The Book of James, Part 3:
James in the Family of Jesus


Last lesson, we concluded that the book of James was written by James, the brother of Jesus.  If this James was the brother of Jesus, then why didn't he identify himself that way?

(We're not told, but what are your thoughts?)

The final answer to this question is simply that we don't know.  But I think there is a quality we can see here in James that we can learn and do well to imitate: humility.

Was he a Disciple?

The two Disciples by the name of James were James, the son of Alphaeus, and James the son of Zebedee.  Neither was the son of Joseph and Mary.  James the brother of Jesus was not one of the Disciples.

Today -- James in the Family of Jesus:

Instead of describing himself as a brother of Jesus, how does James describe himself?

As a servant.  That's a pretty Christ-like response, isn't it?

In fact, that's exactly how Jesus described Himself on many occasions?

James' motivation was very different than what ours tends to be.  Instead of exalting himself, he humbles himself.  Instead of drawing attention to himself, he turns attention to Jesus.

Let's look at James, the brother of Jesus as he appears in the New Testament.  There is a surprising amount of information about Jesus' family and James in particular.

Let's see ... What can we learn about Jesus' family and James in these passages?

This first passage is after Jesus and the Disciples were walking through a grain field on the Sabbath and since they were hungry, they picked some grain and ate it.   Of course the Pharisees, wanting to get them for something, accused them of breaking the Sabbath.

Then Jesus healed a demon possessed man who was deaf and blind, and the man could then see and hear.  Of course this also upset the Pharisees and they accused him of being from Satan.

Them some of the people asked him for a sign.  Matthew tells us:

Then, we finally get to the verses I want to look at. What do you learn from this Scripture?

Jesus is careful not to place a special distinction on his "biological" family.  He wanted people to understand that He was equally available to anyone who chose to be His disciple.  You have to wonder how His family thought about these words of Jesus.

Did they understand what He was saying?

Probably not.

Were they hurt or resentful?


We looked at the next Scripture earlier in this study.   It is after Jesus started preaching and performing miracles.   He had just returned to Nazareth.

See what you can glean from this Scripture?

We used this Scripture to support that Jesus had at least four brothers and at least two sisters.

But what else can we discover?

Notice that there is no mention of Mary's husband, Joseph.  Apparently, he died at some point before Jesus began His earthly ministry.

Also notice that James' name is mentioned first in the list of Jesus' brothers.  This probably means that, after Jesus, He was the next oldest child in the family.

In the book of John, Jesus is about to teach in the Temple during the Jewish Feast of the Booths.

Jesus then taught in the Temple and upset a lot of folks by what he said.  Then the Pharisees sent people to arrest him.   He said to them: This led to verse 35.

What new can we pick up from this Scripture?

Jesus' brothers did not initially accept Jesus' claim of being the Messiah.  In fact, in Mark 3:21, we're told that his own family thought that Jesus was "out of His mind"!

This is when he had started his ministry and first returned to Nazareth and started teaching there.   The reference in the verse to His own people appears to refer to his family.

Immediately after Jesus selected the Twelve Disciples, Mark tells us they came to Jesus'  home and there was such a crowd around them that they could not even eat.  At that point Mark tells us:

This must have been painful for Jesus but it can be comforting to us.  For those of us who have family members who are not believers, this passage reminds us that Jesus knows what this is like.

In First Corinthians, Paul was reiterating to them the Gospel he had taught to them. What do you learn from this Scripture?

This passage is a list of some of the appearances of Jesus to people after His resurrection.  Notice that verse seven mentions that Jesus appeared especially to James, one on one.

What does this suggest to you?

Maybe it means that Jesus was especially close, relationally, to James (the brother closest to His age).  Maybe Jesus wanted to talk to James about the important role James must play in the expansion of God's kingdom.

After the Ascension of Jesus from the Mount of Olives, when they returned to the upper room, we are told:

What do you learn from this Scripture?

Somewhere along the line, the brothers of Jesus became believers, didn't they?  They no longer thought that Jesus was out of His mind.  Now they truly believed that He was the Son of God and Savior of the world.  We aren't told when this happened.  But here we see them praying with the apostles and other believers and waiting for the coming of the Spirit as Jesus had commanded them all (Acts 1:4). When Paul was telling the Corinthians about their freedom as Christians, he told them that any meat was OK to eat, but it still might not be good to eat it.   In First Corinthians 8:8 he says: And then in 8:13 he says Then he continues to explain the freedom that he has. See what do you learn from this Scripture: Another frequent misconception about the Apostles and others is that they were all single.  But notice that Paul points out that the Apostles, the Lord's brothers (which would include James) and even Peter (Cephas) were all married, or at least could be!  He also says that he (Paul) and Barnabas have this right.  Jesus never prohibited marriage for those who were devoted to serving Him.

The last reference to James in the Bible is found in the book of Jude.

See what do you learn from this Scripture.

Jude identifies himself as James' brother.  If you look back at the list of Jesus' brothers in Matthew 13:54-56, you'll see one is named "Judas".  Most likely, this Judas is the same person as Jude.  Jude, following the example of his older brother, does not identify himself as a brother of the Lord.

Homework for the next lesson: -

  1. When do you think the book of James was written?   Why do you think that?   What difference does the date it was written make?
  2. Who is the audience to whom James is writing?   What difference does that make?
  3. What purpose did James have in writing it?