James, “The Brother of John”
Matthew 20:20-28, Acts 12:1-2
Introduction: Again read with me from Matthew 10:1-4, “And when he had called unto him his twelve disciples, he gave them power against unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. (2) Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; (3) Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; (4) Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.” In the list of the disciples we have discovered there are three groups. In the first group we have Peter, Andrew, James and John. Now we will focus on the third person listed in the first, most intimate group of apostles, James the son of Zebedee. The name James has probably caused more confusion than any other name in the New Testament because we also read about another apostle and a close relative of Jesus by the same name:
James, the son of Alphaeus, was also a disciple.
James, the brother of our Lord, was the author of the Book of James.
So, what is known about this James who functioned within the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples?
First: This James never appears in any of the Gospels apart from his brother John. According to Mark 3:17, Jesus calls them both “the sons of thunder.”
Second: This James appears to be the older brother of the Apostle John, according to Matthew 4:21. He’s always mentioned before John, as it is “James and John”. This perhaps indicates he was not only the oldest, but also the leader of this dynamic duo. He presented the strength, the zeal, and the passion of the two.
Third: This James was a member of the inner circle of the first group of disciples, as found in Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37; and Mark 14:33. James belongs in this first group because he was likely one of the first ones called by our Lord to follow Him. According to John 1:35-40, Andrew and John were the first two disciples called. But James, probably because of his relationship to John, was also able to work his way into that inner circle of intimacy with Christ.
Fourth: This James was the son of Zebedee, a Galilean fisherman. James and John, along with the other members of this first group of four apostles, were employed as fisherman, as mentioned in Luke 5:10; Mark 1:20; Matthew 4:21.
Fifth: This James was the second Christian martyr. According to Acts 7, Stephen was the first. According to Acts 12, James was the first apostle to be martyred.
As we study the Bible, in terms of specific incidents, James appears more as a silhouette than a photograph. Let’s for the purpose of this lesson look at three references to him:
The IMPLICATIONS of his TITLE: The best way to get a good look at James is to consider the special title given to him and his brother John. In Mark 3:17 notice what Jesus calls them, “And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James: and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder.” When Jesus saw these men He surnamed them, the “sons of thunder.” A surname is a name or epithet that has been added to one’s given name.
Now, if James was the leader of the “sons of thunder” he must have been a passionate, zealous, fervent, wild-eyed, ambitious, aggressive guy. This opinion is supported in Acts 12, where Herod began to persecute the church. The first person he went after was James, by chopping off his head. Herod then proceeded to capture Peter. This sequence of events indicates to me that Peter wasn’t as big a threat as James. The simple fact that when both James and Peter were captured, James was killed and Peter was not, says something about the kind of man James must have been.
It was obvious that James made enemies fast. His enemies got rid of him quickly because he was a thunderous individual. He challenged them with the gospel. He stood up against them in their persecution of the infant church. His zeal must have been fed daily by Christ, who caused the disciples to remember what David wrote in Psalm 69:9 and Jesus repeated in John 2:17, “The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.” I can just see James, when the Lord took out a whip to clear the temple, saying, “Go for it Lord…give it to them!” James was zealous.
Now, zeal is a great virtue. I just love someone who’s enthusiastic, charged up, and wants to get the job done. We need that kind of zeal in the church of Jesus Christ. We need a zeal that sees the world going to hell and wants to reach people with the gospel before it’s too late. Too many of God’s people in lackadaisical churches are expressing the attitude “Who cares if the world goes to hell, don’t disturb my prosperity. Let the world go to Hell!”
It’s time God’s people were zealous about the cause of Jesus Christ!
It’s time that God’s people become zealous about believing this Book and living according to the “Word of God.”
It’s time that God’s people become zealous about friends, neighbors and relatives that are dying and going to an eternity in Hell without Christ.
Yes, we need more zealous believers in the church who will stand up for righteousness and truth by proclaiming the Gospel through word and deed.
The INCIDENTS of his APPEARANCE: Several incidents stand out in Scripture that indicate the character and personality of James.
In Luke 9:51-56, notice please verses 51-53: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem, (52) And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. (53) And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem.” Some disciples of our Lord were sent into a Samaritan village to prepare His way and to give the Samaritans the message that the Messiah was coming. But because of the Samaritan’s hatred toward the Jews and Jerusalem, their place of worship, they wouldn’t receive Christ into their village. In fact they probably chased His messengers out with curses and stones. So, these messengers returned to Christ and told Him that the village would not receive Him.
In verse 54, we meet James and John “the sons of thunder.” “And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did?” In other words these brothers said, “Lord, let’s just burn them up!” Obviously, James and John didn’t have great missionary hearts. Now comes our Lord’s response in verse 55, “But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of.” In other words, Jesus said, “This is not the time for judgment on an ungodly nation; this is the time for the proclamation of a new covenant. You’re out of sync, guys! Burning them up isn’t the attitude to take right now.”
Why? In verse 56 we read, “For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Jesus rebuked them strongly because they were hateful and intolerant. James had a lot of zeal, but little sensitivity. He had a lot of fire, but little compassion. Yet on the other hand, I have to admit, there’s a touch of nobility in James’ zeal. I’m glad that he got mad when the Lord was dishonored. He would have also gotten mad when the cause of Christ was being disgraced and when the Word of God was being trampled upon. James was zealous and explosive; he didn’t just sit and watch things happen.
