Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Feast of St. James the Elder: A Devotional Commentary

Acts 11:27-12:5 Now in these days, prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up, and indicated by the Spirit that there should be a great famine all over the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius. As any of the disciples had plenty, each determined to send relief to the brothers who lived in Judea; which they also did, sending it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul. Now about that time, King Herod stretched out his hands to oppress some of the assembly. He killed James, the brother of John, with the sword. When he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also. This was during the days of unleavened bread. When he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of four soldiers each to guard him, intending to bring him out to the people after the Passover. Peter therefore was kept in the prison, but constant prayer was made by the assembly to God for him.

Romans 8:28-39 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose. For whom he foreknew, he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. Whom he predestined, those he also called. Whom he called, those he also justified. Whom he justified, those he also glorified. What then shall we say about these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who didn’t spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how would he not also with him freely give us all things? Who could bring a charge against God’s chosen ones? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, yes rather, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Could oppression, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Even as it is written, “For your sake we are killed all day long. We were accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Matthew 20:20-28 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to him with her sons, kneeling and asking a certain thing of him. He said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, command that these, my two sons, may sit, one on your right hand, and one on your left hand, in your Kingdom.” But Jesus answered, “You don’t know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will indeed drink my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with, but to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it is for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” When the ten heard it, they were indignant with the two brothers. But Jesus summoned them, and said, “You know that the rulers of the nations lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you, but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. Whoever desires to be first among you shall be your bondservant, even as the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. That wonderful plan may include being killed with a sword as was the case of St. James the Elder or it could mean dying of cancer or getting alzheimer's. James was know for his zeal and boldness, he was one of the sons of thunder. James was zealous for the kingdom of God but he had complete misunderstanding of what the kingdom of God was all about. With a little help from Mom, James requested a place of honor in the kingdom and James received a place of honor but not in any way that James expected. James wanted to be a great ruler who exercised authority after the Romas were destroyed. Instead, James received his place of honor by being destroyed himself. James received his place of honor by suffering and death because the true Messiah that he was united to conquered by suffering and dying. Jesus drank the cup of suffering and was baptized in His own blood and so would James.

The other disciples were angry with James for requesting this place of honor, but they had thought similar things, they just weren't bold enough to say it out loud. We often think that we will have some special place in the kingdom because of whatever special work or program that we conduct. Maybe we've had a large number of "critical events" or crossed sea and land to reach people for Christ. Surely Christ owes us something for that, doesn't He? But Christ has done it all. We tell our neighbor about Christ because we cannot stop speaking about Him, not to earn some reward.

We cannot earn brownie points with God. Christ has won everything for us. Christ gives Himself. Christ provides the feast. Christ is the feast. Don't worry about the seating arrangements. The meal is what is important. Christ gives you His very body and blood, does it really matter where you are sitting? The world will not provide you with the kind of honor that James was looking for. The world will dishonor you and kill you. But it's all worth it because we conquer by dying. Jesus came for the dead and only the dead can be resurrected.

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