James was called the brother of Jesus because Joseph was his father.
He was known as “the Just” because of his exceptional virtue and wisdom, and he was chosen to oversee the Church in Jerusalem. James was a devoted man of prayer, whose “knees became hard like a camel’s from his continual kneeling in worship of God and in prayer for the people”, according to early Church writer Hegessipus. The New Testament letter of James, which emphasizes the importance of faith showing itself in action, is attributed to him.
In this period there was fierce hostility from the Jewish leaders towards the new Christian faith. As a result of James’ ministry, many Jews had become Christians, much to the vexation of the scribes and Pharisees. They called upon James to deny publicly that Jesus was the Christ at a celebration of the Passover, but instead he courageously affirmed Jesus’ identity.
Outraged by his testimony, the Jews began to stone James, who like his Saviour, prayed that God would forgive his assailants. A fatal blow to the head was delivered by the club of a laundryman.
All shall be Amen and Alleluia.
We shall rest and we shall see,
We shall see and we shall know,
We shall know, and we shall love,
We shall love and we shall praise.
Behold our end which is no end.
Augustine of Hippo (354-430)
Originally published in Heroes of Our Faith by Patrick Sookhdeo, Isaac Publishing.