James, the Less
James looked down from where he stood, balanced carefully at the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. Far below, he could see that the streets were filled with people. It was Passover, and Jews from all over the known world had come to the Holy City.
A hand grabbed his arm, pulling him off balance. “Get on with it!” a voice threatened. Behind him, a safe distance from the dangerous ledge, stood the chief priest, scribes, and Pharisees. “Deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah! Before all these people, deny that Jesus was the Son of God and that He was resurrected from the dead,” they demanded.
James the Less was one of the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus. He was also one of Jesus’ younger brothers, as was Jude. He had obviously known Jesus and walked with Him for many years. He had seen Jesus alive again after His crucifixion and resurrection.
James risked another glance at the street below. Many of the people down there knew him. For thirty years, he had been the bishop of the church at Jerusalem. During that time, he wrote a book of the Bible, the Epistle of James. He had openly preached Jesus as the Messiah and the resurrected Son of God on almost every street corner. How could he deny what he had seen with his own eyes, heard with his own ears, and touched with his own hands: his risen Lord?
Through his preaching, his prayers, and his example, James converted many people to Christ. He was on his bare knees so often, worshipping God and praying for forgiveness for the sins of the people, that his knees became numb and calloused, like the knees of a camel. This also earned him the nickname of “James the Just.” He was respected by everyone, even many who opposed what he taught and believed.
Feeling threatened by the rapid growth of the church, the chief priest, scribes and Pharisees came up with a plan. They would force this well-known church leader to deny his faith before the multitude. But James refused to cooperate.
From his place at the top of the temple, he preached with more boldness than ever. Every person in the crowd below looked up as he proclaimed, “Jesus is the promised Messiah! He is sitting at the right hand of God, and shall come again in the clouds of heaven, to judge the quick and the dead!”
When the crowd below saw his courage and heard his bold words, they loudly praised God and magnified the name of Jesus. Enraged, two or three of the religious leaders jumped forward and pushed James off the temple roof.
Miraculously, James was not killed by the fall; only his legs were broken. Then the priests, scribes, and Pharisees said, “Let’s stone the ‘just man’ James.” They picked up rocks to stone him to death. James, kneeling on his broken legs, prayed, “Lord, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”
One of the priests, when he heard James praying, begged the others to stop, saying, “What are we doing? ‘The Just’ is praying for us. Stop the stoning! Stop the stoning!”
While he was shouting this, another man ran up with a big, heavy stick in his hand and struck James in the head. James died instantly from the blow, still in prayer.
The word “martyr” originally means someone who tells what he has seen, an eyewitness. Jesus Freaks are people who have seen Jesus’ power in their own lives and just can’t help telling others about it. A favourite saying of a teenage girl who boldly approaches other teens is, “If you knew what I know about Jesus, I’d want you to tell me!”
Excerpted from Jesus Freaks, a best-selling collection of worldwide testimonies targeting teens with the life-changing message of the Persecuted Church. You can order a copy on our online catalogue or by contacting our office.