I Know Peter, But Who Is James?

“3 For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” – 1 Corinthians 15:3-7

In verse 7 above there is an interesting nuance to an important resurrection passage that I never noticed until this past week. Though 500 hundred resurrection witnesses are mentioned, only two people are specifically named here by Paul, Peter and James. Obviously, Peter is well known, but the more interesting name is James who was the half-brother of Jesus. The Bible is clear that after Jesus’ Immaculate Conception by the Holy Spirit, Mary and Joseph had other children, who became Jesus’ half-brothers and half-sisters. Yet, what is interesting about Jesus’ half-brothers is found in John 7:5, “even his own brothers did not believe in him.’’ In light of James’ doubt, 1 Corinthians 15:7 is an important turning point for the half-brother of Jesus. You could say, it is the defining moment for James! He finally believed in Jesus when he touched His nail scared hands and the spear wound in His side for himself. From that moment on, James would make his faith evident. He would become the leader of the 1st Christian Church in Jerusalem, which is significant because the followers there suffered greatly at the hands of Jewish persecution. James would have given up everything that he cherished in this world to follow Jesus in the city that crucified His Savior. He contributed to the New Testament Canon through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by writing the epistle that bears his name. He would also become known as James “The Just” because of how he dealt compassionately with Gentile converts, allowing them to become Christians through Baptism, instead of making them become Jews first through circumcision (Acts 15). Finally, the historian Josephus records for us that James became a martyr for Jesus in AD 62, being stoned to death at the hands of the Sadducees. 

It is interesting that Paul mentions Peter and James on similar levels in 1 Corinthians 15. We know a lot about Peter’s life from the Gospels, but James sneaks under the radar in the Bible most of the time. Yet, his life is an unshakable testament to the transformative effect of Jesus’ historic resurrection. And James’ life transformation should encourage us today in 2015 to always be faithful and put our hope in the God who can and has raised the dead to life. The life of James also reminds us of the power of God’s grace and how God in an instant can wipe away all unbelief, doubt and past sins to make us into new creations and vessels through which God’s work is accomplished. We give thanks for the example of the saints who have trod before us and we pray that God would use our lives in powerful and effective ways to build up His Kingdom in our day.

God Bless,

Pastor Joel