James was one of Jesus’ original twelve apostles and was one of the few privileged to participate in some of the most sacred events of the Savior’s ministry.
He was the brother of John, who was also an apostle, and the son of Zebedee. Jesus gave the brothers the surname of Boanerges, which means “Sons of Thunder.” The two brothers and their father, fishermen, were in their boat mending nets when Jesus approached them at the start of His ministry. He called the brothers to be His apostles and they promptly left their ship and their father to follow Jesus. Jesus instructed the disciples to teach the gospel and specifically to teach that the kingdom of God was at hand. They were to take this message to the lost sheep of Israel, but not at that time to the Gentiles or the Samaritans.
In addition to teaching the gospel, they were instructed to heal the sick, cast out devils, and to travel without purse or scrip. They were warned that they would be persecuted for their work, but that if they endured to the end, they would be saved in Heaven. If they were taken prisoner, they were to not worry about what they said because the spirit of God would guide their words. If they were persecuted in one city, they were to move on to another.
James Saw the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ
In Mark 9, we learn that Jesus Christ took Peter, James, and John with Him to the top of a tall mountain. There He was transfigured and His clothing was shining as white as snow. Elias and Moses appeared to them and spoke with Jesus. Peter suggested they build three tabernacles, one for Jesus and the other two for Elias and Moses. They were frightened by the events. Then a voice spoke from Heaven, saying, “This is my beloved Son: hear him.”
At that moment, Moses and Elias disappeared, leaving only Jesus and the apostles on the mountain. Jesus instructed them not to tell anyone what they had seen until after His resurrection. They kept their promise, but wondered among themselves what Jesus meant when He referred to rising from the dead.
When a group of people refused to receive Jesus, James and John asked if they should call down fire to consume those who refused, as they knew Elias had done. Jesus told them they didn’t understand the scriptures. Jesus did not come to destroy men, but to save them.
James Saw Jairus’ Daughter Raised From the Dead
A man named Jairus had a twelve-year-old daughter who was dying. He went to Jesus and asked Him to heal her. Jesus went towards his house but people thronged around Him and he stopped along the way to heal a woman. When He arrived at the house, Jairus was told that his daughter had died and that he must not bother Jesus. However, Jesus responded that Jairus must not be afraid, but must only believe and she would be healed. He would not allow anyone but the parents of the girl and three of his apostles, Peter, James, and John, to go into the house with Him. Those who were already inside laughed when Jesus said she was not dead, but was merely sleeping, so he put them outside. James and the others in the room watched as Jesus took her hand and instructed her to rise, which she did. Jesus told them not to tell anyone what He had done.
One day after leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew. James and John came also. Simon’s mother was very ill and they told Jesus this. He took her hand and lifted her up. Her fever departed and she was immediately able to get up and minister to them.
A man came to Jesus, knelt and pleaded for help with his son, who was described as mentally ill. He reported that his son often fell into both fire and water. He explained that he had taken his son to the apostles, but they had not been able to heal him; as a father, he was desperate. Jesus healed the child and the apostles wondered why they had been unable to do so. Jesus told them their faith had been too weak. If they had even the faith contained in a mustard seed, He said, they would be able to move mountains and nothing would be impossible for them.
Jesus taught of his forthcoming betrayal and eventual death. The mother of James and John came to Jesus and asked that her sons be allowed to sit on his right hand after death. Jesus explained that this promise was not His to give. Only the Father could give that to those who were prepared. Although Matthew says their mother made the request, Mark said that James and John requested it personally.
James Went With Jesus to Gethsemane
When Jesus went to Gethsemane, he instructed his apostles to wait for him. Matthew and Mark—but not Luke—report that Jesus invited three of them, Peter, James, and John, further into the garden with Him before asking them to wait and to watch. Then Jesus went still further and began to pray. When He returned, He found the apostles asleep and asked Peter if He could not wait and watch even for an hour. He noted that their spirit was willing, but their flesh was weak, and they needed to pray to avoid temptation. Jesus returned to His prayers but again returned to find them asleep. This time He merely went back alone to suffer the initial great agonies of the atonement. When Jesus returned, He informed them that He had been betrayed and the time was at hand.
After His resurrection, the disciples were gathered together with closed doors for fear of the Jews, and the resurrected Christ appeared to them there. He commanded them to receive the Holy Ghost. He appeared again eight days later when they were again behind closed doors, and Thomas was permitted to touch the nail prints in His hands.
His third post-resurrection appearance to them came when James and John, Simon Peter, Thomas, Nathanael of Cana, and two other disciples were fishing in Tiberius. Jesus was on the shore and called out to ask if they had any meat. They did not recognize Him at first and responded that they did not. He advised them to cast on the other side of the boat and they would find fish. They did so and drew a large quantity of fish. John then recognized Jesus and identified Him to Peter. They quickly came to land, not being far into the water and found that Jesus had prepared a meal for them. The fire was laid with fish and there was bread. They ate and then Jesus taught them that if they loved Him, they were to feed His sheep.
Herod killed James with a sword in his efforts to persecute the church.