What did James do in that
precious moment? Did he fall to his knees? Did he leap for joy? Did he slump in guilt?
The moment James realized the true identity of his half-brother must have been an astounding one. But we are left to wonder the details of 1 Corinthians 15:7, the record of when a resurrected Jesus Christ convincingly appeared to a doubting James: Then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
Why is James alone mentioned specifically? Was this the very moment in which disbelief turned into faith? Is this when his big brother, Jesus, came to the ultimate rescue?
Jesus appeared to his younger half-brother and proved Himself to be who He said He was. Before Jesus defeated death, James and the rest of Jesus half-brothers did not believe His claims. (John 7:5) Now, here was Jesus stunning James into irrevocable belief. In the face of overwhelming evidence, in the face of his alive-again half-brother, in the face of his new Lord, what could James have done but humbly worship and adore Jesus?
What was it like for James to look upon the nail holes in Jesus hands, probably even to have hugged Him, and realized that the Man with whom he had grown up truly was the Son of God? He had played in the yard and labored in woodwork with Jesus! Did it hit him that his family tree had featured the True Vine?
He was without sin, and lived by a standard too severe for them, writes Henry Lockyer. His presence in the home was a perpetual rebuke to those brothers and sisters who were among His own [who] received Him not (John 1:11). James was raised in the same house and perhaps slept on the next bed to Jesus, yet it took James roughly half his life to truly find Him.
In retrospect, it would be easy to suggest that the conversion of James was belated. It took him some three decades to realize his half-brother was more than just special. But we know that our heavenly Father has a perfect timetable. It is never too late to throw off pride and humbly accept Jesus for who He is. The result? James became the head of the Christian church in Jerusalem and penned what is believed to be the first book of the New Testament. It bears his name and is a guide to practical Christian living made famous by his declaration in 2:20: Faith without works is dead (KJV).
James knew better than anyone what it means to try to be like Jesus. Every day of his life he learned it is impossible to live exactly as Jesus did, impossible to attain such righteousness through self-effort, impossible to be perfect. Not once could James answer a parental rebuke with, Well, Jesus did it first!
Isnt it ironic that the man who has prompted the most debate of Faith versus Works was the very man who had the most experiential proof that striving to measure up by itself is futile?
James isnt contrasting faith and works. He is complementing faith with worksexactly as he witnessed Jesus example. James was writing to the many members of his congregation who dispersed during the persecution of Christians starting with the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). He wrote to Jews who apparently had gone from one extreme, a works-based salvation, to the other, a listless faith. James simply writes that true, saving faith produces fruitful works. He asks in 2:14, Can faith save him? (KJV). Yet the explanation is in the Greek: The better translation actually reads, Can that kind of faith save him? writes John MacArthur.
Saving faith, then, is not mere intellectual acceptance of a theological proposition, writes Donald Burdick. It goes much deeper, involving the whole inner man and expressing itself outwardly in a changed life.
James practiced what he preached. When finally he believed on his half-brother at some point between Jesus resurrection and just prior to the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14), he revealed the changed life. James would so follow the perfect Model he knew intimately that tradition says he was tagged with the nicknames James the Just and Camel Knees, so called because his knees were callused from praying.
Still, the best description of why James was mighty in spirit comes from what James called himself. In the first verse of his letter, he describes himself in the Greek as a doulos of his half-brother, the Man he formerly doubted.
The doulos was neither free man nor a hired servant; he was a slave, the rightful property of his master, Burdick writes. The term slave, however, did not necessarily carry the degrading connotation attached to the word today. James was a servant who was proud to belongbody and soulto God and to Jesus Christ.