St. James of Jerusalem 2007

St. James the Brother of Our Lord and Martyr
Matthew 13:54-58
2007-10-23

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A prophet is typically without honor in his own house because of familiarity. When Moses goes home at night, the glow from Mt. Sinai fading from his face, the acclaim of the people ringing in his ears, he has to face Zipporah with her flinty knife. She has seen him at his worst. She has even intervened for him. You might be impressed with your professors, but their wives and children are not so impressed. It is the worst for the “practical” department, because nothing is so theoretical as practicality, and anyone who gives advice on marriage and family life is bound to look and feel like a hypocrite. It is easy to look smart in a controlled environment, to be pious and say all the right things, but do you have what it takes to circumcise your own son? Or must your wife do it for you?

But this is not the case with Our Lord. Familiarity of this sort is not the problem. The people of Nazareth have no stories of His cutting down a cherry tree or breaking a school window or throwing eggs at passing cars. He did not misbehave. Ever. He is no Moses or Elijah or Abraham. His preaching and His life are a perfect match at every point.

So, too, His miracles are true. No one ever accuses Him of being a charlatan. There is no drama, no set-up, no smoke or mirrors or fancy incantations. He just heals. He restores creation in front of them and there is no argument about it. His miracles are undeniable.

But even greater than this is how His Words open up Moses. No one can dispute what He says. His teaching is obviously true. He speaks with clarity and power and not even the most clever of lawyers can find a mistake, a piece of flawed logic, a misapplication or mis-emphasis. There are no contradictions or missing pieces. His Words are perfectly matched to the divine revelation of the Old Testament and render His opponents impotent.

That is the problem. Despite His life and His miracles, despite the fact that everything He says is correct according to Moses, they refuse to accept that He is God. It is not that the have reason to reject it. They don’t need reason. They have sin. The Truth of Our Lord’s Divinity shocks and scandalizes them. They hate what He says and though they cannot argue against it, they will not hear it. They reject it out of hand. That is why they ask where His wisdom and power came from. He says it came from God. They refuse that answer and thereby hint that perhaps it comes from the devil, since that is only other option. That is also why they remind everyone that He is the Son of Joseph and Mary, the brother of James and the rest. They cannot dispute His miracles. They cannot find a failure in His life. And they cannot criticize His teaching. So they cling with all their hatred to this lie: He is just a man. “Look at that bunch of sinners in the carpenter’s house!” They say. “They’re no better than us. Jesus is one of them. He is just a man.” The great irony is that they are correct. He is one of them. He has joined Himself to sinners. He is not ashamed of them. He will even suffer their death. This is why God has become Man.

That is the point of all our Theology. All the genera of Christology confess this reality: God is a Man. God is the Man Jesus Christ. There is no other God than Him. The Jews hate this for it seems to violate Moses even though they can’t figure out how. The Greeks hate it even more because it makes no sense. This is no way for a god to behave. The primary distinction in Greek myth, between gods and men, is that the gods are immortal. Zeus likes to use humans for his pleasure, occasionally even taking human form in order to have intercourse with a beautiful woman, but Zeus does not become, he cannot become, mortal. He cannot die.

Jesus, our God, is a Man. He dies. He did not become a Man to please Himself, but to please His Father. He became a Man in order to die for those who hate and betray and reject Him. He became a Man to stop the lies and the hatred and death. This is what the people in Nazareth refused. It is what everyone in Hell has refused for they have rejected the Name of the Only-Begotten.

So also it was refused by James the brother of Our Lord prior to the resurrection. But Our Lord appeared to James after His resurrection. He forgave him. He even made him the bishop in Jerusalem. Now James was greatly honored in the early Church. He was known as James the Just. But he probably still had to go home and face a few people who knew something of his frailty and his past, that he had not always been “the just,” that there was a time when he refused Our Lord, that he sometimes still grew angry or discontent or lazy. That is the life of a Christian, of being a sinner forgiven, of living by faith and not by works. That is the way of Moses. He failed the Lord but still found favor in His eyes. By the grace of God, Moses kept his son and his wife. If our families won’t forgive us, there will be no joy or peace on this earth. The life of faith is lived in forgiveness because all of us are still infected with original sin. All of us look and feel like hypocrites. But the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ permeates not just the Church, but also the home. So that even at home, contrary to expectation and justice, prophets might find honor from their wives and children. Zipporah loves Moses.

The Lord did not turn His back on Nazareth, even when they turned their backs on Him. St. James of Nazareth was saved. He found forgiveness and grace from his Brother. So are we all are honored to call Christ “Brother,” and to call His Father, “Our Father,” for we are all sons of the Carpenter and brothers of Our Lord. We are all forgiven.

In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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