I’m James! Many of you may know me as the brother of Jesus and the writer of the book of James in the Bible. I’m also one of the leaders at the Jerusalem Church. As I sit here listening to the cries of the lambs being taken to the temple for sacrifices, I’m reminded of my cousin’s (John the Baptist) words about Jesus as the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”.
People often ask me what it was like growing up with Jesus as my older brother. I suppose it was as ‘normal’ as it gets! We grew up in the city of Nazareth and our childhood was quite lively. When we were not in school, we would either be in our father’s carpentry shop or in the play area behind our house. One of our favorite games used to be ‘3 sticks’ and both Jesus and I were pretty good at it. Ah, I remember with delight, celebrating many victories together, as if it were the national championship. Seems quite silly now!
As Jesus was the oldest child, there was the usual pressure on him to ‘set the example’ and for us (siblings) to follow it. I’m sure some of you can relate to this! I have to say though, that he set a pretty high standard for us to follow. His words and actions always reflected his love and care for us. As far as mom and dad were concerned, Jesus could do no wrong. The phrase I heard so often from them was ‘become more like Jesus’ and ‘what would Jesus do’. These statements burned me up with jealousy and anger then, but I recall Jesus would somehow sense this and would come and give me a tight hug and my ill-feelings would just melt away. It’s almost as if he knew how to read my mind and my feelings!
I remember so often, waking up to the sound of the hammering from my father’s workshop. He ran a carpentry shop and was among the well-known craftsmen in our city. As kids, we spend a lot of our summer in the shop, learning and trying to pick up some of the skills. Jesus was the most skilled among us and he would constantly impress my father with his skills. I was dazed at how he did it, it’s almost like he was born with the skill to create things!
We were blessed with loving parents who loved God. We were taught to put God first and obey all the commandments of God. I can’t recall a day when we missed our prayers or our trips to the synagogue. I enjoyed going to the temple with Jesus, mostly because he was so well-versed with the scriptures and often engaged the teachers in debates. While these were fun to watch, I always wondered how he gained so much wisdom and knowledge of the Holy Scriptures. He spoke with such authority, it’s almost as though He wrote it!
I fondly recall the cold winter nights, when our family would gather around a fire and our father and mother would share stories of their adventures. Mother told us the story of our aunt Elizabeth and the unusual circumstances that led to the birth of our cousin, John. Father loved to tell the story of their trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and the birth of Jesus in a manger. They even had strange visitations from rich wise men with expensive gifts and shepherds following a star. How bizarre! It was almost as though it was all planned in Heaven to celebrate the birth of a king!
It was one such night, that Jesus shared with us that he was setting off from home to the desert to fast and pray over the calling in his life. We always knew there was something distinct about Him and we celebrated that night for what God was about to do through him!
The next time I met with Jesus was at a friend’s wedding at Cana. I had heard of his baptism at the hands of our cousin John and the divine declaration of God over him. There was something different about him now. He had transformed from being just a boy from Nazareth and my older brother to being a great Rabbi (Teacher). Many traveled from far to hear Him speak. His power was revealed that night when He turned plain water to the finest wine I have ever tasted in my life! How could this be? Only God had the power to create and transform things. Jesus was no longer just my older brother, He was Jesus Christ, the Messiah!
The lame, blind, paralyzed, even the dead – they all found refuge, healing, and resurrection at the hands of Jesus. A paralytic man was let down from the rooftop of a house that Jesus was preaching in, and Jesus healed him. He simply stood up and walked! Jesus called out Lazarus from his tomb, and a man who was dead for days, came out wrapped in grave clothes. Jesus’ disciples told me of the time He spoke to the storm and the wind died down and there was complete calm. None could comprehend the power He carried. Jesus was not just the Messiah, He was Jesus Christ, the creator, healer, and life-giver!
When Jesus told us that He was going to suffer, be rejected and killed, we never thought it would become reality. How could someone so powerful be killed? Who would want to reject or make Him suffer? He has done nothing but good! Then came the dreaded day when I heard that He was arrested. Judas, one of his own ‘chosen’ disciples ratted Him out. I have never seen a crowd scream louder demanding the crucifixion of one man. Even the Roman ruler said that he found no guilt in Jesus, yet they kept demanding His death. Weren’t these the same people who followed Him to listen to His teachings? Weren’t these the same people who ate of the bread and fish He blessed? Weren’t these the same people who ran to Jesus for healing?
Painfully, I recollect the last few hours of His life. I watched helplessly as nails were hammered into His hands and feet. As Jesus hung from the cross in all that pain, He cried out ‘My God My God, why have You forsaken me?’ – even God the Father had forsaken him. Almost instantaneously, I recalled the words of Prophet Isaiah that I had learned by heart as a child– “But He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes, we are healed.” I was witness to this ultimate sacrifice, the Lamb of God, slain for the forgiveness and redemption of the world! Jesus rose from the dead, just as He promised – the greatest miracle ever witnessed by man!
Fast forward to today, the Church has been established and the good news of this salvation through Christ is being preached by His disciples to many nations. While many are still denying this great truth, I am overjoyed to see so many put their faith in Christ. The words ‘be more like Jesus’ and ‘what would Jesus do’ has a totally different meaning now. I just finished writing a book – The book of James – to help believers in their practical faith walk, as they embark on this journey with Christ. If you haven’t read it already, please do!
I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane as much as I did. Good news – Jesus is alive! Believe in Him and be saved!
May God bless you! Shalom!
Rom 10:9-10 (NLT) – If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.
[Author of this article – Stephen Cherian]