Chapter One------James, The Brother of Jesus



The village was in mourning. The wailing echoed from the hills and drifted through the village, floating from house to house, touching each person’s heart with sadness. The people of the village had lost a kind and true friend.  He built their houses, cribs for their babies, and mangers for their animals.  He was the one who lovingly crafted the beautiful trellises for their weddings and yes, even coffins for their funerals. 
            He was a good man.  His name was Joseph, and he was my father.  My name is James.  I was only ten years old when my father died.
I was angry.  I just wanted my father back.  I wanted to be able to sit on his lap and feel his arms around me as he whittled out the nails that he would need for the next day; to smell the rich, earthy fragrance of that newly cut wood.
            I remember feeling so alone and left out.  The mourners came; their moaning and wailing sent chills down my spine.  I was furious with those ridiculous women; I just wanted them to go away.  Friends and family surrounded my mother, so she was also lost to me during this time, encased in her own grief.
The only person I could turn to was my older brother, Jesus.  He was twenty, ten years older than I.  He was the best big brother that a boy could have, patient with my pestering when my other brothers and sisters had no time for me.  He listened to my non-stop conversation, even asking me questions at times! 
I used to love to follow my father and Jesus as they went about their carpentry work in the village.  They began teaching me the craft as soon as I was old enough to pick up a hammer.  My job was to stand between the two of them and hold the board in place as they hammered.   I enjoyed listening to them tell stories and laugh.  Those two had a relationship that was based on mutual respect, humor, and love.  My father was a master storyteller.  His stories would have Jesus laughing so hard that nails would come spitting out of his mouth!  Finally,  Father would just have to say, “James, Jesus, let’s sit down for a while to rest.”
So on that terrible day, I went looking for my brother.  I knew where to find him.  He had a special place that he liked to go when he wanted to be alone.  It was on a hill overlooking Nazareth.  My mother said she used to go there often when she was a young girl.  She even told us that an angel had actually visited her on that same hill years ago.
I found Jesus sitting on a rock just staring out over the valley.  I didn’t say a word, but just walked over and sat down next to him.  He put his arm around my shoulder, and we sat like that not saying anything, not needing to speak.
It was so peaceful up there on that hill far away from the wailing of the mourners and the busyness of all the funeral preparations.  The day had finally begun to cool down as a breeze blew softly from the north.
Finally, breaking the silence, I asked, “Jesus, where is Abba? Where is he now?  Why did he have to die?  Why did God take him from us?”  It seemed that when the questions finally began to spill out, I couldn’t stop.
Jesus listened patiently, his arm still around me.  I leaned closer to him as he began to speak. “James, as I sat here and prayed, I remembered Psalm 102.


‘He has cut me down in midlife,
shortening my days.
But I cried to him, ‘My God, who lives forever,
don’t take my life while I am still so young!
In ages past you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
Even they will perish, but you remain forever;
they will wear out like old clothing.
You will change them like a garment,
and they will fade away.
But you are always the same;
your years never end.
The children of your people
will live in security.
Their children’s children
will thrive in your presence’” (Psalms 102:23-28 NLT).

        “James, we may feel alone right now, but God has not rejected or forsaken us.  God is with Joseph, our father, and He is with us.  We must draw close to our God, and He will draw close to us” (James 4:8).
         I wasn’t sure I understood or was ready to hear what Jesus had to say, but I believed it, because he said it.  We sat there for a long time gazing down into the valley until the sun began to fade, and we knew that we had to return to our mother.

