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Rebels Lane

Adventures of the Mind

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Who was James?

In our church literature and in talks so little is said about James, the Lord's brother, even though of this great disciple and apostle of Jesus Christ there are reliable writings. I therefore quote the following from Eusebius:

 

'After Paul had been sent to Rome by Festus, the Jews, being frustrated in their hope of entrapping him by the snares which they had laid for him, turned against James, the brother of the Lord, to whom the Episcopal seat at Jerusalem bad been entrusted by the apostles. (ie he was the Bishop of Jerusalem). The following daring measures were undertaken by them against him. Leading him into their midst they demanded of him that he should renounce faith in Christ in the presence of all the people. But, contrary to the opinion of all, with a clear voice, and with greater boldness than they had anticipated, he spoke out before the whole multitude and confessed that our Saviour and Lord Jesus is the Son of God. But they were unable to bear longer the testimony of the man who, on account of the excellence of ascetic virtue and of piety which he exhibited in his life, was esteemed by all as the most just of men, and consequently they slew him. Opportunity for this deed of violence was furnished by the prevailing anarchy, which was caused by the fact that Festus had died just at this time in Judea, and that the province was thus without a governor and head.'

To further substantiate this history of James, Eusebius quotes from the writings of an earlier authority:

'Hegesippus, who lived immediately after the apostles, gives the most accurate account regarding James and his death. In the fifth book of his Memoirs he writes as follows:

"James, the brother of the Lord, succeeded to the government of the Church in conjunction with the apostles. He has been called the Just by all from the time of our Saviour to the present day; for there were many that bore the name of James. He was holy from his mother's womb; and he drank no wine nor strong drink, nor did he eat flesh. No razor came upon his head; he did not anoint himself with oil, and he did not use the bath. He alone was permitted to enter into the holy place; for he wore not woollen but linen garments. And he was in the habit of entering alone into the temple, and was frequently found upon his knees begging forgiveness for the people, so that his knees became hard like those of a camel, in consequence of his constantly bending them in his worship of God, and asking forgiveness for the people.

Because of his exceeding great justice he was called the Just, and Oblias, which signifies in Greek, Bulwark of the People' and 'Justice,' in accordance with what the prophets declare concerning him.

Now some of the seven sects, which existed among the people and which have been mentioned by me in the Memoirs, asked him,

'What is the gate of Jesus?' and he replied that 'he was the Saviour.'

On account of these words some believed that Jesus is the Christ. But the sects mentioned above did not believe either in a resurrection or in one's coming to give to every man according to his works. But as many as believed did so on account of James. Therefore when many, even of the rulers believed, there was a commotion among the Jews and Scribes and Pharisees who said that there was danger that the whole people would be looking for Jesus as the Christ.

Coming therefore in a body to James they said,

'We entreat thee, restrain the people; for they are gone astray in regard to Jesus, as if he were the Christ. We entreat thee to persuade all that have come to the feast of the Passover concerning Jesus; for we all have confidence in thee. For we bear thee witness, as do all the people, that thou art just, and dost not respect persons. Now therefore persuade the multitude not to be led astray concerning Jesus for the whole people, and all of us also, have confidence in thee. Stand therefore upon the pinnacle of the temple, that from that high position thou mayest be clearly seen, and that thy words may be readily heard by all the people. For all the tribes, with the Gentiles also, are come together on account of the Passover.'

The aforesaid Scribes and Pharisees therefore placed James upon the pinnacle of the temple, and cried out to him and said:

'Thou just one, in whom we ought all to have confidence, forasmuch as the people are led astray after Jesus, the crucified one, declare to us, what is the gate of Jesus.'

And he answered with a loud voice,'

Why do ye ask me concerning Jesus, the Son of Man? He himself sitteth in heaven at the right hand of the great Power and is about to come in the clouds of heaven.'

At this many were now fully convinced and gloried in the testimony and said,

'Hosanna to the Son of David,'

But these same Scribes and Pharisees said again to one another,

'We have done badly in supplying such testimony to Jesus so let us go up and throw him down, in order that they may be afraid to believe him. And they cried out, saying,

'Oh! oh! the just man is in error.'

And they fulfilled the Scripture written in Isaiah,

'Let us take away the just man, because he is troublesome to us: therefore they shall eat the fruit of their doings.'

So they went up and threw down the just man, and said to each other,

'Let us stone James the Just.'

And they began to stone him, for he was not killed by the fall; but he turned and knelt down and said,

'I entreat thee, Lord God our Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.'

And while they were thus stoning him one of the priests of the sons of Rechab, the son of the Rechabites, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet, cried out, saying,

'Cease, what do ye? The just one prayeth for you'

But one of them, who was a fuller, took the club with which he beat out clothes and struck the just man on the head. And thus he suffered martyrdom and they buried him on the spot, by the temple, and his monument still remains by the temple. He became a true witness, both to Jews and Greeks, that Jesus is the Christ.

These things are related at length by Hegesippus, who is in agreement with Clement.

Now James was so admirable a man and so celebrated among all for his justice, that the more sensible even of the Jews were of the opinion that this was the cause of the siege of Jerusalem, which happened to them immediately after his martyrdom for no other reason than their daring act against him. Josephus too has not hesitated to testify this in his writings, where he says,

'These things happened to the Jews to avenge James the Just, who was a brother of Jesus, that is called the Christ. For the Jews slew him, although he was a most just man.''

(Eusebius of Caesarea (2012-08-20). History of the Church Kindle Edition.)

 

To finish with, just how appropriate are these words from his 4th chapter: (J B Phillips translation)

 

'But about the feuds and struggles that exist among you - where do you suppose they come from? Can't you see that they arise from conflicting passions within yourselves? You crave for something and don't get it, you are jealous and envious of what others have got and you don't possess it yourselves. Consequently in your exasperated frustration you struggle and fight with one another. You don't get what you want because you don't ask God for it. And when you do ask he doesn't give it to you, for you ask in quite the wrong spirit - you only want to satisfy your own desires.

You are like unfaithful wives, flirting with the glamour of this world, and never realising that to be the world's lover means becoming the enemy of God! Anyone who deliberately chooses to love the world is thereby making himself God's enemy. Do you think what the scriptures have to say about this is a mere formality? Or do you imagine that this spirit of passionate jealousy is the Spirit he has caused to live in us? No, he gives us grace potent enough to meet this and every other evil spirit, if we are humble enough to receive it. That is why he says: 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'

Be humble then before God,  resist the devil, and you'll find he'll run away from you.

Come close to God and he will come close to you. Realise that you have sinned and get your hands clean again. Realise that you have been disloyal and get your hearts made true once more. As you come close to God you should be deeply sorry, you should be grieved, you should even be in tears. Your laughter will have to become mourning, your high spirits will have to become heartfelt dejection. You will have to feel very small in the sight of God before he will set you on your feet once more.'