Do you want to know the magnificent lessons from the life of the Apostle James? If yes, you came to the right place. In this blog, learn the positive character of James and see how you can emulate them in your life. Read on!
The Apostle James is among the most prominent apostles within the circle of our Savior, Yahshua or popularly known as Jesus Christ. His life was immensely filled with important lessons that every Christian should learn today.
In this post, let us take a deeper look at the life of James, the Son of Zebedee and Salome. Let me share with you 5 Lessons from his life – lessons that will positively change your life when you put them into practice.
Who is James, the Son of Zebedee and Salome?
James is fairly a common name during the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, the names of two of the 12 original Apostles of Christ are James. Thus, it might be a little confusing for some people to identify which James is being talked about when they read the name in the Bible.
Some people call the Apostle James, the son of Zebedee, as “James the greater.” The other Apostle whose name is also James, the son of Alphaeus, is sometimes called “James the Less.” Finally, the other James is the writer of the Book of James, the half-brother of Jesus Christ.
In Greek, the equivalent name of James is Jacob, which basically means “supplanter” in Hebrew. To avoid confusion, James, the Son of Zebedee and Salome, was sometimes called as “James the elder”, since he is the elder brother of John, the beloved Apostle of Christ.
The mother of James and John, Salome, is the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus. Thus, Christ, James, and John were first cousins. James was a fisherman and were in partnership with Peter. These details in James’ life will later influence how he will respond to the calling of God.
Lesson no. 1: Don’t delay your conversion
One of the greatest lessons we learn from James is his readiness to answer the call of Jesus Christ. We read in Matthew 4:21-22:
“Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and IMMEDIATELY they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.”
James, along with his brother, was more than willing to follow Christ. He could have thought of a thousand reasons to decline the call of Jesus. James could have thought of his job, family, prior commitments, and personal ambitions in life.
But no… his response was of that of a sure man. He didn’t think twice, but instead, he IMMEDIATELY left the boat and his father to follow Christ!
James showed us that there’s no better time for us to answer God’s calling, but NOW. Once we are called by our heavenly Father, we must respond with all urgency and promptness.
Living a life dedicated to God is simply the best way to live this life!
Lesson no. 2: We must be ready to forsake anything or everything for God
In the same verse, Matthew 4:21-22, we read the response of James to the call of Christ. He left the boat, which represented his source of living. He also left his father, which represent his family.
Now, this does not mean that if you are going to follow God, you should automatically forsake your job and your family. The situation for James here was unique. Christ was preparing him for something greater than anything he hoped for. Thus, Christ wanted James to be his full-time student along with the rest of the Apostles.
It isn’t necessary that you need to leave everything behind, but when the situation calls for it, you must be willing to give 100% of your life to God.
As John Elliott once said, “He is no fool to give up something he can’t keep to gain something he can’t lose.”
Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 10:37:
“He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.”
Sometimes, the people who might prevent us from following God are our unconverted family members, friends, and acquaintances. However, Yahshua or Jesus expects us that we must love Him above all else. Our devotion to Him must be supreme that if anyone hinders us from fully following Him, we still choose to make Him our top priority.
As the Apostles emphatically said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
But why should we do that? Because the reward is GREATER than all the things we give up during this lifetime. We read in Matthew 19:29:
“And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.”
Lesson no. 3: Misplaced zeal can be fatally dangerous
The Apostle James, along with John, is called the Boanerges – also known as the Sons of Thunder.
We read in Mark 3:17 that Jesus Christ, Himself, gave them the name.
“James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”.
Now, there’s a reason why Christ named them Boanerges. While we can’t find a direct explanation of why this is the case, but a careful examination of the Scripture tells us the reason. James is naturally a zealous and energetic follower of Christ. Because of his burning passion for doing God’s work, James is among the first Apostle to be martyred (Acts 12).
