James and John, the sons of Zebedee—that’s how we are most often introduced to James and his brother. With James being first, he is likely the older brother.
Also likely is the prominence of their father, Zebedee. He had a lucrative fishing business that afforded him hired servants to help. Perhaps Zebedee had an aggressive temperament that rubbed off on his sons for Jesus nicknamed them “Boanerges,” sons of thunder.
When Jesus was ready to go to Jerusalem for the last time, he planned to go the unconventional route through Samaria. Jesus asked James to go ahead and make arrangements for them to stay overnight as they traveled.
James and John traveled to one town to inquire, but the leaders there refused to help. James angrily reported back to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven?” Luke 9:54
Jesus had never shown anything but goodwill to the Samaritans. He healed the Samaritan leper and commended his gratefulness. He helped the Samaritan woman at the well to receive the water of life and he made a Samaritan the hero of one of his best known parables.
No, calling down fire on this community wouldn’t do.
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. Luke 9:56
Thunderous or not, the brothers, along with Peter, were a part of the inner circle that were singled out at times to go with Jesus. They were taken into the house of Jairus when Jesus raised his daughter to life. Jesus took them up the mountain where he was transfigured. The inner circle went farther into the Garden of Gethsemane with him before the arrest.
The only other time we hear James voice is when he and John make a request of Jesus.
“Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.”
Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking. Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with baptism I am baptized with?”
“We can.” Mark 10:37-39
Jesus tells them that they will indeed go through much, but it is not for him to grant who will sit beside him. When this stirs up resentment with the other disciples, Jesus realizes he must once again share with all twelve the need to have a servant heart rather than to lord it over others.
Being a fiery disciple can mean you are passionate and enthusiastic, but taken to the extreme, one can become mean, hot-headed, and self-centered.
Evidently, James channeled that fire to be an effective disciple. Fourteen years after Jesus death, Herod Agrippa was in control.
He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. Acts 12:2
James was the first apostle to have a martyr’s death and the only one of the twelve whose death is recorded in Scripture. “With the sword” means he was beheaded.
~ Joyce ~