One day we saw a man using our teacher’s name to exorcise demons. We put a halt on his illegitimate undertaking. He had no permission to work in the name of Jesus and he was not a member of our group. How could we have known that Jesus had secret followers and that it was all right for others to use His name? This was news to us. On another occasion we wanted to pass but rest in a Samaritan town. When the people learned that we were on our way to Jerusalem, they refused to be hospitable. Well, we were a bit thoughtless and our teacher called us “sons of thunder.” We wanted to teach them a lesson like Elijah did the Baal prophets and have fire fall from heaven. How could we have known that Jesus had come to save even these unfriendly people? It was very difficult for us to accept the fact that our Lord the Anointed One had other sheep in the pastures of the world. We were reluctant and not willing to share our preferred statues with the Gentiles. He reminded us that we had the wrong attitude about using His name in the service of our fellow men.
There is one more fact that shall be recorded about James; namely, that he was the first of the disciples to be shipped off to heaven by King Herod Agrippa. Peter, James and I were the pillars of Jesus’ organization. While Peter and I were spreading the Good News, James kept the organization running. The King reasoned that if he disposed of James then the group would stop proselyting. Herod was correct. The gathering of the disciples ended and they were driven from Jerusalem. Jesus’ followers were scattered as they were meant to do in the first place. We were not to get hung up in Jerusalem and wait for the Anointed to establish His kingdom on earth. We had forgotten that He had ordered us to reach out to Judea, Samaria and into the uttermost parts of the world. My brother’s death hastened the world mission of Jesus. It inspired us to dare things in Jesus’ name. James, who had never promised to lay down his life or stick out his neck for anyone or any cause, became a threat to the king and his constituency because he was a follower of Jesus our King. What else can I say, but that I was proud of my brother how he honored our Lord Jesus by giving his life for Him? Be not at all surprised that posterity will call my brother James, “The Great One” and name their organizations and children after him. There were others called James, but no one was as close to Jesus the Son of God than my brother James and I.