James of Nazareth was the little known and far less celebrated brother of Jesus of Nazareth. As you might imagine, growing up in the shadow of the Christ child was not an easy thing to do. When your brother is the Son of God it’s hard to have a sibling rivalry. How do you compete?
James: Mom here’s an ashtray I made at school.
Mom: That’s very good James.
Jesus: Mom here’s an alternative universe of indescribable joy.
Mom: Thank you Jesus!
As his older, more charismatic brother redefined the world, James felt like the Rodney Dangerfield of Palestine. The poor guy could never compare favorably to his more successful and handsome brother. For example, when James brought home a report card from Nazareth High with C’s and D’s, his mother (let’s just call her Mary), would often sigh and say, “Oh James, why can’t you be more like your brother Jesus. Instead of resenting him you should spend more time with him and maybe you too could perform a miracle – like passing the 11th grade.” This familial attitude led to conversations like this:
James: When I graduate from high school I am so outta here.
Mary: When you graduate from high school you’ll be 23.
Mary: Well James you did fail Aramaic, and that is our native language. You know Jesus graduated high school at 8.
James: I can’t stand it anymore. Jesus this. And Jesus that. Every one treats him like he walks on water or something.
Mary: He does.
James: OK. Bad example. It’s just that every time I have a question or a problem it’s always, “Well James, ask yourself; what would Jesus do?” What would Jesus do? That’s all I ever hear around here.
Mary: Well honey, you know, he is the Messiah. You’d do well to listen to him. We all would. They only come around once. Maybe twice.
James: I know. I know. I shouldn’t be so jealous, but when he makes a mistake it somehow fits into the grand scheme of things. When I do it’s: “Great going Einstein.” And I don’t even know who this Einstein guy is except I think he’s Jewish.
Mary: You’ve done some good things James.
James: Like what?
Mary: Remember it was you who bestowed upon your brother his middle name.
James: Oh Jesus H. Christ. Big deal. Y’know mom, he can’t build bookshelves like me and dad can. Anything requiring mechanical skills and he’s lost. And remember our family reunion at the Dead Sea when we returned all thirsty from our hike.
Mary: Yes James I do.
James: And we’re all ready for a nice refreshing drink until Jesus accidentally changes all the water into wine? Not cool. Definitely not cool. But the Greenblatt’s are like, “My God it’s a miracle!” I don’t think so. Aunt Sadie almost died from alcohol poisoning chugging the stuff.
James’ father Joseph overhears the conversation and chimes in:
Joseph: I understand James. It’s never easy when your brother is God incarnate, but you’ll just have to face it. Your brother Jesus is a professional man. He has a white sack cloth collar job. Our lot in life is to be blue collar. Chin up James. After all, you’re a pretty good shepherd. And Palestine needs shepherds. Plus you have a great way with sheep.
James: Yeah great. Sheep flock to me. Whole cities flock to Jesus.
Joseph: Well son there is an upside to being you, at least according to the Romans I speak with. They say that when compared to Jesus, your odds of being crucified are practically nil.
James: Dad, has Jesus been changing your water into wine again?
Mary: James, leave your father alone. You know he’s still a little upset over how I became pregnant with baby Jesus.
James: What do you mean?
Mary: Oh never mind. Let’s just say the whole thing was written in the stars and benefitted all parties concerned.
James finally graduated Nazareth High (Class of ’27. As in 0027) and continued his studies at Yeshiva University which would later become Middle Tennessee State. When he told his mother he wanted to major in Threshing she said, “Threshing! James that’s so BC. Try something more modern like Cobbling or Roof Thatching.”
James gruffly responded; “I don’t get this whole ‘BC’ thing. How is it that all of history is divided from before his birth to after his birth. It’s enough to give a guy an inferiority complex. I see no reason why time division couldn’t be based on my name. Everything that came before me would be known as BJ, and everything that came…oh never mind. Bad idea.
As time went by (as only time does), James mellowed and began to manifest a begrudging respect, then a powerful love for his now deceased brother. He knew it was a sibling rivalry he could only win through surrender. So he organized and toured the Middle East with a little Christ tribute band called “Jesusmania.” They had a few hits that charted – Kumbaya comes to mind – but mostly it was a feel good remembrance of times past. The multitudes really seemed to enjoy it even if many of them were stoned.
As with us all, James the Younger became James the Elder and Jesusmania groupies soon became known as the Apostles. James was savvy enough to copyright the word “Christmas” and with that money bought time shares in Bethlehem and Nineveh. James eventually did transcend his inferiority complex and developed a serene and beatific manner which many mistook for a frankincense addiction.
When James body died and his soul went to heaven, there was his brother Jesus waiting for him with open arms. In this new dimension they were now peers and their sibling rivalry evolved into a fierce grace that each appreciated with immense avidity.