In what appears to be an effort to gain sway with the religious elite, King Herod had James, the son of Zebedee, killed via sword. It is unclear why James was singled out as Herod has continually persecuted many in the new sect (The Way), including Peter – the leader of them all. Some have suggested that James had a bit of a temper. Jesus, the founder of the Way, did call James, and his more famous brother and author, John, “Sons of Thunder.” There are also reports from a very credible source (Luke), that James and John wanted to call down fire on a Samaritan village that rejected their message. Jesus stopped them. Thus, James may have been the type to draw unwanted attention to himself. However, even in the face of death, James did not back down from his beliefs in Jesus – whom some say is the long-awaited Christ – the savior of the world, sent by God Himself. In other words, Jesus is God in the flesh.
James was one of the original twelve disciples hand-picked by Jesus of Nazareth. James left the family fishing business with his brother John to follow Jesus. As far as we know, he is the first of the original twelve disciples to be martyred for the new sect. It seems James spent quite a bit of time with Jesus, and was even one of the witnesses to Jesus’ transfiguration. Peter, Luke, and another from the sect, Matthew, go into detail about this in their writings. Apparently, on a mountain with James, John, and Peter, Jesus suddenly glowed brighter than the noon day sun. Then Moses and Elijah appeared. Then God spoke about Jesus, “This is my Son. Whom I Love. Listen to him.” The three disciples fell to the ground, terrified.
James was also there when Jesus raised from the dead the daughter of a Jewish leader named Jairus, as well as when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, the night he was betrayed. Clearly, James enjoyed the inner circle of Jesus, along with John and Peter.
These events, as well as the life, teachings, miracles, death and resurrection of Jesus had a profound impact on believers, like James. Interestingly, the subsequent deaths and persecutions of followers and leaders in the faith, as well as the illegal status of the new sect has done little to hinder its growth. The sect has exploded to the point that officials are worried they’re going to convert the whole world. Time will tell.
John, James’ younger brother, continues to write letters to support the growing sect, and is currently working on a biography of Jesus, as well as a record of a vision he had on the Island of Patmos.
Thanks for reading,
~ Ted Olson