The Apostles – Becoming Unified Through Diversity

Lesson 2: “James - A Power-hungry Man Who Gave Up Everything”


“Let one of us sit at your right hand and the other at your left…” Mark 10:37


A chip off the old block

·        James was probably the eldest of the two sons of Zebedee (Matt. 10:2) Being the eldest in the Jewish culture meant greater responsibility and opportunities

·        Zebedee was apparently an influential man. He was known to the high priest, and James' brother was allowed access to Caiaphas' house, while Peter had to wait outside (John 18:16)

·        James had a shrewd mother, Salome (Matt. 27:56, Mk. 15:40; and James may have been a cousin of Jesus (John 19:25)). She took her sons to Jesus and asked that they be given special positions of prominence (Matt. 20:20-21) The three did not understand that Jesus was not building an earthly kingdom. This caused problems with the other disciples (Matt. 20:24), including Peter, who may felt threatened by this end run

·        Think of the qualities that James inherited from these parents. Jesus did not choose spiritually mature men. But he did choose men with strong personalities, people that he could mold.


The big "I" and "Me"

·        Along with Peter and John, James was among the three disciples closest to Jesus (Mark 5:37) Though it was a privilege, it might have been dangerous for a man with aims of power. Even though Peter was leader of the disciples, James may have enjoyed his closeness to Jesus for the power it might have brought him

·        James was there on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1) and in the Garden (Mark 14:33)


Playing the right cards

·        Early on, Jesus gave James and John a descriptive name, the "Sons of Thunder" (Mark 3:17) Jesus recognized from the beginning their bombastic qualities

·        Luke records an incident showing James' thunder (Luke 9:51-56) Perhaps James was thinking of Elijah's experience (II Kings 1:3-12). Jesus rebuked them for not being "meek" and "merciful"


Winning at any cost

·        James at one point was competitive, and valued power and influence. But Jesus used their request to make a point about what Jesus was all about (Mark 10:42-45) It is the mystery of the Christian life. We are to be servants (John 13:34-35)

·        Jesus foretold that James would indeed drink from the same cup (Matt. 20:23) and indeed, James was the first apostle to be martyred (Acts. 12:1-2)

·        Some traditions state that James founded the church in Spain, but we don't know much about James' ministry. Acts doesn't say much. It appears Herod had James killed out of political motives, to make a point. Perhaps he was a bold spokesman, and Herod chose one whose death would most intimidate the other apostles and believers


3 Principles

#1) No matter what our family background, Jesus can mold our lives into His image

#2) God is looking for dedicated people with natural leadership skills who will become servant leaders

#3) Jesus wants to use our competitive tendencies to build His kingdom, not our own


For next week read Mark 9:38-41; John 19:25-27; John 13:12-35; John 20:30-31