Posts Tagged ‘who are we doing this for?’

Matthew 10:1-4
These Guys Changed the World? Part 9 (James, the son of Alphaeus)

James (son of Alphaeus) One of the 12 Apostles. He is named in the list of Apostles in Matthew 10:1-3, Mark 3:14-19, Luke 6:13-16, and Acts 1:13. His mother’s name was Mary and she was one of the women who went to the tomb of Jesus, and found that it had been opened. James was also called “James the Less” and “James the Younger.” Because the Apostle Matthew also is the son of a man named Alphaeus, it has been thought that he and James were brothers. But the two were never referred to as brothers, whereas Peter and Andrew, and James (the other disciple named James) and John, were consistently referred to as being brothers. Nothing else is known about James except he was among those who went to the upper room to pray after the Ascension of Jesus. James was a native of Capernaum (located on the northwestern shores of the Sea of Galilee in Israel.) It is believed that he was from the Jewish tribe of Levi, however, this is not certain. Not much is known about the latter ministry of this apostle, however, Aziz S. Atiya, in his History of Eastern Christianity says,” The seeds of Syrian Christianity had been sown in Jerusalem during the Apostolic age and the contention has been made that the first bishop of the Syrian church was none other than St. James of the Twelve Apostles, identified as ‘St. James the Less’.” It has also been said that James (son of Alphaeus) was stoned in Jerusalem for preaching Christ. However, these facts are not known with certainty.

James was hand-picked by Jesus Christ to be a disciple. He was present with the 11 apostles in the upper room of Jerusalem after Christ ascended to heaven. He may have been the first disciple to see the risen Savior. Although his accomplishments remain unknown to us today, James may simply have been overshadowed by the more prominent apostles. Even still, being named among the twelve was no small achievement. However, we know so little of the post-Pentecost life of James the Younger.

Let us visit that question again as we have in each of the blogs in this series on Jesus’ disciples. What can we learn from a man we know so little about, if anything?

I admit that starting this blog I felt as though I could not answer this question. However, when you least expect it, the Holy Spirit can give inspiration when it is needed most. The guidance He gave me was this. There are several things that we can learn from James, Son of Alphaeus, or James, the Younger. First, that he was among the named disciples of Jesus Christ means that Jesus saw something in him that was important to the church’s future. The second thing we learn is that just because James the Younger was not as famous as some of the other disciples, it does not mean that his sacrifices were no less significant. Finally, I think we learn from James the Younger that the church needs those unsung heroes of the faith like James the Younger.

He was named as a disciple of Jesus Christ in every list in the gospels. He was part of the twelve. That means he was there. He was part of the traveling band of Jesus in whom Jesus invested three years of intense discipleship. He is not as popular as Peter, or John or Matthew. But he was there. It means that Jesus hand picked him to be a part of the group that Jesus would teach and demonstrate and lead so that they would be the ones that would spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. He was there at the Sermon on the Mount. He was there when Jesus cleansed the Temple. He was there when Peter declared with full belief that Jesus was the Son of the living God, the Messiah. He was there in the upper room before and after the crucifixion. He was there when he and all the other disciples fled and abandoned Jesus in the Garden. He was in the upper room fearing for his life during the days between the crucifixion and the resurrection. He was there when Jesus appeared to them after He arose from the dead. He was there when He saw that Jesus was no ghost but a real man resurrected from the dead who ate food with he and the other disciples. He was among those who had shame for abandoning Jesus. He was among those that felt complete and utter joy at the resurrected Christ. It is commonly accepted that all of the disciples accept John were killed while in the prime of their lives and while spreading the gospel message. James the Younger is commonly accepted to have received this same fate. Just because we do not know him as well as Peter, just because he did not “get the press” that other disciples got does not mean that Jesus invested in him any less. He was a disciple. Jesus picked him. Each of us is picked by Jesus to be a disciple. We may not have a place of prominence in the kingdom always but we are part of the team. We may not be the star quarterback but we are on the team. Nothing is a throwaway with Jesus. He didn’t say “Oh, James the Younger, I didn’t see you standing there. Hey, why don’t you come along too.” No, Jesus picked him for a specific purpose. Just as a star quarterback is nothing without his offensive line, so too it is within the body of Christ. We need everyone on the team, not just the ones for the flashy, public positions. Each of us has something that Christ sees in us that is important for the future advancement of his kingdom through the church.