In Matthew 20:20-24, we read in verses 20-21: “Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. (21) And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.” Jesus directed His reply in verse 22-23 to James and John, rather than to their mother, because He knew that they were behind the request. “But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able. (23) And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father.” They were ambitious and wanted to rise to power in the Kingdom. In fact, they wanted the principle places of honor and dignity. Well, this selfish request aroused a spirit of rivalry among the disciples in verse 24, “And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.” To which Jesus gave a lecture in verses 25-28 on what real leadership was all about, “But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. (26) But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; (27) And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: (28) Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
In Acts 12:1-4a, we read of the one incident in the Bible where James appears without his brother John. “Now about that time Herod the king stretched forth his hands to vex certain of the church. (2) And he killed James the brother of John with the sword. (3) And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) (4) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him…” Reading this passage, you will notice that when Herod wanted to attack the church, he went right for James first instead of Peter. Why? Because he was a “son of thunder,” and filled with zeal, ambition and strong intolerant feelings. James became the SECOND CHRISTIAN MARTYR and the FIRST APOSTLE TO DIE for his faith.
The INSTRUCTION on the way to GREATNESS: What is the way to greatness? I call your attention to Matthew 23:11, "But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." Here is the paradox, "IT’S NOT THE MASTER BUT THE SERVANT WHO IS THE GREATEST." The Bible teaches us,
"Those who weEXALT, the LordHUMBLES." And those who "weHUMBLE, the LordEXALTS."
"Those who we think are NOTHING, the Lord thinks they are SOMETHING."
"Those who think they are SOMETHING, the Lord thinks they are NOTHING."
Nine hundred times the word SERVANT is used in the Bible. We even read of the Lord in Mark 10:45, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many." This statement was just a straight-from-the shoulder admission. He came to serve and to give. In our world, we have it backwards.
We think greatness deserves to be served. but God says greatness is found in the one who DOES THE SERVING.
We think greatness is in owning much, but God thinks of greatness in terms of giving the most.
We think greatness is found in giving orders, but God sees greatness in the one who obeys orders.
If you are searching for great men, then first find those who stand in the shadows to serve. Great men and women are servants first. Check your Bible
When Jude wrote his Epistle, He calls himself a SERVANT.
When Paul wrote the book of Romans, He calls himself a SERVANT.
When Peter wrote II Peter, He calls himself a SERVANT.
When James wrote his Epistle of James, He calls himself a SERVANT.
God calls Jesus "My Servant" in Matthew 12:18.
Yes, “greatest among you shall be your servant."
Find a piece of trash on the floor, you seek to pick it up.
Find a dirty spot, you seek to clean it.
Find a hungry stomach, you try to feed it.
Find a cold body, you seek to clothe it.
Find a lonely soul, you give it fellowship.
Find someone away from God; you seek to win them back.
Find someone who is discouraged, you seek to encourage them.
The great proof of being a servant is found in ANONYMITY. Listen to these words:
You know Lord, how I serve You with great emotional fervor In the limelight.
But how would I react; I wonder if you pointed to a Basin of water,
And asked me to wash the callused feet Of a bent and wrinkled old saint of God
Day after Day Month after Month
In a room where NOBODY SAW AND NOBODY KNEW
God is looking for SERVANTS. God blesses SERVANTS.
Tradition tell us that the officer, who guarded James on his way to being beheaded by the Roman sword, was so impressed with James’ courage and constant zeal, that he fell down at the Apostle’s feet and begged pardon for the part he had played in the rough treatment he had received. James lifted the man up, embraced and kissed him, and said, “Peace, my son; peace be to thee, and the pardon of thy faults.” Immediately the officer was transformed, publicly confessed his faith in Christ, and was beheaded alongside James. James learned that “Before you get a throne, you’re going to suffer, because the way to the throne is always the way of the cross.” He wanted a crown, Jesus gave him a cup. He wanted to rule, Jesus gave him a martyr’s grave.”
What kind of people did God use? What kind of people did Christ draw into intimacy with Him?
One was a dynamic, strong, bold leader like PETER who took charge, initiated, planned, strategized, confronted, and commanded people to Christ.
Another was a humble, gentle, inconspicuous man like ANDREW, who saw people as individuals, not crowds; and while he never attracted a mob, he kept bringing people to Jesus.
The Lord also chose a zealous, passionate, uncompromising, insensitive, ambitious man like JAMES, the brother of John, who could see a goal and strive for it with all his might, even if he died in the process. Christ used this disciple to serve Him and honor Him.
The Lord made these men fishers of men, in spite of and because of what they were. By the grace of God he can do the same thing with your life, in this place. He can take very ordinary people like yourselves who love God, who love the Lord Jesus Christ, who love the Word of God, the Bible, and who love people and make you fishers of men, bringing people to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
If God has spoken to your heart after reading the sermon on “James, The Brother of John” then right now talk to God about what He has spoken to you.
Do you have the assurance that one day you will go to heaven? If you have no assurance that you know Jesus Christ, then I trust you will decide to accept Him as your personal Savior. The Bible tells us in
Acts 16:31, “…Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…”
Romans 10:13, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
This prayer is here for those who need to ask Jesus to be their personal Savior: “I do want to go to Heaven. I know I am a sinner, and I do believe Jesus Christ died for me. I realize I cannot buy this great salvation, nor can I earn it. Knowing Jesus died on the cross and arose from the grave to pay my sin debt and to purchase my salvation, I do now trust Him as my Savior, and from this moment on I am completely depending on Him for my salvation.”
If you made the decision to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, would you please let me know? Please send me an e-mail to pdmikBBM@aol.com. and in return I will send you some literature that will help you in your Christian life.
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