You may also be interested in these posts from Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur:
John: The Apostle of Love
Andrew: God Delights in the Small Things
Peter: The Making of a Great Leader
Early church records tell us that John's father, Zebedee, was most likely a Levite and related to the high priest. This is another explanation for the family's prominence. Prestige must have followed John as well. His acquaintance with the high priest gained Peter entrance to the high priest's courtyard on the night of Jesus' arrest.
The fact that James' name follows Peter's in the list of apostles tells us that he must of been a strong leader. James was present when Jesus:
Each of these events would strengthen James' faith and equipped him for the journey to come.
James was a man of passion, fervor, zeal and intensity. Jesus calls him and his brother the Sons of Thunder. But this passion needed to be controlled. At the same time we find Andrew quietly bringing people to Jesus, we find James wishing to call down fire from heaven and destroy them. Very different dispositions, both useful for the Kingdom though.
Isn't it wonderful that Jesus can use us even though we are not all the same? We're all different. Different talents. Different gifts. Uniquely designed by the Creator for different purposes.
The passion of James reminds us of an Old Testament character—Elijah. He too was passionate with fervor, zeal and intensity. He too was ready and willing to call down fire from heaven and destroy people. And he did!
There are two incidents in particular, related to James, where we see zeal out of control. The first is when James request permission from Jesus to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans. The second is when he and his brother enlist the help from their mother to solicit Jesus for the highest seats in the Kingdom.
Fire From Heaven
In Luke 9:51-56 we find James and John acting like you would expect Sons of Thunder to act. Jesus was headed to Jerusalem for what would ultimately culminate in His death on the cross. He chose the most direct route which was straight through Samaria.
"And when His disciples, James and John, saw it, they said, 'Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?'" Luke 9:54
"The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made." Psalms 145:9
I'm so glad that God is a God of patient loving-kindness and mercy towards sinners! This was the lesson that James and John learned that day.
A few years after this incident, Philip preached in the city of Samaria (Acts 8:5) and multitudes were brought into the Kingdom! Would this had happened if James and John had been permitted to bring down fire on the people? Undoubtably not!
Seats in the Kingdom
Another insight to James' character is found in Matthew 20:20-24 where we not only see his passion, but also ambition and overconfidence. We find here a record of James and John's mother, Salome, coming to Jesus with a petition. She comes to Him requesting that her sons be granted seats on the right and left of Jesus in Heaven. The book of Mark also records the incident. The brothers, and their mother, probably thought of many reasons they deserved this honor. They were included in the most intimate, closest group to the Savior. They had been apostles the longest. However, they clearly had no concept of the price to be paid. They did not know what they were asking for.
This makes me think of my prayer life and how I pray not really knowing what I am praying for. Oh, I think I know. But I really don't. However, the Savior knows. He knows what I need and He intercedes for me!
"...zeal is a marvelous instrument in the hands of God." —John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men
Passion and zeal are truly remarkable qualities that James possessed. We should aspire to have these characteristics in our own lives.
What I learned most from reading about this passionate apostle is not so much about him at all, but more so about my God. I was reminded of a quote in Chris Anderson's book, The God Who Satisfies, "No soul is too small for His mercy. No sin is too great for His grace."
Isn't that the truth, and aren't you thankful!
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