James the Brother of Jesus
Matthew 13:55 speaks of a James who was Jesus’ brother. Jesus was teaching in His hometown. The people were astonished, saying, “Isn’t this man the son of the carpenter. His mother’s name is Mary. His brothers are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas. Aren’t all his sisters with us?” James was probably the oldest of the four brothers since his name is mentioned first. Jesus brothers and sisters would have been born naturally to Joseph and Mary after the virgin birth of Jesus.
Unfortunately, as Jesus said in Matthew 13:57, greatness is not recognized in a man’s hometown or in his own family. We may wonder how anyone could miss having a brother who happened to be the Messiah but aren’t we all apt to overlook the good character traits of a sibling. It is thought that James did not become a believer in Jesus as King of kings until late in Jesus’ ministry or possibly after the resurrection. John 7:5 shows that James misunderstood Jesus’ mission.
After the resurrection, Jesus made a special appearance to James before appearing to all of the apostles. This may have been the time of James‘ belief.
James went on to become an important member of the early church. He is mentioned as playing an active role in the Jerusalem council discussed in Acts 15.
The apostle Paul met with James on his first visit to Jerusalem following his (Paul’s) conversion. Galatians 1:19 says that he saw only James the Lord’s brother. Paul considered James a pillar of the church. During his last recorded visit to Jerusalem, Paul went to see James “and all the elders were present.” (Acts 21:18, Galatians 2:9)
After James’ conversion, he steadfastly stood by his belief in Jesus as the Messiah. Sometime in AD 62, James was accused of having transgressed the law by Ananus, who followed the Sadducees teaching. He was found guilty and condemned to death by stoning.
For those who are interested in names and their meanings:
The name James is derived from the same Hebrew name as Jacob. It means "holds the heel" or "supplanter.” Supplanter means “one who displaces” or “takes the place of.” You may remember Jacob, an Old Testament man whose story is in Genesis 23. He “supplanted” or “displaced” his brother, Esau, and took his birthright.
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