*****  

            The years after that passed quickly.  Jesus stepped easily into the role of provider for our family.  He had always been wise and mature beyond his years, and the entire family leaned heavily upon him.  He was like a father to us. He taught me so much, not only about the craft of carpentry but also about life.  He was good-natured, friendly, and always drew a crowd of friends.  People enjoyed having him come to their homes to work because of the stories that he could tell.  Our tiny carpentry shop was a gathering place for the village.  Life was not easy for us in Galilee, but it was good.                      
          And then it changed forever. I will never forget that day, the day Jesus left us. I had noticed that he had become quieter lately, often spending more and more time on the hill overlooking Nazareth. Mother sent me there to find him, to call him home for the evening meal.  He was sitting on a boulder, motionless, head bowed, silhouetted by the hazy golden hues of the sun setting in the western sky.  He knew immediately that I was there.  I walked over and sat down beside him.
“James, I am leaving”
Stunned, I asked, “What do you mean?”
Looking intently at me, he said,  “Do you remember the story of the time when I was twelve years old and stayed behind in the temple at Jerusalem?”
I nodded.  I had heard the story many times.  “Mother said that she was frantic with worry about you.”
“Yes, she and Father searched for three days, almost giving up hope of ever finding me,” he said.  “But when they did find me, I asked my mother why they needed to search.  I thought they would know that I would be in my Father’s house.”
I looked out toward the valley, remembering the story.  “Mother said that they did not understand what you meant that day.  She was just so glad to have found you.”
“My Father is calling to me now, James. I hear His voice and I must go to Him.”
I shook my head.  “You can’t leave, Jesus.  We need you here.  The family needs you.  Mother needs you . . . I need you.”
“James, I know that you do not understand right now, but someday you will.”     
I stood up, angry and hurt.  “What is wrong with you?  Are you out of your mind?  A person just does not leave his family and go off in search of . . . of . . . ”  I was so angry at this point that I could not even speak. 
Quietly, Jesus finished my sentence.  “My Father, James, I search for my Father.”
“NO! Your father is my father—–Joseph of Nazareth.  He is dead, Jesus!  He died ten years ago!  You are the father of this house now!”
I ignored the pain that was evident on his face and continued my tirade. “Jesus, be reasonable.  Please think some more about this . . . this spiritual quest.”  Then I said the one thing that I knew would hurt him the most.  “Jesus, you will break our mother’s heart if you leave us.”
“James, I have no choice.”
At that point, Jesus stood up and embraced me.  “My brother, you must be strong.”  He then turned and walked down the hill toward town.
I didn’t follow him, but stayed on that hill until it was almost too dark to see my way home.  When I finally made my way back to our house, my mother was sitting on her bench outside of the door.  “Mother, he is gone.” 
“Yes, I know, James.  He left an hour ago.  He goes in search of your cousin John and . . . ” Her voice trailed off.  I shook my head and said bitterly, “I know, Mother.  He said he seeks his Father.”
My mother reached for my hand.  

*****

           We did not see or hear from Jesus for several months.  Somehow I fell into a routine with my brothers Joseph, Simon, and Judas, going about our carpentry work, trying not to think about him, but missing him very much.  We continued to hear word of our cousin John, dressed in camel’s hair clothing, going about preaching repentance and baptizing people.  We honestly didn’t know what to make of this.  Some people even called John a prophet of God. I thought he was probably crazy, stirring up people like that.  More than one so-called prophet had been beheaded or crucified.

Jesus turns water into wine. (John 2:1-12)

The next time we saw Jesus was at the wedding of our cousin, Rachel.  Rachel was a favorite cousin of mine, so my mother requested that I accompany her to the wedding.  Joseph and Simon decided to go, also, and we were all looking forward to the weeklong festivities.  Jesus arrived in Cana in the company of five strange men. My mother’s eyes lit up when she saw him.
“My son, you are looking too thin!”
He embraced her and smiled.  “ I am in good health, Mother, I promise.”
“Where have you been?” she asked.
“I have been in the Judean wilderness for a while.”
She shook her head and hugged him one more time.
He turned toward me and gave me a brotherly bear hug.  “James, are you taking good care of our mother?”
“Yes, she is well, Jesus.” 
            Jesus introduced us to the five men.
           “Mother, James, these are my friends, Andrew, John, Philip, Nathaniel and Peter. They are my disciples.” Jesus explained that he had met them by the Sea of Galilee after returning from the Judean wilderness. 

And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” 
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
John 1:46

Andrew, Philip, Peter and John were huge, brawny fishermen; not what you would consider when you think of a disciple. I wasn’t sure where Nathanael came from, but the men enjoyed joking with him about hanging around four fishermen and a Nazarene! The men were good-natured, and seemed to enjoy being with Jesus.  They were having a great time at the wedding.
      It was good to be with Jesus, but strange also to see him out of the carpenter shop and in this role as a teacher. I wasn’t sure I liked that role or what was happening to him.
After the wedding, Jesus asked us if we would like to accompany him and the disciples to Capernaum. My brothers and I did not really want to go, but we knew that Mother did. (John 2:12)
“James, I do want to go and see where Jesus is staying, to see if he is taking care of himself.”
I smiled at her fondly.  Our mother will always be worried about us.  We will always be children in her eyes.
           Jesus was staying at the home of Peter’s mother-in-law in Capernaum.  It was a tiny house on the east shore of the Sea of Galilee.  We spent two days along that beautiful sea, following and listening to Jesus, amazed at his teachings.  We were told by the people in Capernaum that miracles happened when Jesus was around, but I saw none of that.
            Later, after we were back home in Nazareth, Mother told me that something incredible had happened at the wedding in Cana.  I remember that evening so well.  We were sitting outside the house after supper, watching two of my nephews playing games in the street. We were laughing and joking with them, caught up in their joy.
All of a sudden, Mother turned toward me and said, “James, did you know that halfway through the wedding week, they ran out of wine?”
I looked at her and laughed.  “Everyone was having a very good time.”
She smiled.  “Yes, and there were extra guests that came.”
“Jesus’ disciples?”
She nodded again. “Rachel came to me in tears halfway through the week and explained that they were running out of wine.  She was very embarrassed.”
“But Mother, the wine was excellent to the end.  In fact, the wine at the end of the week was even better than the wine at the beginning. Usually by that time the wine steward brings out the poorer quality wine.”
“It was a miracle, James.”
            “Yes, it was a miracle that they had enough money to go out and buy such excellent wine.”
             “No, it was a real miracle.”
“I don’t understand, Mother.”
“Jesus turned water into wine,” she said softly.
“What did you say?” I asked incredulously.
“I found Jesus and explained the situation to him.  At first he was reluctant to even listen to me.  But finally he told the servants to get the six stone ceremonial pots and fill them with water. He told the servants to dip some out and take it to the master of the banquet.”
“Yes, I remember the master of the banquet commenting on the excellent wine that was served after everyone was full!”
“James, I’m telling you that it was a miracle.”
“Mother, water does not just turn into wine.”  I had a difficult time believing this story.  There had to be a natural explanation.  I could not believe that my brother could turn water into wine.

