James was the son of Zebedee and Salome and the brother of St. John the Apostle. Fishermen like their father, James and John were on their father’s boat mending his nets when the Lord passed by. Jesus called James and John, and asked them to follow him. He told them, as his disciples they would become fishers of men. They would help him to spread the Good News about God’s kingdom. Zebedee watched as his two sons left the boat to follow Jesus.
With St. Peter and St. John, James was a special companion of Jesus. Along with them James was allowed to see what the other apostles did not see. Together they watched as Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus to life. They went up the mountain with Jesus and saw him shining like the sun, with his robes white as snow. Then they heard God’s voice telling them this was his beloved son. This event is called Jesus’ Transfiguration.
On Holy Thursday, the night before he died, Jesus led the apostles into the garden of Gethsemane. Matthew’s Gospel tells us he invited Peter, James and John to go with him to a quiet area to pray. They watched as the Jesus’ face became sad with grief. Then in his great sorrow, his brow began to sweat drops of blood. It was heartbreaking to watch.
But the apostles were very tired and they fell asleep. When the enemies of Jesus finally came to take him away, St. James ran in fear. He was nowhere around when Jesus died on the cross on Good Friday. But on Easter Sunday evening in the upper room Jesus appeared to his apostles again. The resurrected Jesus came through the locked door and said, “Peace be to you.”
St. James and the other apostles found that deep peace after the Holy Spirit’s came upon them on Pentecost. St. James began his ministry as an in a very strong way. He asked Jesus for a seat of honor in his kingdom. He demanded that Jesus send fire down on the villages that did not receive the Lord. But he also had great faith in Jesus.
Eventually, James learned to become more humble and gentle. He traveled to Samaria, Judea and Spain preaching the Good News of salvation. He was given the honor of being the first apostle to die for Jesus. Chapter 12 of the Acts of the Apostles tells us that King Herod Agrippa had St. James put to death by the sword. As a martyr James gave the greatest witness of all.