"1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:Greetings."
I don't want there to be any confusion here at the outset as to who is writing here or why. The Letter of James was written by a man who was either the (half) brother of Jesus or a near family member of his. Remember that the band of the 12 Apostles has in it two Jameses. The first is the brother of John and a son of Zebedee. The other, our current James, went on to become a leader in the church at Jerusalem post-Pentecost.
James sees himself as a "doulos", a common household slave in relation to Christ. I don't know about you, but if you have even one sibling and are an adult, you know at least in part the concept of sibling jealousy or rivalry. Isn't it interesting that Jesus should have a brother named Jacob? Yes. That's the Hebrew of his name. He's the supplanter. He's the thief of the family name, the family blessing. It certainly makes me want to ask if James (Jacob) the brother of Jesus was next in line. Is James older than Jude? If so, who stood to inherit his father Joseph's property? And maybe I'm making too much out of this, but in the line of the Patriarchs the geneology goes: Abraham-Isaac-Jacob-Joseph. Here in Jesus' day the line reverses: Joseph becomes the father of Jacob. Joseph means "The Lord will increase". And surely the Old Testament Joseph was not the end of his father's line. There is still one more son born to Isaac: Benjamin (son of my right hand).
In the first Century Joseph (increase) becomes the father (via adoption) of Jesus (salvation) and then of Jacob (supplanter). That's all. Or is it? Wouldn't you expect this Jacob to have a will of his own? Wouldn't you expect him to be out to "clear his name?" Here he is: second again. This is a set-up for someone to be out to prove himself big-time. Yet he calls himself a doulos? He calls himself a common servant of the Lord Jesus? In Old Testament Joseph's dreams he sees his brothers all bowing down to him. Even Jacob in his old age came to depend on Joseph's provision and protection AND CALL HIM LORD. Doesn't James want to stand up for himself? And let's not forget that Jacob was father of Joseph AND the other 11. He is father of the 12.
To put all of this together James is writing THE TWELVE TRIBES in the Diaspora. This is not some obscure reference to the apostles. This is JACOB writing a message of salvation to his 12 sons. For all their sakes he makes himself lower than a household slave in order that they might see Jesus. This is no longer Jacob the Arrogant. This is truly, as the catalog of the Apostles often refers to him: James the Lesser.
Pastoral Relief and Retreat
- Wethersfield, CT, United States
- I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.