*****

            Several months later my brother Joseph returned home from visiting Jerusalem for the Passover.  He found me in the shop hammering a lattice together for an upcoming wedding.
“James, I have heard word of our brother, Jesus.”
At the tone of his voice, I stopped what I was doing immediately.
“What have you heard?” 
“Jesus was also in Jerusalem for the Passover.  In the temple area he saw merchants selling cattle, sheep, and doves for sacrifices; and he saw money changers behind their counters” (John 3:13 NLT).
“Yes, it is a despicable practice; we have spoken of it before.”
“Well, this time Jesus did something about it.”
“What do you mean, Brother?”
“Jesus made a whip from some ropes and chased them all out of the temple.  He drove out the sheep and oxen, scattered the money changers’ coins over the floor, and turned over their tables.  Then, going over to the people who sold doves, he told them, ‘Get these things out of here.  Don’t turn my Father’s house into a marketplace!’” (John 2:15,16 NLT).
“Did they arrest him?”
“No, it is difficult to believe that they did not, because he made some comment about destroying the temple and then raising it up after three days.”
Joseph shook his head.  “What has happened to our brother, James?”

*****

It was the Sabbath, a day like many others.  My brothers and I always looked forward to this day.  We enjoyed our short walk to the synagogue, talking and laughing together about the happenings of the week.  Our conversation often included Jesus and the extraordinary things that seemed to happen around him. 
Laughing to myself, I said, “Remember the time the man pounded on our door looking for bread for breakfast?  It was the middle of the night, and our father had to get up off of his pallet to answer the door.  Father was never in a very good mood when awakened from his sleep like that!  Before he could give the man a piece of his mind, Jesus appeared at the door, bread in hand.  He quickly gave the man the bread and steered Father back to his bed.  I never did know why the man needed bread in the middle of the night or where Jesus got that bread!”
My brothers laughed and shook their heads.  It seemed like Jesus was always in the right place at the right time.  There was silence as we approached the synagogue.  We all missed him so much.
           We entered the synagogue, comfortable in the familiar place, nodding and smiling at friends.  We sat down in our places and waited. Suddenly, I heard loud whispering at the back of the room; I turned around and saw Jesus walking down the aisle.  He smiled at me and sat down.      
When it was time to read the scripture for the day, the book that contained the prophetic words of Isaiah the prophet was reverently handed to Jesus. He opened the book and began to read:

    “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:16-19).

Jesus then closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down.  All eyes in the synagogue were upon him.  There was a moment when the only sound that you could hear was the breathing, or in my case, the lack of breathing, of the thirty men in the room. Then he said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21).
There was a murmur throughout the room, and people began whispering.
             “What gracious words!”
“What does he mean?”
“Is this not Joseph’s son?” (Luke 4:22).
Jesus stood up once again and faced the crowd.  He replied,  Probably you will quote me that proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself’—–meaning, ‘Why don’t you do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum?’  But the truth is, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.”
“Certainly there were many widows in Israel who needed help in Elijah’s time, when there was no rain for three and a half years and hunger stalked the land.  Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them.  He was sent instead to a widow of Zarephath—–a foreigner in the land of Sidon.  Or think of the prophet Elisha, who healed Naaman, a Syrian, rather than the many lepers in Israel who needed help” (Luke 4:23-27 NLT).
I felt my heart begin to race as I heard Jesus speak.  I knew that those words would make the men in the synagogue very angry.  The murmur began to get louder.  Suddenly one voice, then another, began shouting:
“Who do you think you are, coming here and speaking such words?”
“How dare you accuse us of being like the unbelievers in the days of Elisha!”
“Are you a gentile lover, Jesus?”
“You are just a carpenter.  Go back to your bench!”
“Do you compare yourself to Elijah?”
“He must have a demon!”
The more they shouted the angrier they got, until suddenly the entire group from the back of the synagogue rushed forward to where he was standing and actually grabbed hold of Jesus. My other brothers and I tried to hold them back, but we were no match for the size of the group. I could not believe this was happening.
            The crowd grabbed Jesus and began pulling him out of the synagogue. They took him up to the hill on the edge of the city and actually were planning on pushing him over the cliff. In the mayhem, Joseph and I were able to make our way back to Jesus.  I’m not sure to this day that I can explain what happened at that point.  When we reached him and put our hands on him, we suddenly found ourselves on the edge of the crowd and able to slip our way to safety. 
After making sure that he was finally out of harm’s way, we stopped for a while along the road and rested. Joseph and I had no words for Jesus. We were in shock over what had just occurred at the synagogue, but Jesus seemed unfazed by it all.
“My brothers, I must leave you and meet up with my disciples in Capernaum.”
I spoke sharply to him, “Jesus, I do not understand what is happening to you!” 
His dark brown eyes studied me for a long moment.
“I know that James, but there will come a time someday when you will understand.”
Angrily I said, “Do you wish to die or be put in prison?”
“No, I do not want either one of those things to happen,” Jesus answered softly. “I seek to do only my Father’s will.”
I knew that it was futile to continue this conversation.  “We will leave you, my brother.” 
           Joseph and I stood and embraced Jesus.  A strange thing happened at that embrace.  I felt an indescribable sense of well-being and power flow from Jesus into me.  In fact, I would have fallen if Jesus had not grabbed hold of my arm to steady me.  I stepped back quickly, stunned by this sensation.
“Shalom, my brothers.”  Jesus turned and walked away.

