Do you have a brother or sister? What is your relationship with them like, Is it a good one or a bit difficult? I have an older brother and we do get on well now … but when growing up I was always ‘Robin’ to his ‘Batman’.
James, who wrote the book of the same name, was Jesus’ brother (or at least half brother). I mean, imagine growing up with Jesus (though I actually I suspect it was far less remarkable than our imaginations might suggest)! There was a point in the gospels where James came with his other brothers and his mum to take Jesus home with them because they were unhappy and uncomfortable with what he was saying. Now here we find James, probably within 15 years of Jesus’ death writing this book, collecting a series of thoughts together to encourage new followers to live out their faith in Jesus. At this point James had a role as head of the growing church in Jerusalem.
So, something had happened for James to move from seeing Jesus merely as his elder brother, to seeing him as the son of God! We do know that it says in 1 Cor 15, he had his own personal face to face with Jesus after his resurrection. There must have been a moment where it all suddenly made sense, inspiring him to follow Jesus and to encourage others to do the same. As head of the new church, James sees his job in this book to help people to see that this new found faith expresses itself not only in word but in action. That’s what the passage we first is look at is about, amongst other things.
In AD62 James was killed by the Roman authorities in a sustained act of persecution of Christians, I suspect they thought they were killing off a bloodline of a movement that was gaining popularity. That didn’t work, we are still here 2000 years and counting. But there will still remain those who need to both be encouraged and challenged by James’ message towards a living faith that is practiced in both word and deed, to coin a marketing campaign of the early ‘noughties’ — that does ‘exactly what it says on the tin’.