Wednesday, May 2, 2018

THEN HE APPEARED TO JAMES...


1 Corinthians 15: 7

         
Jesus probably made many resurrection appearances during the 40 days leading to his ascension that are not recorded in scripture. The gospels record some, like his Easter morning appearance to Mary Magdalene, and then the two disciples on the road to Emmaus later that same day, that Paul makes no mention of in 1 Corinthians 15: 5-7. Conversely, Paul tells of Jesus appearing to 500 followers at one time and meeting with James, his brother, neither of which are mentioned in the gospels. Something remarkable must have happened that the Lord should have appeared to James? 
         Jesus was conceived in his mother Mary's womb as a result of the miraculous work of Holy Spirit. No man was involved. She was a virgin, and Matthew 1:25 states that Joseph had no sexual relations with her until she gave birth to Jesus. The obvious inference is that after the birth of Jesus their marriage was consummated, and we know that they went on to have other children in the normal way.
         Jesus had four brothers, James, Joseph, Simeon and Judas and a number of sisters, Matthew 13:55-56. Strictly speaking, they were his half-brothers and sisters, but whether any of them were aware of their brother's supernatural conception we don't know. Jesus, like Joseph, was a carpenter, Mark 6:3, but with no mention of him during Christ's ministry, it would appear that he died while the family were still young. This would account for Jesus not setting out on his ministry until he was 30 years old. He would have needed to support his mother in providing for his younger siblings until they were old enough to do without it. 
         In John 7: 2-5, one gets the impression that, despite the miracles he performed, his brothers didn't take him seriously; that they joked and jested at his expense. For we read, 'When the Jewish Feast of the Tabernacles was near, Jesus' brothers said to him, “You ought to leave here and go to Judea, so that your disciples may see the miracles you do. No-one who wants to be a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” For even his own brothers did not believe in him.'
         Knowing how their brother was avoiding Judea because the Jews were out to take his life (verse 1), they surely never thought for a moment that he wouldgo there. However, after they had left, he went went there too, albeit secretly. It must have come as a surprise when his brothers found out.
         The family seemed to think Jesus was mad. On one occasion, Jesus entered a house and such was the crowd that had gathered that he and his disciples were unable to eat. 'When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind,” (Mark 3:20-21). 

We are left with the question – How is it that his brothers and sisters, who spent so many years in his company; played with him, ate with him, listened to his words, and observed his  actions and reactions to everything and everyone, did not believe in him? Despite him performing great miracles they still were not persuaded.
         Jesus spoke of those who, “Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing they do not hear or understand,” (Matthew 13:13). He went on to quote the words of the prophet Isaiah 6:9-10, 'You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”

         Is it possible to be near Jesus; to belong to a church/corps, read the bible, pray, attend worship, listen and listen and just not hear, look and look and still not see? Is it not possible to know all about Jesus and love what we know about him, agree with what we hear, and yet still not knowhim? I'm sure that the brothers and sisters of Jesus thought they knew Jesus better than anyone. They certainly should have done, having known him much longer than anyone else. But they didn't. 
         Following his death and resurrection we know that Jesus only revealed himself to his followers, yet Paul tells us that he appeared to James. Also, in Acts 1:14 we read how, following his ascension into heaven, his brothers were among the believers who joined constantly in prayer together. No doubt they always loved their big brother even if they didn't believe in him. Something must have happened to bring them into a belief. Surely, even though we are not told, it must have been the cross, the power of the cross? We're told in Luke 23:49 how, as he died, 'all those who knew him..…stood at a distance watching these things.' 
         Surely, no man, let alone someone falsely accused and tortured and executed in such a terrible manner, had ever poured out such love from the midst of his agony? To the thief hanging next to him, to his heart-broken mother, and to those who had perpetrated such a wicked horrific act, love poured out from him as readily as did his blood. The centurion in charge would have been used to men cursing, abusing and railing against those who nailed them there or who came to watch. Watching and listening to Jesus affected him profoundly, Luke 23:47. Never had such love poured out from such agony. Surely, it was at the cross that the truth of who Jesus was, dawned on his brothers?
         The Gospel of the Hebrews contained a curious legend that said that James made a vow to neither eat or drink till he had seen Jesus risen from the dead, and that Jesus appeared to him saying, “My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”         Whether that story is true or not, James must have had many regrets and needed that personal encounter with Jesus to know himself forgiven and accepted.
         James went on to be a great leader in the Jerusalem church, (Galatians 1:19, 2:7, Acts 15:13), not because of his blood relationship to Jesus, but because he had met the risen Saviour and surrendered his life to him.

Howard Webber
SA Officer (Pastor)
Bournemouth UK

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