James, a Fiery Disciple

Searching His Word
 Seeking His Heart

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

Simple alternative.

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 ~




Peter – Mountaintop Experience



Have you ever been to summer camp or a fall retreat? You may have come back feeling like you had a “mountaintop experience”—not because there were mountains all around, but because your mind, your heart, or your spirit was lifted from the mundane to a new level of spiritual experience.

Peter sure could use a lift after Jesus had to set him back just days before. (See last week’s post, “Peter – One Step Back”)

Jesus is still determined to work with Peter, because He knows Peter’s potential. Isn’t that a comforting thought for when we feel down on ourselves? God knows your potential.

Jesus is going up the mountain, probably Mt. Hermon, to pray. He decides to take his inner circle with him—Peter, James, and John: Peter, who will eventually be the leader of the disciples after the resurrection, James, who will be the first to be martyred, and John who will endure to old age and will record the Revelation of Jesus.

Little do they know what is in store this day.

Once up the mountain, Jesus’ appearance is totally transformed or transfigured as the Bible says.

His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Matthew 17:2

(Years later, John will see this again in his vision of Jesus’ with his resurrected body.) 

As if that weren’t earth shaking enough…

Just then, there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Matthew 12:3

Gasp! Our mouths would be hanging open with awe at this point. But our man, Peter, feels he must jump in to do something! Something to honor the lawgiver, prophet, and Messiah. He says,

“Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” Matthew 17:4

We can’t imagine this experience could be anymore mountaintop, but here it comes.

While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, 

“This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” Matthew 17:5

Have you heard that before? At Jesus’ baptism? Yes, it is God himself! Peter is urged to listen, not talk.

They fall on their faces, terrified. Jesus comes and touches them.

“Get up,” he says. “Don’t be afraid.” When they look up, they see no one but Jesus.” Matthew 17:7

I wonder how often, in the next few years, they each thought about this scene. It certainly had to have made a lasting impression on them, a remembrance to hold in their minds, a sense of God’s physical presence with them.

Think back about your mountaintop memories, a time when God became very real to you. A time when he rescued you, encouraged you, brought you through a scary time, led you beyond belief, stirred in your heart. Remember, praise His name, and give thanks on this Thanksgiving Day!

~ Joyce ~