Following Jesus 19

Are you like James? 

James was a disciple who was ambitious and goal orientated, as seen in Matthew 20:20-28. He was also zealous as we witnessed in Luke 9L51-56. Finally, James was willing to suffer for Christ. He was a follower of Jesus who submitted to the sovereign will of God: even until physical death. 

Acts 12:1-4. About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. He killed James the brother of John with the sword, and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. (Acts 12:1-5 ESV).

This incident probably occurred around 44 A.D. Herod the King refers to Herod Agrippa I, who was the grandson of Herod the Great. He was King of Palestine A.D. 42-44. He was the one who sought to persecute the church of Jesus Christ. He would kill James. 

It has probably been some eight years since the persecution of Christians following the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7). But the disciples were not popular in Jerusalem with either Sadducees or Pharisees. The attempts to preach the gospel to the Gentiles in Caesarea and Antioch may have stirred up anew the resentment of the Pharisees afresh (Acts 6:14). Acts 12:2. 

James is specifically identified as the brother of John. He had been called by Jesus a son of thunder along with his brother John. Jesus had predicted a bloody death for both of them (Mark 10:38ff; Matt. 20:23). 

James is the first of the apostles to die and his brother John probably the last. He is not James the Lord’s brother (Gal. 1:19). We do not know why Luke tells so little about the death of James and so much about the death of Stephen nor do we know why Herod selected him as a victim. 

The Romans historian Eusebius quotes Clement of Alexandria as saying that a Jew made accusations against James and was converted and beheaded at the same time with him. Killed with the sword refers to James’ beheading or decapitation. The Jews considered beheading a shameful death as in the case of the Baptist (Matt. 14:10). 

The service and potential martyrdom of Jesus followers is spoken of in Matthew 10:26-33, Hebrew 11:32-38, and Hebrews 12:1-2. 

Are you a James? God choses people like Peter who are natural leaders. He uses quiet people like Andrew. He also uses people like James: Brash, courageous, ambitious, zealous, sometimes unloving, insensitive and maybe even selfish. 

However, God begins to refine these traits in order to effectively use the men or women who are like James. James was a disciple who could see a goal and strive for it with all his might, even if he died in the process.

Talking Points

  • Unrestrained ambition to accomplish one’s personal and professional goals can destroy a marriage, children and a ministry. Are you sensitive to the people with whom live and you serve or does your ambition to accomplish goals and receive honor blind you as it did James? Ask God to give you the humility and sensitivity you need to counterbalance the James’ like quality of driving ambition. 
  • Are you sensitive to those with whom you disagree?  Or, are you more likely to want to call fire down from heaven as James? Jesus urged restraint and acknowledging that ultimately God is the judge and just.  Ask God to give you the restraint Jesus displayed when you disagree with someone. 
  • Are you willing to submit to the Lord’s will, even if you do not like it? Do you recognize that God uses conflict, much like the one James encountered, to make us godlier leaders? 

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