James: The Servant of Jesus
I can imagine that as James penned his letter, he recalled his transformation from being the family’s biggest Jesus-skeptic to a super strong Jesus-believing preacher! He had to laugh a laugh of humility! In his introductory comments, he says this about himself: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (James 1:1 ESV). James was a servant. The Greek word used for servant in the Bible is doulos. Doulos means a slave. James saw himself as servant to Jesus and Jesus his big brother as his Master and Lord.
So what happened? The Resurrection happened! The resurrection changed everything, and not only for James but for many others as well! The truth of the resurrection, that Jesus is alive, has brought about the faith of some 2.8 billion people today in our world who believe! In fact, Christianity hinges on the resurrection. If there is no resurrection, then Jesus wasn’t God and our faith is futile (I Cor. 15:13-14).
The Apostle Paul’s writes in 1 Corinthians 15 that after the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus showed himself to many of his followers. Guess who he revealed himself to personally. It was James, his little brother. James the skeptic would move from disbelief to belief, from fear to faith, from unbeliever to believer, from a social faith to a saving faith. For James, Jesus was his Lord! He would willingly submit, willingly serve his master (Jam. 1:1).
James, having walked and lived with Jesus for nearly his entire life, would have recalled his supernatural birth and life, his incomprehensible knowledge of and insight to the Old Testament, and his peculiar ability to reason with scribes and Pharisees as a child (Luke 2:46-47). James likely spent the rest of his life as a believer recalling the Sermon on the Mount and all the other teachings he watched his big brother skillfully deliver.
James doesn’t leverage his sibling relationship to Jesus in his letter. Rather he highlights his own spiritual identity. He is a servant of the Lord (Jam. 1:1). James has been humbled. He has seen the risen Christ and likely resolved to be one of his most faithful followers. In his letter, we will find some of the most Jesus-saturated teachings in the Bible. James is filled with wisdom, practical teachings and truths, intended to help encourage and exhort believers to live out their faith in practical way that serves others. This would make sense in light of James’s own journey. Jesus focused on ministering to the poor, calling the religious to prove their faith in their love for people! James follows in the same footsteps of his big brother Jesus. Much of James directly relates to the classic Sermon on the Mount (Jam. 1:22, 5:12, Matt. 7:20-24; 5:34-37 respectively). James was a servant of Jesus. He would do everything his
master said to do. James would spend the rest of his life pastoring one church (Acts 12:17, Gal. 2:9), trying to help people love and live for Jesus!
James is found in Jerusalem in Acts 1:13-14. He is with the other apostles, his mother, and his other brothers. The Bible says they devoted themselves to one another and to prayer. James begin here to see himself as a servant. The word servant is used in the Old Testament to describe great leaders such as Moses (Deut. 34:5, Dan. 9:11) and David (Jer. 33:21; Ezek. 37:25). In the New Testament, the term servant is applied to the Apostle Paul (Rom. 1:1, Phil. 1:1, Tit. 1:1) and to the Apostle Peter (2 Pet. 2:1). James would have recalled Jesus’ teaching on servant leadership, recorded in Matthew's Gospel. Jesus came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28). If James is to be a servant too, his life and ministry are to serve those in his church and community. He will die a martyr's death for his master.