Read - Luke 9v51-56
Message - Scott Woodburn
The Lord had two followers called James. There was James the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater and there was James the son of Alphaeus, also called James the Less. Today we’ll consider James the Greater, called this because he was older and/or taller than the other James.
James was the brother of John and the son of Zebedee and Salome. He was a fisherman and was mending the nets one day on his father’s boat when Jesus called him to a new life (Matthew 4v21-22). Together with his brother John he received the nickname from Christ “Boanerges” which means “Sons of Thunder”.
What did the nickname signify? Certainly it would be true to say that the young men would become passionate for truth and from them would thunder the Gospel. But in earlier days both would be somewhat hot headed. In Mark’s Gospel John witnessed someone casting out demons and was distinctly unimpressed. The individual in question was not with John and so the son of thunder tried to put a stop to his work (Mark 9v38).
Luke gives us another account of the hot headed brothers. Jesus sent messengers into a Samaritan village urging them to prepare for Christ’s arrival (v52). However the Samaritans did not make any preparation as “Christ’s face was set towards Jerusalem” (v53). The Samaritans were seen by the Jews as a half-breed. They worshipped on Mount Gerizim rather than Mount Zion and they only recognised the first five books of the Old Testament. So this village wanted nothing to do with Christ who in their eyes was a Jew heading for Jerusalem.
James and John were not impressed and asked “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9v54) That’s pretty strong! “Lord will we have this village burnt to a crisp?” Their question is met by Christ’s rebuke and soon they move to another village (v55-56) Make no mistake, judgement is coming and Christ’s return will be both great and terrible, but as His followers it is not for us to see villages burnt to the ground whenever we decide.
While we see James and John acting rashly in the Gospels it would be wrong to think that the Lord’s nickname was negative mockery. Jesus knew the brothers and he understood their zeal. At times it would manifest into something ugly but the men would grow in grace and sanctification and both would play their part in completing the foundations of the church.
James, a son of thunder, would be instrumental in the church in Jerusalem and when Herod raged against the church, James would lose his life by the sword (Acts 12v2). He was the first Apostle to be killed for the cause of Christ and he didn’t die breathing out murderous threats or calling fire from heaven. Although we have no Biblical account, history suggests that James faced his death with such courage that his executioner became convinced of the resurrection of Christ and was killed alongside James. The son of thunder had grown up and become a son of glory.
The church does not advance by bullet or bomb nor the rage of men. Instead it is as the Lord says “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit” says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 4v6)
Q48 What are we specially taught by these words, before me,” in the first commandment? These words, before me,” in the first commandment teach us, that God, who seeth all things, taketh notice of, and is much displeased with, the sin of having any other God.