*****

            We returned to Nazareth to face the fear of our mother and the hostility of some of our neighbors.  The town was buzzing about the scene at the synagogue. People were shaking their heads and wagging their tongues.

Mark 3:20-21

"Your brother has gone off the deep end, James,” people would say. 
            “Who does he think he is, saying that he is the Messiah?”
“You need to go get him and bring him home where he belongs!”
“He looks so thin!”
“I heard that the crowds are so great now, that he and his disciples do not even take time to eat!”
Our mother listened to this prattle until she could take it no more.  One day she cornered me in the carpenter shop and said, “James, we must go and get Jesus.  I am so frightened for him.”
             I knew that it was futile to argue with my mother.  “I will find my brothers, Mother, and we will leave tomorrow at dawn.”

Matthew 12: 46-50; Mark 3:31-33; Luke 8:19-21
(NLT)

We arrived in Capernaum around noon and went directly to the home of Peter’s mother-in-law.  The crowd had indeed grown since the last time we were in Capernaum. People were everywhere!  They were hanging out the windows, on top of the roof, and stuffed in the doorways.  
“How are we to get to him, James?” Mother asked worriedly, as a man stepped in front of her and elbowed her out of the way.
Frustrated, I said to Simon, “I will see if I can send word by one of those fellows up there in the window.  Perhaps they can tell Jesus that we are outside and want to speak to him.”
            I pushed my way through the crowd until I could get close enough to the window.  I gave my message to a young man who was sitting on the ledge.  Nodding at me, he turned toward the inside, and I heard him explain to Jesus that we wanted to speak to him.  I could tell that Jesus was answering him.
             Impatiently I said, “What is it, man?  What does he say?”
“He said, ‘Who is my mother?  Who are my brothers?  These are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother’” (Mark 3:33,34 NLT). 
Angry, I went back to my mother and brothers waiting at the edge of the crowd.  Shaking my head and not really wanting to tell my mother what Jesus said, I explained,  “ He cannot see us right now.”
“We will wait here, then, until he comes out,” my mother said stubbornly.

“Later that same day, Jesus left the house and went down to the shore, where an immense crowd soon gathered.  He got into a boat, where he sat and taught as the people listened on the shore” (Matthew 13:1,2 NLT).

Much to my mother’s regret, we never did get to talk to Jesus that day, but we did decide to follow the crowd down to the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  We listened as he told a story about a farmer who went out to plant seeds.  As he scattered the seeds, some fell on the path, some fell on shallow soil, some fell among thorns, and some fell on fertile soil.  The birds quickly ate the seeds on the path.  The seeds thrown on the shallow soil germinated, but soon died because they could not produce roots.  The seeds that were planted in the thorns were choked out, but the seeds that fell on fertile soil produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as he had planted.
We spoke of the story on our way home from Capernaum.
“I am not sure what Jesus is teaching when he uses these stories,” I said.
“Well, I have never read anything like that in the Torah,” Joseph shrugged, dismissing the whole thing.
We returned once again to our homes and our work, trying not to think of our brother.  This was difficult to do, because people were constantly coming to us and telling tales about Jesus.  Many times they would just laugh and shake their heads.
“Did you hear that Jesus sent a herd of pigs over a cliff?” one neighbor told me, laughing so hard that he had to hold his side.
“That’s nothing,” another man said,  “I heard that he raised a girl from the dead!”
“I even heard that Jesus calmed a storm!”
And so the rumors continued.  I tried to avoid people as much as possible.

