James the Lesser

Matthew 15:40 and Luke 6:15

James the son of Alphaeus is the most obscure of the apostles. He is the Don Rickles of the band. His is a life in the shadows. He is the unknown apostle, BUT he was an apostle. If you heard a certain person was an astronaut that went to the moon, but you knew nothing else about him you would still know a lot. Much would be known by the standards used to choose them, by their role and responsibilities. So it is with James II.

The two references to him in Scripture simply note who his mother and father were. That’s it!

Family relations are a bit challenging but from cross referencing names it appears this James was a brother of Matthew, a cousin to James and John, and likewise a cousin of Jesus. He and Matthew would be two of the three sets of brothers who were apostles. The other brothers who were apostles were Peter and Andrew.

Alfred Adler, one of the founding fathers of modern psychiatry, says that the desire to be significant is the strongest impulse in human nature. Adler put it ahead of the sex drive which Sigmund Freud put first. The drive to be somebody is a dominant desire.

James is proof there is room for us nobodies to serve Jesus.

The “fit” of James among the apostles is evidence you can’t have anything large without something small.

You can’t have anything great without something less.

You can’t have a book without chapters. You can’t have chapters without paragraphs. You can’t have paragraphs without sentences. You can’t have sentences without words. You can’t have words without letters of the alphabet. The greater consists of the lesser.

You can’t have a universe without a planet. You can’t have a planet without soil and\or sea. You can’t have soil without grains of earth and drops of water. You can’t have earth and water without molecules. You can’t have molecules without atoms. You can’t have the greater without the lesser.

The age defying, continent spanning, globe engulfing ministry of Jesus Christ exists because of the “James the Lessers” live and serve.

“Little James” walked in company with giants. He was a companion of Jesus Christ. That gave him unusual insight. As He chose the others so Jesus chose him because —

“Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, ‘Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it'” (Luke 10:23,24).

He walked with the great of his era on the greatest mission ever assigned.

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves” (Luke 10:1-3).

“I send you out as lambs among wolves.” He was brave and courageous. He went.

After being sent out the apostles came back saying, “Even the devils are subject to us through your name.” Christ replied: “Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name. And He said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven” (Luke 10:17, 18, 20).

Most persons are familiar with the great literary works of John Gresham, Eugenia Price, Max Lucado, etc. Who knows who first devised an alphabet, designed rules of grammar, or set the type for their books? Yet without the work of the unknowns they would not be known.

Millions enjoy the music of Mozart, Bach, Beethoven and Verdi. Who knows who devised notes, scales, and rests, the building blocks of music? Without the works of these unknowns the works of the known would not be known.

Many who may be consider “lesser” have impacted our lives. The name of Guido of Arezzo isn’t a household name. The result of his work fills our lives daily. He devised a system of writing music in around 1025 AD. He was a monk who devised a system of noting music. From his thoughtful creativity came bars, clefs, notes, and all needed to record musical sounds.

Some lesser form of recording music may well have been around since the time of Christ. It was Guido who opened the door to written music.

Using his system of recording music on paper the first printed collection of music was the work of Ottaviano de’Petrucci on Venice in 1501. These two who lived 500 years apart were lesser lights who have illumined our worlds with music.

Think of great churches and great preachers and try to recall one renown worker in these churches. Yet, without the many unknowns they would not be known.

Simon, the “unknown celebrity” is typical of the legion of unknown nameless heros of the cross. Service, any service, rendered in Christ’s name is as unto the Lord and may well never be noted. Don’t let a lack of recognition dampen your zeal for the Lord.

Remember: “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches over me.”

Unknown achievers are many. I’ll give a new gold Cadillac or a mess of collard greens to the person who can tell me who John Walters was. He was a math teacher. He had a young student whose interest in math he kindled. His student was Albert Einstein.

Likely no one has heard of an eleven-year-old who loved to swim named Austin Gallagher. He saved his little eight year old friend from drowning. He struggled to get his little friend to the shore. History would have been different if he had not rescued his little friend Abraham Lincoln.

Most people know the name Sam Walton, but who knows the name, Author Neebler. Walton revolutionized merchandising but not as radically as Author Neebler. The first third of this century most people, men and women, wore “long handles” or as they were known “long John’s.” In the early 1930’s many houses got running water and heat. As a result people started bathing more than once a week. It became inconvenient to struggle with a thin man every time you wanted to bathe. Neebler cut off the legs and arms of “long John’s” to make them more comfortable.

He noticed a picture of a French bathing suit with a unique design. He made a pair and experimented with them in a swimming pool. They were bikini like and were held up by braces. He found they came off easily so he put an elastic band around the waste and called them “jockey shorts.” They gained popularity. However, the shirts were awkward to wear with them so he designed a new shirt called a “T-shirt.” Was it ever popular.

He then set about to sell these new designs. Up until this time merchandise was kept in drawers behind the counter. If you went in to purchase underwear the merchant would go through the drawer and find your size and put it on the counter for you. Neebler came up with the idea of wrapping these underwear in cellophane and putting them out on a table for persons to pick their own. Unpopular at first, the idea caught on and led to today’s style of marketing. The unknown, Author Neebler, revolutionized marketing. He is “James the lesser” of marketing.

The cause of Christ has been carried forth by the myriads of privates in His army.

James may not have performed any great work or made any great speeches by which he could be remembered, but Jesus saw something of worth and value in him which caused Him to select James to be an apostle and thus to be among the inner circle of Christ’s closest associates.

One of God’s biggest challenges with average Christians is helping them to get over thinking they are nobodies. Nobodies? There stands the cross of Christ proving you are somebody.

James the unknown was known by name to God.

He courageously went forth. Historian Hegesippus (169 AD) tells of Annas condemning James. He was taken to the battlement of the Temple and given opportunity to save his life by recanting. Instead he shouted of Christ as the Son of God seated at the Father’s right hand and that He would come in the clouds to judge the world. He was cast down. Surviving the fall James struggled to his knees in prayer. Bypassers stoned him while he prayed for the Father to forgive them. Finally a man standing by with a club struck a blow to his head killing him. The symbol of James in Christian art is a carpenters saw. Why? Because tradition says his body was sawed apart and discarded.

James the Unknown made known Christ.