I am only a servant
Pastor Mark Jeske
Letter writers in the ancient world preferred to sign their letters at the beginning. This is not so strange—today we look to the end of a letter or to the return address to know the writer’s identity. What is surprising, though, is how James identifies himself. Although he is the (half) brother of Jesus Christ himself, he prefers humbly to call himself Jesus’ servant (or even slave): “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings” (James 1:1). Perhaps he was painfully aware of his early disbelief in Jesus’ true identity and the rejection of his messianic claims.
James provides no other information on his identity. He probably thought this unnecessary, since by the mid-40s a.d. he would have been very famous as one of the leaders of the mother church in Jerusalem.
James mentions his Savior’s name only twice, here and in chapter 2, verse 1. But that mighty, glorious name throws a long shadow over the entire letter. James is going to assume that his readers know the great works of their salvation—in chapter 2 he calls Jesus “our glorious Lord.” Everything he writes really concerns the believer’s faith response to God’s forgiving love in Christ. And so his word “Greetings” in verse 1, which literally means “Rejoice!” sets the context for all that follows. This was also Jesus’ first word to Salome, Johanna, and Mary on Easter morning (Matthew 28:9). And it’s his word to you too.
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