  The people of Nazareth would not believe.
(Matthew 13:53-58; Mark 6:1-6)

One morning I was working at my bench, trying to figure in my mind the best way to fit a table together.  The table was to be crafted from a beautifully grained piece of olive wood. I knew what I wanted it to look like, but I had yet to create the perfect design.  The Sabbath would begin at sundown.  I wanted to have a good start before then, but I just couldn’t seem to concentrate.  Finally, giving up, I sat down and stared at the wood in defeat.
   “Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1). I looked up to see Jesus standing at the door. 
            I smiled, remembering that our father would often quote that scripture to us as we began a new project.
              “Greetings, Brother.  What brings you to Nazareth?”
“I will be teaching in the synagogue tomorrow.”
“But, Jesus, do you not remember what happened the last time you were here?” I asked in disbelief.
“Yes, I want to preach one more time; perhaps this time the people will believe in me.”
The next morning, Simon and I accompanied Jesus to the synagogue.  All was quiet this time as he got up to preach.  Perhaps the people were embarrassed and regretted their actions from the last time. Even though they did not become violent, they still did not believe in him or what he said.  The murmuring continued.
           “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?”
“He’s just the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon.”
“Yes, his sisters live right here among us.”    
            Jesus heard their murmuring as he left the synagogue.
As we were going down the steps of the synagogue, Jesus stopped and said to the crowd, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family”( Mark 6:1-4 NLT).

*****

“Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them” (Mark 6:5).

The people parted for him as he walked down the steps, shrugging their shoulders and turning their backs on him.   At the bottom of the steps, Anna, an old family friend waited patiently.  Her beautiful, wrinkled face broke into a toothless smile when she saw Jesus.  Her back was bent with age causing her to have to twist crookedly in order to look up at him.
She spoke softly and said, “Jesus, it is good to see you.”  She then turned slowly toward Simon and me and smiled, speaking to us also.  “Simon, James, it is good to see you as well.”
Jesus looked at her expectantly, a look of concern on his face.
“Anna, what do you need from me?”
Anna looked at Simon and me hesitantly and then turned toward Jesus,
“May I speak to you alone, Jesus?”
He nodded, and they walked slowly arm in arm over to a beautiful, old olive tree.  Anna sat down on a bench beneath the tree.  I noticed that Jesus sat on the ground, propped up against the trunk so that Anna would not have to strain to look up at him. Curious, I watched from afar as Anna spoke to Jesus.  I could tell that she was upset.  Jesus listened with rapt attention nodding every now and then. At once, he stood up and put his hand on her shoulder.  Fascinated, I watched as Anna slowly stood and then straightened up until she was looking at him directly, a huge smile on her face!  She reached up to hug him, her small stature dwarfed by his.  With a smile equal to Anna’s, Jesus said something else to her.  Anna nodded, and backed away from Jesus.  With a wave, Anna walked briskly away, her back as straight as someone half her age!
             I turned toward Simon, not believing what I just saw.  He was staring at Jesus and shaking his head. 
“What just happened, Brother?” he asked in disbelief.
“I’m not sure,” I said truthfully.
Jesus walked back to where we were standing.  He looked at both of us, a sad smile on his face.   “Brothers, I marvel at the unbelief that I see on your faces and here in Nazareth; therefore, I will leave to meet up with my disciples.  Since there is not much that I can accomplish here in Nazareth, I will send them out to preach the good news.”  (Mark 6: 6,7)  
That was the last time that Jesus preached in Nazareth.  We heard that John had been beheaded, and Jesus’ life was now in even more danger.  We lost patience with the obvious disregard that he had for his life and tried to put him out of our minds.   Once again, rumors circulated around the village as people continued to wag their tongues.  We tried to protect our mother from them, but knew it was useless.

*****

           Jesus still came to visit us, often stopping by at night after the village had settled into their homes.  One cool, beautiful evening in October, we were all sitting  around the table after a meal, talking with Jesus.  Simon, Joseph, and I were leaving the next day to travel to Jerusalem for the Festival of Shelters. Joseph, especially, had no patience with Jesus and often ridiculed him, much to the dismay of our mother. 

Jesus’ brothers ridicule him. (John 7:1-9)

"Jesus,” Joseph scoffed, “Come, go to Judea with us for the celebration! You know that the Festival of Shelters is a family celebration. Besides, if you want people to see your miracles, Jerusalem is where you need to be!  You can’t become a public figure if you hide like this!  If you can do such wonderful things, prove it to the world!” (John 7:4 NLT).
            “Joseph, that is enough!” Mother said angrily.      
Calmly, Jesus looked at Joseph and replied, “Now is not the right time for me to go.  But you can go anytime, and it will make no difference.  The world can’t hate you, but it does hate me because I accuse it of sin and evil.  You go on.  I am not yet ready to go to this festival, because my time has not yet come” (John 7:6-8 NLT).
At that, Joseph stood up, shook his head and walked out the door.
Early the next morning, we packed our belongings on our little donkey and left Nazareth for Jerusalem.  Jesus and Mother stood quietly and watched, bidding us a safe journey.  Later, we learned that Jesus met up with his disciples and traveled to Jerusalem, though secretly, staying out of public view for a while.
When we arrived in Jerusalem, the streets were lined with shelters for the festival.  We searched for several hours until we finally found an empty spot along a street that was fairly close to the temple. My brothers and I unloaded our donkey and began building our shelter.
“Do you need some help?”  Two men called to us from their shelter close by. They walked up and introduced themselves.  “My name is Demetrius and this is my brother, Andrew.  We live here in Jerusalem so we were able to build our shelter yesterday for our families.”
“Thank you, my friends,” said Joseph.  “We appreciate your help.”
“Where are you from?” asked Demetrius.
“We come from Nazareth,” explained Joseph.