We read one instance where James displayed his incredible zeal. The story is found in Luke 9 where Christ and His apostles entered a village of the Samaritans. The problem was that the villagers didn’t receive well the Jewish group.
We pick up the story in Luke 9:54:
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
We could see here James, one of the Sons of Thunder, has a burning zeal for their Master. James has a great confidence in the power of Christ. He has the faith that if Christ would only allow it, they can summon great fire from heaven and consume the whole village!
James even uses the example of Elijah, showing a familiarity with the Scripture, to justify his “noble” suggestion.
No doubt, James has the zeal and on the surface, he should be commended. However, Jesus Christ has a different perspective in this situation – something way better than what the zeal of James could produce.
We read Christ’s response (verses 55-56):
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Jesus Christ knew that the Samaritans don’t know any better. It is not yet their time to understand the truth of God.
In fact, when Christ sent out the Apostles, He told them “do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5-6).
Christ lovingly corrected and rebuked James and John. He told them that in this case, mercy should be shown. Their main goal is not to destroy people and villages but to save them. For this, James learned a vital lesson that he will never forget for the rest of his life.
Lesson no. 4: We must seek a close relationship with God and Christ
James is known to be one of the closest companions of Jesus along with John and Peter.
James was present at the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29), at the raising of Jairus’ daughter (Mark 5:37), at the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 17:1), in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37), and in other occasions mentioned in the Gospels (Luke 5:10; Mark 13:3; Luke 9:54; Matthew 20:20-23; and John 21:2).
There’s no doubt, James is a close, intimate, and cherished friend of Jesus Christ.
Just like James, we must seek a close relationship with our heavenly Father and spiritual Brother. When God calls us to His Family, we must willingly and promptly answer.
Of course, answering God’s call isn’t enough. We must continually live our lives according to God’s will and purpose.
To have a closer relationship with God, we must always pray to Him, read His Word and meditate upon it, obey His laws, and keep His commandments. Making God as our top priority will lead us nearer to Him and eventually dwell with Him.
Lesson no. 5: Greatness is found in serving
There came a time when James felt that he deserved a great recognition because of his perceived closeness to Christ. Not only that but as a first-degree cousin of Christ, he thought that he has the right to make a demand from their Master.
James, along with John, would like to seek the highest honor possible that can be bestowed upon them. They want to sit on the right and left hand of Christ in the kingdom!
They seek the help of their mother, Salome. As the auntie of Christ and a dedicated follower, James and John thought that if their mother would make the request on their behalf, they have a better chance of getting what they want.
However, the response of Christ is not what they expected. Jesus said:
“You will indeed drink My cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared by My Father” (Matthew 20:23).
Christ was telling them that He is not in the position to grant their wish.
The negative attitude of the rest of the Apostles soon was exposed when you read further down to verse 24 where it says:
“And when the ten heard it, they were GREATLY displeased with the two brothers.”
Jesus immediately took this as a golden opportunity to teach the disciples a valuable lesson. He said in verses 25-28:
But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Christ’s radical definition of greatness took the disciples off guard. They had always thought that greatness is measured by how much authority that you possess. However, Jesus showed them that greatness is measured by how much you are willing to serve!
Christians today should learn that actively seeking eminence and position just to obtain the praise of men will lead to a life of spiritual poverty.
No matter what your position or station is, you must serve God and His people. There’s no position that is so high or low enough that will prevent from serving.
Grab every opportunity to serve without expecting anything in return. Only then, you will attain true greatness!
Here are the most important lessons we can learn from the life of James, the son of Zebedee and Salome. While his life was cut short by King Herod, his life is not short of many wonderful lessons.
I hope you have learned a lot from this blog. Remember to answer God’s calling early and with urgency, be ready to forsake everything for God’s sake, use your zeal properly, seek a close relationship with God the Father and Yahshua or Jesus Christ, and finally, seek to serve rather than be served.
With this in mind, it is my sincerest desire that we don’t simply learn these lessons, but also apply them in our lives.
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