Today, Christians around the world remember the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.
By 3PM, Jesus cried, “It is finished.” What was finished was not discovered until three days later. The disciples had gone into hiding and were in mourning. Although His mother, Mary, is seen holding vigil by the cross with her sister and Mary Magdalene, there is no account of any of Jesus’ siblings being present.
Jesus’ half biological family has been the subject of much speculation. Who were they? We know some things about Mary. We know a little about Joseph (who had no biological connection) but faithfully accepted and protected (think Egypt) His unique Son.
However,, we know more about His brother James. There were two James who were disciples of Jesus; yet this James was NOT a disciple. In fact, he believed, during the time of Jesus’ ministry, that his famous brother was nuts. From Mark 3:20-21, we read the following account: Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that He and His disciples were not even able to eat. When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (NIV)
Note what this says: they went to “take charge” of Him. This reminds me when we need to intervene on the part of an elderly parent who is becoming confused or a young adult who appears to have mental health issues.
Here are some verses to show us more about James. It is important to note that, except for these verses, James played no role in Jesus’ ministry prior to the Resurrection.
“Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all His sisters with us?” (Matthew 13:55, also Mark 6:3). “For even His own brothers did not believe in Him” (John 7:5).
Now, fast-forward to the Council of Jerusalem, which occurred in approximately 50AD. Who was a leader and spoke so eloquently at this influential conclave? James, the half brother of Jesus! Please refer to Acts 15 for the account.
James was now a leader in Jerusalem, a fact confirmed by Paul. In Galatians 1:19, Paul explicitly identified him as one of the only two individuals he met with during his 37 AD trip to Jerusalem: “I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother.”
James went on to die a martyr’s death. “An important, non-Biblical confirmation comes to us from Josephus: “Ananus…assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, …, he delivered them to be stoned.”  This passage does not only confirm that James was the brother of Jesus, it also mentions that he was martyred for his faith by stoning (around 57 AD)”.
There are other accounts, such as one by Eusebius that recounts that he was thrown from the roof of the Temple. Still other records claim that he as thrown from the roof of the Temple, and then stoned or clubbed since he had survived the fall. The dates of this occurrence range from 57AD to 69AD.
So, what happened between the time of the Gospels and Acts 15? Scripture clears up the mystery. The answer is quite simple. James saw the resurrection of His brother and was profoundly changed. A dead man, even if it is your brother who you though was nuts, is compelling to even the most cynical skeptic.
Here is an excellent analysis from Windmill Ministries. The NIV Study Bible also has a similar analysis.
“In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul writes that Jesus also appeared to James: “Then he appeared to James”(1 Corinthians 15:7). One can argue which James this is (lack of surnames in Bible times can occasionally be quite confusing). However, the context makes it clear, that this is not James the son of Zebedee (the brother of John) or the other apostle James: James the son of Alphaeus. (as they are mentioned as part of the apostle group before). Therefore this must be James, the Lord’s brother”.
So, on Sunday, when you proclaim that “Christ is risen, indeed!”, you are joined in this chorus by James, who after a special appearance by his risen Brother followed this brother’s path to martyrdom. Do I get an “Amen?”