Thursday, March 9, 2023

A little family conflict. . .

The role of St. James of Jerusalem in attesting to the events of Christ's death and resurrection should not be minimized.  After all, the family into which our Lord was born was a normal family -- complete with all their ordinary family conflicts.  Outside of Joseph and Mary who had the word of the angels to aid their faith, the rest of those among Jesus' greater family had only their own observation and probable resentment that their brother was the Son of God.  It was not simply a bit of childish jealousy but followed Jesus into His public ministry when He and His siblings were mature.  So if there was anyone who would be in a position to question the reality of Christ's death and resurrection, it would have been James -- inclined from the beginning to doubt rather than believe the claims of Jesus.  So when James ends up being a pastor and bishop and the authoritative voice at the Council of Jerusalem, it provides the most profound and solemn attestation of those claims of Jesus and the testimony of those who witnessed both.

I must admit that I grow weary of the charge that Christianity rests not upon fact or history but faith -- blind faith at that.  It is the worst of lies and it creates doubt in the hearts and minds of the faithful.  We let the smug talking heads of academia and erudition to tell us that the Bible is a book of myth and legend, that few of the facts of Scripture correlate with any real history, and that none of it matters because, after all, we take it all by faith (sort of like a grain of salt).  What a foolish lie we have been fed and what fools we are to believe it or to worry about it.  Among the more than 500 witnesses was someone who lived in the same household, did not believe the claims of the Lord, and who ended up believing and becoming one of the most important leaders of the early church.  This James knew that Jesus had not died a symbolic death but one as real as death can be.  This James knew that Jesus was not raised a spirit or a ghost but real flesh and blood -- though glorified.  This James who lived with the fact of Jesus in flesh was not going to surrender his integrity and his future for a myth or a legend but only for the real crucified and risen Savior.

My friends, faith is not a pie in the sky when you die.  It is not a made up truth for fearful or superstitious people who feel like the need to believe something.  We have not only a solid written record of eyewitnesses but a faith that has been scrutinized with more intensity than just about anything else in this life.  We also have a faith that does not ask you to swallow a whale of a tale but to listen, hear, and the Holy Spirit will teach your fearful and stubborn heart to believe, trust, and rejoice in promise given and promise kept in Christ Jesus.  His life embodies our hope -- a hope that is built not on an imagination but a death more real than any other death and a life more real that any other life.  Let us learn from James to believe without fear and confess with courage the fact of our salvation in Christ crucified and risen.

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