John 7:11-13

Demetrius’ face brightened, and he said, “Nazareth?  Isn’t that where the miracle worker, Jesus, comes from?”
Joseph ducked his head and looked toward me, warning me with his eyes not to say anything.
Slowly, I nodded my head.  “Yes, we know of him.”  
Demetrius glanced around as if afraid someone was listening.  He lowered his voice and whispered, “Andrew and I have actually seen him perform a miracle.” Motioning for us to come closer, he said, “We saw him heal a blind man!”
Seeing the incredulous look on my face, Andrew joined in.  “It’s true!  This man was blind from birth!  We grew up with him.”
“Just yesterday,” Demetrius lowered his voice even more, “a group of Jewish leaders from the synagogue was asking us if we had seen or heard of Jesus at the festival.  Everyone is whispering about Jesus as we do now, but no one has the courage to speak favorably about him, because we are all afraid of getting into trouble with the Jewish leaders.”
With Demetrius’ and Andrew’s help, it did not take us long to finish our shelter.   We sat down to enjoy watching the people as they walked to and fro down the crowded, cobblestone street.  Children were running around playing games and pranks.  There were country people like us, wide-eyed at being in Jerusalem, porters carrying huge loads on their backs to the market place, and beggars hoping to profit from the pilgrims in Jerusalem for the festival. We saw soldiers, bored and hot in their Roman uniforms. Sadducees and Pharisees, pompous in their brocaded robes, walked hurriedly to the temple.  Merchants hawked their wares from shelter to shelter, and women, their pots balanced on their heads, walked to the well to draw water. The street was teeming with people, noisy and raucous, causing me to yearn for the quiet hills of Nazareth.
By the next morning, most work activity had stopped.  It was the fifth day after the Day of Atonement, and the Festival of Shelters had begun!  Joseph and I awoke early to join the crowds as they made their way to the Temple Square. The streets were lined with palm fronds, leafy branches, and willows. The first day of the festival always began with the sacred assembly at the temple and the presentation of our offerings to God. The high priest stood up to teach, reminding us of God’s protection and guidance in the wilderness.
The next two days were the same; nights filled with dancing and singing, and days gathered in sacred assembly, worshiping God. The Festival of Shelters was always one of our favorite festivals.


John 7:14-52 (NLT)

