Thought for the day on St James the Apostle, 25th July 2020
King Herod laid violent hands upon some who belonged to the church, he had James the brother of John killed with the sword. After he saw that it pleased the Jews he proceeded to arrest Peter also. Sometimes I think we can get confused about Biblical references to King Herod, as there were several of them.This one is not Herod the Great, who massacred the Holy Innocents. He died around 4 BC-Work that one out! Nor is it Herod who had John the Baptist killed, that was Herod Antipas.
The one we are dealing with here is Herod Agrippa, king of Judea 41-44 AD. grandson of Herod the Great. It is clear that a ruthless and cruel streak ran through this family.We have to be thankful that we do not live today under such wicked despots who held human life so cheap.Why Herod Agrippa decided to lay violent hands upon the church we can only guess.We are told that the martyrdom of James pleased the Jews, however Peter who was next in line was only imprisoned, although he escaped.
James is one of the best known of the 12 apostles.His father Zebedee was a well known fisherman in the area where Jesus lived. He was called as one of the first followers along with his brother John. Along with Peter we have the three who formed the inner ring of the disciples. He therefore witnessed the raising of Jairus’ daughter, he was present at the Transfiguration and was at the Garden of Gethsemane on the first Maundy Thursday. In Mark’s Gospel he was one of the disciples who asked Jesus about the future destruction of the temple, “When will this be and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?”
It is however somewhat reassuring to know that the disciples were human like us and made mistakes. It was the mother of James and John who asked if they could be granted seats on his left or right in the kingdom. Naturally Jesus rebuked them for this, the other disciples were not best pleased either. We do well to remember that we are not involved in Church work to be the greatest, to be in some way important, but to serve. A fitting reminder to us all!
None of us can lay claim to the best seats in the kingdom of heaven. Another mistake by James and John happened in a Samaritan village. The village did not welcome Jesus because he was going to Jerusalem and Jews and Samaritans were not exactly the best of friends.The brothers said “Lord do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Again they were rebuked by Jesus.Good to remember that even the greatest saints were not perfect.
The two brothers were nicknamed Boanerges or Sons of Thunder. Some have suggested that James had a fiery temper, which may have been why Herod Agrippa took a dislike to him.
Why should James die and Peter escape? James is in any case the only disciple whose martyrdom is recorded in the New Testament, the first disciple to die, unlike his brother John who was not martyred.
James is often referred to as James the Greater, to distinguish him from the other disciple called James the Less. Numerous churches have been dedicated to him, including several in this diocese. Our one time curate Andrew Quigley is Vicar of the well known church of St James the Greater in Leicester. According to legend James’ remains are in Santiago de Compostela in Spain, although some scholars dispute this. Be that as it may the fact remains that Santiago has become one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world. The way of St.James is a network of routes leading there. Some people have walked the last 100 km to get there or 200km by bicycle.
St.James is the patron saint of Spain.When 25 July falls on a Sunday it is called holy or Jubilee year and a special door is opened for entrance to the great Santiago Cathedral, the next Jubilee is 2021
As we reflect on St.James, his close relationship with Christ, and his human failings we might say as of many saints, in the words of the hymn writer, “they were mortal too like us, Ah when we like them must die, may our souls translated thus, triumph, reign, and shine on high” (but not in the best seats!)