Tonight I finished a 7-week bible study on the book of James by Beth Moore. The last time I attempted a Beth Moore study, I was in college and never finished the study and left unimpressed. Let’s just say that God always puts us where we need to be. And for the last 7 Wednesday nights, it was studying James with her.
This is the first time I’m sad to finish up a study. God used this time to shake me and renew my faith. James story left a picture in my mind I doubt I’ll soon leave behind. You see James was the brother of Jesus. And while I can’t count how many times I have read the Book of James, this fact never occurred to me. Nor did I think about the fact that he grew up with Jesus; they played together as children; they truly knew each other. But did they?
It wasn’t until after the resurrection that James came to be saved by his older brother. In fact James and his other brothers mocked Jesus and said he must have been out of his mind for some of the things he did and said. It was this moment, when James realized just who his brother truly is, where we opened and closed our study. And it’s a moment I can’t stop thinking about. It all goes down in 1 Corinthians 15:3-7
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Clue in on verse 7, cause it’s the only mention of Jesus appearing to James. And I can just picture it. James had to be full of regret and sorrow over the death of his brother. Even if I thought my brother was crazy, I’d still be distraught over such a horrible death. But then they meet, and they are alone. What must have been going through James’ mind? I can’t even imagine. He had known Jesus his whole life, but never believed him. But the knowledge that Jesus covered him in love, forgave him and brought him back to the truth brings me to tears. Maybe it’s because they were brothers and had a different bond than Jesus had with the disciples, but this story got to me.
And while I won’t go into detail, you can see this got to James as well. The entire book is full of it. He committed himself to leading the church in Jerusalem. And any regrets he may have had after meeting Jesus that day, he made sure to never have again. He led the church with a single-minded passion for Christ and he had no qualms of telling it like it is. Beth left us with this quote from John Parry:
Who is this tremendous personality who speaks to the whole Church with a voice that expects no challenge or dispute? Who appeals to no authority but that of God, knows no superior but the Lord Himself, quotes examples only from the great ones of the Old Dispensation, instructs, chides, encourages, denounces with a depth, an energy, a fire, second to none in the whole range of sacred literature?
You can bet when James entered the gates of Heaven, Jesus was standing there waiting for him with his arms wide open. James was faithful, even in his death.
And that’s where the book shook me. James, who didn’t know the whole story until Jesus’ resurrection, had a (weak if you will) excuse for his unbelief and mockery of Jesus. But I know the whole story, and yet I find myself mocking Jesus, allowing my sin to cloud my belief in God’s promises. James clearly spells out how we are to live a life of faith, and it has convicted me in a way I never thought possible. Read James, he is explicit; you won’t be left wondering what he means.
James knew mercy. He knew it the moment Jesus appeared to him. He knew Christ’s death and resurrection is our saving grace. And that one moment changed him to lead a life of mercy as well, to care for the poor and orphans, to live with humility, to be peace-loving, to love your neighbor as yourself. In the end, James knew that mercy triumphs all.