On the third day, we again joined the throng as they gathered in the temple. We had overslept that morning, not getting much sleep the night before, so we found ourselves at the back of the crowd.  Joseph, Simon and I tiptoed, trying the best that we could to see what was happening. All of a sudden there was a hush among the crowd.  We had no idea what was going on until gradually word came back to us that Jesus of Nazareth was speaking! 
             Joseph looked at us and frowned.  “Follow me; let’s see if we can get up closer.”      
I grabbed hold of the back of Joseph’s robe and followed his large bulk as he pushed his way through the crowd closer to the front. When we finally found a spot where we could hear what was going on, a Jewish leader beside us mumbled to himself, “How does he know so much when he hasn’t studied everything we’ve studied?”      
As if to answer him, Jesus said, “I’m not teaching my own ideas, but those of God who sent me.  Anyone who wants to do the will of God will know whether my teaching is from God or is merely my own.  Those who present their own ideas are looking for praise for themselves, but those who seek to honor the one who sent them are good and genuine.  None of you obeys the law of Moses!  In fact, you are trying to kill me.”
There was a stunned silence; then a man in the crowd yelled, “You’re demon- possessed! Who’s trying to kill you?”
Calmly, Jesus answered.  "I worked on the Sabbath by healing a man, and you were offended.  But you work on the Sabbath, too, when you obey Moses’ law of circumcision. For if the correct time for circumcising your son falls on the Sabbath, you go ahead and do it, so as not to break the law of Moses.  So why should I be condemned for making a man completely well on the Sabbath? Think this through, and you will see that I am right.”
There were nods of affirmation throughout the crowd.  People all around us began talking to each other. 
“Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill?”
“Yes, but here he is, speaking in public, and they say nothing to him.”
            A man beside Joseph turned to him and said, “Can it be that our leaders know that he really is the Messiah?”
I looked over at Joseph as he snapped back at the man,  “But how could he be? For we know where this man comes from.  When the Messiah comes, he will simply appear; no one will know where he comes from.”
Joseph then threw up his hands in disgust, turned around and said, “James, let’s get out of here.”
As if hearing these remarks, Jesus spoke out as we turned and left.  “Yes, you          know me, and you know where I come from.  But I represent one you don’t know, and he is true. I know him because I have come from him, and he sent me to you.”
We threaded our way back through the crowd to our shelter.  Our new friends, Demetrius and Andrew joined us soon after.  They were thrilled yet amazed that Jesus had actually stood up and preached at the temple that morning.
“Did you hear him?  Were you there?” asked Demetrius.
Joseph scowled.  “Yes, we were there.  We heard him.”
“Did you know that the leaders of the synagogue wanted him arrested?” asked Andrew.  “They actually sent out the temple guards, but for some reason they did not lay a hand on him.”
Demetrius interrupted, “When they came to arrest him, Jesus said, ‘I will be here a little longer.  Then I will return to the one who sent me.  You will search for me but not find me.  And you won’t be able to come where I am.’”
“What did he mean by that?” snapped Joseph.
“Well, not even the Jewish leaders could figure that one out.  They thought maybe he was going to leave the country and go to the Jews in other lands or to the gentiles!”
Andrew chimed in again.  “I think they need to leave him alone.  Would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?”
Joseph shrugged, dismissing all of this with a wave of his hand.  He sat down heavily on his pallet, crossed his arms and retreated into one of his infamous bad moods.
On the last day of the festival, Joseph, revived from his bad mood, asked me if I would go with him to the market to purchase fruit for our meal that day.
A crowd had gathered, milling around and talking excitedly to each other.  I knew immediately that Jesus must be there.  People were shouting questions at him, some of them angry.
Jesus shouted back, “If you are thirsty, come to me!  If you believe in me, come and drink!  For the Scriptures declare that rivers of living water will flow out from within.”
“What is he talking about now?” mumbled Joseph.
Turning toward him, a man beside Joseph said, “He is the Messiah!”
 Another man looked at Joseph and me and our clothes, knowing that we were from the area of Galilee, shook his head and scoffed, “But he can’t be!  Will the Messiah come from Galilee?  For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.”
Of course Joseph and I knew full well that Jesus had indeed been born in Bethlehem.  Our mother had told us the story of the trip from Nazareth to Galilee many times.  We knew that Jesus had been born in a stable and that something miraculous had happened when Jesus was born, but our mother never did tell us all of the details.          
Before Joseph could reply to the man with one of his famous retorts, we were pushed aside by a group of the temple guards, obviously sent again to try and arrest Jesus.  Remarkably, they stopped short when they saw him and actually stood with the crowd and listened!  Unfazed by their presence, Jesus continued to speak to the crowds.   
Joseph and I did not stay long after that.  We returned to our shelter and began to dismantle it.  We left at dawn the next morning, the quietness broken only by the crowing of the roosters announcing the start of another day.  I always experienced a let down and even a sadness at the end of a festival; this morning I felt especially bereft as we made our way through the empty streets of Jerusalem.    
Thank goodness, Joseph did not choose to speak, so I was left with my own quiet, yet jumbled thoughts.  I recalled the words that I heard Jesus say, Yes, you both know me, and you know where I am from; and I have not come of Myself, but He who sent Me is true, whom you do not know.  But I know Him, for I am from Him, and He sent Me” (John 7:28, 29 NKJV).
Something rang true, deep within my heart, when I heard Jesus say that. But it was all so very confusing to me. Jesus was my brother, and I thought I knew him as well as I knew myself.  This man had become a stranger to me.
That was the last time that Joseph and I heard Jesus preach.  It was said that after the Festival of Shelters, he preached in various towns in Judea, returned to Jerusalem for a time, and then left again and traveled to the region east of the Jordan.  Of course, travelers brought us word telling of the miraculous events that surrounded the miracle worker, Jesus of Nazareth.
           Back in Nazareth, I felt strangely restless and unsettled.  The winter was uneventful, passing quickly into spring. Soon it was time for the Passover celebration.  One morning I was at my bench when I heard a soft knock on the door.
            “Come in.”
“Good morning, my son.”
My mother was standing in the door, silhouetted by the early morning light.   It reflected the inner light that always seemed to shine from within her.  She was beautiful.  But, of course, she was my mother and very special to me.  I squinted my eyes to look at her.  She smiled.
“James, I am leaving with my sister and her husband to go to Jerusalem for the Passover.”
I felt uneasiness in my spirit as I heard her say this; I felt a strange foreboding. “Do you want me to go with you, Mother?” I asked. “Will Joseph or Simon be going?”
“No, you must all stay here.”
            I looked at her, wondering why she wanted to go to Jerusalem at this particular time, and why she did not want us to go with her.
Sensing my confusion, she smiled sadly and said, “James, I must go, but I will be home soon.”
            As I hugged her good-bye, I knew instinctively that she hoped that Jesus would be at the Passover.  Mother knew how we felt about him, and she did not want to deal with Joseph’s ridicule or my questions.  Jesus was her oldest son, and she was worried about him.
Joseph and I helped her finish packing her little donkey.  Gruffly, Joseph said, “ If you run into our brother, tell him to come home.”  He hesitated and then mumbled, “Tell him that we miss him.”
Mother smiled and said, “Joseph, I will tell him that.”
           We heard word of the crucifixion two weeks later.  It’s interesting how an ordinary day can be turned into one that stands out for all time—–for all eternity.
            A messenger was sent to tell my brothers and sisters the news.  Jesus had been crucified, he was dead—–but then he told us that there was a rumor that he was alive.  Rumors were spreading throughout Jerusalem that Jesus had actually been raised from the dead.
            We hovered together in our mother’s house, our children, wives, husbands—–whispering, questioning, wondering.  What did this all mean?  What had really happened?
We worried about our mother.  She went to Jerusalem to be with him.  Was she herself in danger?  What were we thinking, sending her off to Jerusalem to face this?     
Always the impetuous one, Joseph said, “We will go to Jerusalem and find her.”
Simon, Judas, and Joseph packed quickly to leave. It was decided that I was to stay in Nazareth to . . . to do what?  To wait? To work?  How does one move through the days after something like this has happened?
  I couldn’t eat; food felt like rocks in my stomach.  When I lay on my pallet to try and sleep, my mind raced and jumped, thinking about and remembering my brother.  I was angry with him, angry that he had put himself in the position to be crucified. I cried, trying to muffle my sobs, but then screamed out at God. I was desperate to hear word about what had happened.   
On the fourth night, I finally fell into a fitful sleep.  I woke early the next morning, bathed in sweat, needing to seek a breath of cool air.  I decided to walk to the hill overlooking Nazareth, the hill where so much had happened.  Perhaps I would find some comfort there.
           
