Is there anyone in your life who was your bitter enemy at one time, but who is a dear, close friend now? I mean someone who used to make your blood boil, who used to irritate you to no end, but whom you love to death now? Is there someone who, in the past, if they walked in the room, you wanted to walk out? But now, you can’t wait to be in the same place with them?
It’s sort of rare isn’t it? It’s rare because we’d have to come to see an enemy like that in an entirely new light if we were to begin to embrace them as a cherished friend. We’d have to come to believe something totally different about them than what we had seen in them before. Things that make people big-time enemies are usually extremely difficult to overcome.
Now to really drive the point home. Is there somebody, right now, about whom you have the toughest time thinking even one positive thought? What would it take to win you over to that person’s point of view—even to the point where you would say you adore them?
A Case in Point
Jesus of Nazareth grew up with at least seven half-siblings—“James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas [Jude],” and “all his sisters.” (Matthew 13:55-56) During the years of Jesus’ public ministry on earth, his brothers most certainly did not believe that Jesus was God. They didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah. One gets the distinct sense that Jesus’ brothers really did not like him.
The Gospel of John records Jesus’ brothers mocking him. John 7:3-4 reads,
“So Jesus’ brothers advised him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea so your disciples may see your miracles that you are performing. For no one who seeks to make a reputation for himself does anything in secret. If you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.’”
How do we know this was mockery? Because it immediately follows two verses that tell us Jesus was avoiding Judea intentionally for a while because the Jewish leaders there wanted to kill him. And then John 7:5 says, “For not even his own brothers believed in him.”
How bad was it between Jesus and his brothers? Mark 3:21 informs us, “When his family heard this they went out to restrain him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’”
The attitude of Jesus’ brothers was perfectly in line with the attitude of others in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth who “took offense at him.” (Matthew 13:57)
A Little Analysis
Within months of the negative events recorded in Matthew 13, Mark, 3, and John 7, we find that suddenly Jesus’ brother James no longer takes offense at him, mocks him, or thinks he’s out of his mind. To the contrary, in Acts 15:13 and 21:18, we find James the brother of Jesus the leader of the Jerusalem church! [We know that this is not James the apostle and brother of John because that James had been killed by King Herod in Acts 12. Plus, in Galatians 1:19, the apostle Paul refers to this church leader as “James, the Lord’s brother.”]
Jesus’ half-brother James went on to write a letter that became part of the New Testament. In that letter, James calls himself, “James, a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 1:1) More striking still, James commends “faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” (James 2:1) The one who used to mock Jesus and think him crazy now worships Jesus as the “glorious” Messiah God! What a complete turnaround of conviction!
What had happened? How did a brother who was once such a bitter enemy of Jesus reverse his perception of Jesus 180 degrees? This is no less shocking than if Representative Ron Paul had dropped out of the 2012 presidential campaign to become a devotee and campaign organizer for his former opponent Barack Obama!
The answer is brief, simple, yet powerful. 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 says,
“For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received – that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas [Simon Peter], then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.”
If anybody would have disbelieved the resurrection of Jesus, James would have. His half-brother had embarrassed the family by being shamefully crucified between two common criminals just outside the most holy city of the Jewish faith. Next thing we know, James bends the knee in worship to that very same Jesus.
Only the appearance of Jesus in a touchable, glorified, risen body can explain James’ astonishing, newfound faith! And remember, James began to preach the resurrection in the very same city where his brother had been executed by crucifixion just weeks earlier and to people who had cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” (Luke 23:21)
The extreme shame of crucifixion could only be overcome by something as powerful as bodily resurrection. And fear of crowds who could once again shout, “Crucify!” could only be overcome by the most sober conviction that death had been defeated by Jesus, Messiah and God!
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