We are addressing the question, “Why are you a Christian?” The real reason most of us are Christians is that we believe Christianity is true. Now saying that and backing it up are two different things. In a culture where truth has become subjective (“Your Truth”), we have to be able to give some evidence that our claim is true. That’s where the challenge by J. Warner Wallace comes in. He has written a variety of books that encourage us compile our own case for faith. I’ve been showing you how I would attempt to compile the case that Christianity is true. My desire is that we all come out of the experience knowing WHY we believe and being able to articulate that to others. We will be able to decisively proclaim that we are Christians because Christianity is true. So, let’s take a look at James’ perspective on Jesus.
One More Family Member
In a typical investigation, it’s common to begin with the people who know the suspect the best, family and friends. And our investigation of family members will wind up this week with Jesus’ brother, James. We have already looked as His parents and his relative John the Baptist. If you need to go back to those notes, you can do so by clicking on these links.
We first meet James, indirectly, in the gospels of Matthew and John. In identifying Jesus as locally known, the people of Nazareth say, in Matthew 13:55, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary? Aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas?” Here James is identified as one of Jesus’ brothers. And we know from John 7:5 that his brothers did not believe that he was the Messiah. His brothers actually get sarcastic with him and taunt him to attend a feast in order to make himself public. They say to Jesus, “If You are doing these things (works), show Yourself to the world.” And then the gospel writer comments, “For not even His brothers believed in Him.”
Later we learn that James has a change of heart sometime after Jesus’ death and resurrection. We find this tidbit in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. Paul is describing his very dramatic encounter with the resurrected Jesus. After that encounter, Paul withdraws for three years to study the scripture. At the end of this time frame, Paul stays with Cephas (a.k.a. Peter) for 15 days and states, “But I did not see another one of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother (Galatians 1:19).” By the time Paul meets him, James has become accepted as an apostle. He is clearly a believer. Later in Galatians 2:9, Paul will identify James as a pillar of the church. This change of heart is why we are interested in James’ perspective on Jesus.
What James Recorded About His Brother
His dramatic transformation is what makes Jame’s perspective on Jesus so compelling. When a skeptic reverses his opinion, an investigator takes notice. So what exactly did James say about his brother after this reversal? It is widely accepted that James the brother of Jesus wrote the book of James in the New Testament (as early as AD 45). In the book of James we get a glimpse of what James thought of his brother. Twice he refers to his brother as “the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1 and 2:1).” He says that he is a bond-servant of Jesus and calls Jesus glorious. He also proclaims the return of the Lord in James 5:7-8.
It’s also interesting that non-biblical sources confirm James’ family ties to Jesus and provide character references for James. Flavius Josephus records the stoning of James, “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ” in AD 62 by an opportunistic newly appointed High Priest named Ananus. Ananus brought false accusations against James and would later be removed from office for this action because the locals realized the accusations were not justified. Hegesippus also references the character of James “brother of the Lord” when he calls him James the Just. Hegesippus says James had the knees of camels due to his habit of prayer. Certainly we see from these references that James was identified as the brother of Jesus in multiple non-biblical sources. These sources also provide character confirmation that James is a reliable witness. James’ perspective on Jesus can be trusted.
A Change of Heart
What is so interesting about James’ story is this change of heart. Although he knew Jesus very well, as his own brother, he did not believe him until after his death and resurrection. But when he finally does realize that Jesus is the Messiah, he is quickly accepted and promoted within the early church. James would eventually go on to be martyred for his beliefs at the hands of Ananus, a rigid Sadducee, who accused him of breaking the law. Although we know little else about James the brother of Jesus, what we do know is that his life was changed radically by his brother’s death and resurrection. Though a skeptic at first, he was later willing to die for his belief. His change of heart is what makes James a most interesting witness in our line-up!
The Building Evidence
The Bible very methodically and specifically makes a strong case for us that Christianity is true. And the case is further supported by other historical documents. As we continue to see what eyewitnesses say, our case will grow stronger. I won’t be-labor this much longer, we will wrap up our investigation in the next few weeks. Before we do, let’s look at two more categories of eyewitnesses, Jesus’ friends and Jesus’ enemies. After that we will close our case.
I have more ideas!
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