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Apostle James - First Apostle to Die for Jesus

Profile of the Apostle James, Brother of John

By

Apostle James

The Apostle James by Rembrandt, 1661.

Photo: Public Domain

The apostle James was honored with a favored position by Jesus Christ, as one of three men in his inner circle. The others were James' brother John and Simon Peter.

When Jesus called the brothers, James and John were fishermen with their father Zebedee on the Sea of Galilee. They immediately left their father and their business to follow the young rabbi. James was probably the older of the two brothers because he is always mentioned first.

Three times James, John, and Peter were invited by Jesus to witness events no one else saw: the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37-47), the transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-3), and Jesus' agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-37).

But James was not above making mistakes. When a Samaritan village rejected Jesus, he and John wanted to call down fire from heaven upon the place. This earned them the nickname "Boanerges," or "sons of thunder." The mother of James and John also overstepped her bounds, asking Jesus to grant her sons special positions in his kingdom.

James' zeal for Jesus resulted in his being the first of the 12 apostles to be martyred. He was killed with the sword on order of King Herod Agrippa I of Judea, about 44 A.D., in a general persecution of the early church.

Two other men named James appear in the New Testament: James, the son of Alphaeus, another apostle; and James, the brother of the Lord, a leader in the Jerusalem church and author of the book of James.

Accomplishments of the Apostle James:

James followed Jesus as one of the 12 disciples. He proclaimed the gospel after Jesus' resurrection and was martyred for his faith.

James' Strengths:

James was a loyal disciple of Jesus. He apparently had outstanding personal qualities that are not detailed in Scripture, because his character made him one of Jesus' favorites.

James' Weaknesses:

With his brother John, James could be rash and unthinking. He did not always apply the gospel to earthly matters.

Life Lessons from the Apostle James:

Following Jesus Christ can lead to hardship and persecution, but the reward is eternal life with him in heaven.

Hometown:

Capernaum

Referenced in the Bible:

The Apostle James is mentioned in all four Gospels and his martyrdom is cited in Acts 12:2.

Occupation:

Fisherman, disciple of Jesus Christ.

Family Tree:

Father - Zebedee
Mother - Salome
Brother - John

Key Verses:

Luke 9:52-56
And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. (NIV)

Matthew 17:1-3
After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. (NIV)

Acts 12:1-2
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. (NIV)

Old Testament People of the Bible (Index)
New Testament People of the Bible (Index)

Jack Zavada, a career writer and contributor for About.com, is host to a Christian website for singles. Never married, Jack feels that the hard-won lessons he has learned may help other Christian singles make sense of their lives. His articles and ebooks offer great hope and encouragement. To contact him or for more information, visit Jack's Bio Page.

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