Lessons: Acts 15: 12-22a, Psalm 133, James 1: 1-12, St. Matthew 13: 54-58
Prayer of the Day:
Heavenly Father, shepherd of Your people, You raised up James the Just, brother of our Lord, to lead and guide Your Church. Grant that we may follow his example of prayer and reconciliation and be strengthened by the witness of his death; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Biography: St. James of Jerusalem (or “James the Just”) is referred to by St. Paul as “the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:19). Some modern theologians believe that James was a son of Joseph and Mary and, therefore, a biological brother of Jesus. But throughout most of the Church (historically, and even today), Paul’s term “brother” is understood as “cousin” or “kinsman,” and James is thought to be the son of a sister of Joseph or Mary who was widowed and had come to live with them. Along with other relatives of our Lord (except His mother), James did not believe in Jesus until after His resurrection (John 7:3-5; 1 Corinthians 15:7). After becoming a Christian, James was elevated to a position of leadership within the earliest Christian community. Especially following St. Peter’s departure from Jerusalem, James was recognized as the bishop of the Church in that holy city (Acts 12:17; 15:12ff.). According to the historian Josephus, James was martyred in AD 62 by being stoned to death by the Sadducees. James authored the Epistle in the New Testament that bears his name. In it, he exhorts his readers to remain steadfast in the one true faith, even in the face of suffering and temptation, and to live by faith the life that is in Christ Jesus. Such a faith, he makes clear, is a busy and active thing, which never ceases to do good, to confess the Gospel by words and actions, and to stake its life, both now and forever, in the cross. (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House)
One: “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.” Mark 6: 3. The normal Greek words for “brother” and “sister” are used. The Virgin Mary was understood early on as semper virgine, “ever virgin”. Eventually, there also arose the understanding hat Mary was immaculately conceived herself, that is, without the stain of original sin.
I understand that even Luther believed in the doctrine semper virgine, except I do not think there is any Biblical basis for this doctrine. Dr. David Scaer’s (professor at Concordia Theological Seminary/Ft. Wayne, IN) in his commentary, James: The Apostle of Faith, A Primary Christological Epistle for the Persecuted Church,(Professor at Concordia Theological Seminary, Ft. Wayne, IN)supports the understanding that James was the biological half-brother of Jesus:
“Later in the church’s history James, the Lord’s brother, would be deprived of any early prominence he enjoyed in the ministry of Jesus and the Jerusalem church by an evolving Mariology. Though the early church saw her and Joseph having their own children, she was later held to be a perpetual virgin. The real significance of the earthly family of our Lord was lost. Joseph and Mary gradually were regarded as the primordial celibate pair, and James and his full brothers and sisters had to be assigned to other parentage to safeguard their chastity. Even the thought that they were Joseph’s children by a previous marriage is no longer tolerable according to this view. James, the Lord’s brother, was relegated to the rank of cousin and was subsequently considered as one of the original 12 disciples, the son of Alphaeus (Matt. 10:2-3). The James who would later attain prominence in the early church was neither of the two disciples called James, sons of Zebedee and Alphaeus, but the James whose parents were Joseph and Mary. The conception and birth of James dispels any docetic (“seems like”) concept of the nuptial union between Joseph and Mary as an unnaturally sexless arrangement. It also assures us that Jesus was brought up in a home where natural sibling rivalries prevailed. Regardless of any competitive spirit among James and the other younger brothers, Jesus no more resented them than He resented His subjection to His parents (Luke 2:51).
The plain sense of the Scripture is that Joseph and Mary became one flesh in marriage and had there own children together. At this crucial time in our history, when marriage between a man and a woman has been so debated, debased and denigrated, the beauty of married love in a faithful husband and wife is to be lifted up, especially Joseph and Mary. People then, as indicated in Mark 6: 3, took offense at Him because He came from a family, and well-meaning churches have over the centuries, yet, the Scripture is the narrative of families from Adam and Eve, through the Patriarchs, Timothy’s family. Families in the Lord can also, by faith, be holy families, made holy by the Son of Mary, the Son of God and His Sacrifice for all the families on earth (Genesis 12: 3). Nuptial love in marriage is holy love in Christ. James wrote the following which describes marriage and the family, first without Christ and then in Him, the wisdom of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 1: 24):
16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (James 3)
Two: James was quite important in the early history of the Church as indicated in the Scripture references cited above in James’ bio. He was witness to the Resurrection. He believed. In his letter, James did not assert his family lineage but his vocation: “a servant (also translated as slave) of God and the Lord Jesus Christ”(chapter 1). James, the half-brother of Jesus, was His servant as all who are baptized. He was humble. He knew that it was only by the “implanted Word”, could a man and a woman be saved. As James wrote, the implanted Word can save your soul. Implanted into the womb of James’ mother, Mary. James would have heard the narrative of the Annunciation by the archangel Gabriel to his Mother from his Mother! The Word made flesh. The same Word implanted by the preaching and teaching of Christ carefully and faithfully for us and for our salvation.
19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1)