1 Corinthians 15:7 – Jesus appears to James. 

              My numbed mind refused to even think as I made my way up that familiar hill.  The beauty of the morning was lost to me.  I tripped once, falling to my knees, numb even to that pain.   I just stayed there for a moment, catching my breath and then stumbled back up and continued walking.  Finally, at the top, I sat down heavily on the same boulder that Jesus and I had sat on so many times before. The sun was just peeking out of the horizon, dusting the valley with a soft, golden light.  I stared at the sun, hardly blinking, my thoughts as motionless as my eyes.
Suddenly, as I gazed toward the rising sun, out of the rays of light, I saw an apparition walking toward me.  Slowly blinking my eyes, I tried to make sense out of what I was seeing. I couldn’t move; I was frozen. Could it be?  No, this was impossible. 
And then his voice said, “James.”
I slowly stood up, stunned and bewildered.
Shaking my head and mouthing his name, I asked, “Jesus?”
“Yes, my brother, I am alive.”
I looked at him again, still not believing my eyes.  “You’re alive! Jesus, how can this be?”
           He walked toward me, smiling, his arms outstretched. With a loud shout that echoed throughout the valley, I ran to my brother, grabbed hold of him and hugged him.
“You’re alive!  You’re alive!” Still holding on to him, I backed away at arm’s length and looked at his beloved face. Laughing at me, he said, “Yes, little brother, I am very much alive.” With a whoop, I ran to the edge of the cliff, threw back my head, and shouted out to the valley below, “He’s alive!  He’s alive!”
Suddenly, I knew.  It all made sense now.  I fell to my knees and cried out, “Lord Jesus!”  Tears were streaming down my face as the truth flooded over me.  Jesus—–my brother, Jesus is the Messiah!
Jesus walked over and put His hand on my shoulder. “Rise up, my brother, we must talk.  I have plans for you.”
We sat once again on that rock overlooking the valley and talked of many things.  There was so much to be said.  Jesus looked at me and said, “Brother, none of this is going to be easy, but whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy.  For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.   So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything” (James 1:2-4 NLT).
My heart burned within me as we talked.  There was so much that I needed to know.  Where should I begin?  What was I to do?
           “James, you must meet up with Simon and the other disciples.  You will be welcomed among them.  They have already embraced our mother.  I have told them to wait in Jerusalem until the Father sends you what He promised.  John baptized with water, but in just a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1:5 NLT).
           I hesitated before speaking, “What of our other brothers?  What of Joseph?”
Jesus smiled, thinking of our outspoken brother.  He then actually laughed out loud and said, “Joseph will be one of my most faithful followers.”
We sat together, facing God’s glorious sunset.  I then turned and looked one more time into His precious face, my brother’s face . . . no, the face of my God. 
He smiled.  “Shalom, James.  We will meet again.”  And then He was gone.


Copyright 2003, All Rights Reserved, Xulon Press




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