Just because we don’t know much about James the Younger, it does not mean that he sacrificed any less than the other disciples. We might assume that maybe he was a lukewarm follower of Christ. We might assume that because we hear nothing much of him after Pentecost maybe he just gave up and when back home and started his pre-ministry life over again. The fact that we have early church historians mentioned that James the Younger died preaching the gospel tells me that he made the same sacrifices as the more popular apostles. He carried the message. He carried on the work. It kind of reminds you of a rural country United Methodist preacher serving in quiet anonymity while there are some of these new wave of megachurches that are sweeping the nation that are regional or national celebrities. Both are serving the Lord and expanding the kingdom. One does it in a small, rural farm town whereas another does it on a bigger stage. Is the small town United Methodist Church preacher any less effective for the kingdom than the big-time megachurch preacher? Who measures the effectiveness we have for the kingdom of God. Each one of us as pastors, as regular church members, are called to spread the gospel. We are all called to sacrifice for the message of Jesus Christ. We are all called to serve the Lord. Just because we don’t get the glitzy job in the kingdom does not mean we invest ourselves any less in it. In James the Younger, we see maybe someone who was less charismatic as other disciples but one who toiled for the kingdom nonetheless. He gave it all just like the others. Let us be like James and not look at whether we are being made popular by our acts of service and the decision maker as to whether we do them. We do them because it is about the kingdom. The volunteer at church that changes the air filters on the HVAC units at the church is key to the kingdom just as is the senior pastor. Without changing filters, the electricity bill goes up and there are more repairs needed and even early replacement of the whole system. That means less money for ministry that really matters. We all preach in our own way for the kingdom. We all make sacrifices for the expansion of the kingdom. Just because no one else sees you do does not mean it is any less important. Who are we doing it for any way?

Finally, in James the Younger, we see an unsung hero of the faith. He toiled the ground for Jesus Christ in relative obscurity. One may get more press and has to worry about his ego getting in the way of shepherding a large flock and the other may sometimes see his self as toiling away with no one noticing and he must not allow jealousy to creep into his thinking. We all have jobs to do and God will assign us where we go. It is not up to us to decide whether the church we are called to lead is to our liking or not. It is not up to us as whether God calls us to planted in the perfect church that matches our sweet spot. It is not up to us whether we stay on the staff of a large church or he calls us to save an old and dying church or to plant a brand new church from scratch. We do not choose where God sends us and how much press we get when we get there. We are simply to serve Him where He sends us. We are to fight Satan whether we are seen doing it or not. We work for the audience of One. We sacrifice for Him not for others. We toil for Him not for others. We lay down our life for Him not for others. We do all this because we love our Lord and it does not matter whether you are on television or not for having done so. We need those that love on other people not because they want to get their name in the paper. They help out a fellow man because it’s the right thing to do not to achieve some Man of the Year award. They invest in other people so that they can grow into mature Christ followers not because they want to be seen as some great mentor at the church. We need the guys, and gals, who simply love the Lord and don’t care about the press they get. We need the guys and gals that would rather have no press at all so that they can continue doing the work of the Lord without it becoming about them. This is what I see in James the Younger. A foot soldier in the battle fully committed to the victory and not about whether he was the one who plants the victory flag on the conquered soil. We need churches full of team players who want to win the championship and do not care who gets glory for it. We need churches that celebrate the victories of others because it means the church is making a dent in a dark world instead of talking behind their back because it was not you in the spotlight. James the Younger just walked the path that Jesus gave him and he was thankful to be a part of the Jesus team. He did the tasks that fell to him. He did them to the glory of God. He did not care if there was a church named after him or a book of the Bible named after him. He just wanted to see people come to know the saving grace of God as expressed through His Son Jesus Christ. That’s what mattered to him. Everything else, including fame, was secondary.

May we be a church full of James the Youngers. Amen and Amen.