May 30, 2017

When God Surprises You!

“I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 (NLT)

Have you ever been surprised by God? Of the eleven post-resurrection appearances of Christ, the one that may have been the most fun for Jesus was when He met personally with his half-brother, James. You may remember when Jesus visited His hometown early in His ministry before the crucifixion and said,

“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” (Mark 6:4 NIV)  

Such was the case for Jesus!

“When His family heard about this, they went to take charge of Him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’” Mark 3:21 (NIV)

John’s Gospel adds,

“For even His own brothers did not believe in Him.” John 7:5 (NIV)

This is why I think it would have been fun to be in the shadows watching when Jesus showed up to see James, his half-brother. The Bible doesn’t say how far apart they were in age, but we know that Jesus was the elder as the firstborn. I can’t even imagine what it must have been like growing up with an older brother who was Jesus! I wonder if James ever heard Mary or Joseph say, “Why can’t you be more like your big brother?”  “Well, Mom, because Jesus is God and I’m not!” Still, if there ever was a hard sell, it must have been for Jesus’ family to grasp the concept that He was God in the flesh! He was the Messiah! Is there anyone more difficult to share your faith with than your own family?

Whether they believed or not, they loved Jesus and must have been heartbroken to see Him die and watch their mother grieve the suffering of her firstborn son! Did they think He was deluded all the way to the cross? Whatever their opinion, the Bible tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that Jesus would personally encounter his brother, James. I’ve often wondered if He walked quietly up behind James and said, “Boo!” However the encounter happened, it changed James forever! James and his brother, Jude, would later write two of the New Testament Epistles named after them. It’s interesting that neither one opens the introduction of their letters using the “brother card” to introduce themselves. Both James and Jude call themselves a “servant of Jesus Christ.” Jude adds, “… and a brother of James.” Their lives were humbled by their unbelief and the grace of the Lord Jesus to reach out to them. Despite their rejection, He accepted them and would visibly appear to them, preparing them for their role in His Kingdom. James became a prominent leader in the church at Jerusalem after Pentecost. Though much less is known about Jude, he too was clearly a church leader and wrote to believers with authority in the letter that bears his name.

God loves to surprise us! He shows up when we least expect it and in ways we would never imagine!