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St James of Jerusalem brother of Jesus

Fillipa Hamilton photoshopped
Fillipa Hamilton photoshopped
In the early church there was a saying: In Christ, God became what we are so that we might become what Christ is. God became fully human so that we might become divine.

You may have seen the news last week that the American fashion label Ralph Lauren fired the model Filippa Hamilton because she was too heavy. Filippa Hamilton is 178cm tall (5 foot 10) and weighs 54 Kg. Recently Ralph Lauren photoshopped an advertisement with Filippa Hamilton in which she was made to look impossibly thin – in fact in the advertisement she looks absolutely gross. Her waist has been photoshopped to be the same size as her head. She looks like an alien. I cannot imagine any normal woman looking at those photographs and thinking – I’ll buy those clothes. Clearly most normal persons would not be able to fit into such clothes. Certainly Filippa Hamilton cannot.

What sort of people do we aspire to be like? What sort of role-models inspire you? Do you get inspired by people that are like you and have achieved more? Or do you think role-models should be unattainable, fantasy, impossibly unhuman.

Today we celebrate the feast of St James the brother of Jesus. A lot of Christians start to squirm when they hear “brother of Jesus”, it makes Jesus and his family and his background sound too normal. It must have been his cousin – some of them say. Well, unfortunately for you, Greek has a perfectly good word for cousin, and a perfectly good word for brother, and James was Jesus’ brother – as we hear in today’s reading.

In fact a lot of Christians, I would even go so far as to say most Christians cannot name Jesus’ brothers. And of course, what might be worse – is that no one can list off Jesus’ sisters – we know he had some, but the society of the time was so sexist that their names are not even recorded.

Jesus was the oldest in the family. And James was the next boy. When Jesus died, James took over running the movement Jesus had started and James stayed the boss in Jerusalem – we call him the first bishop of Jerusalem. He probably wrote the letter of James we find in the Bible. James is mentioned by the historian Josephus writing at the time. Josephus mentions James is the well-respected brother of Jesus. And that his enemies took advantage of an interval between Roman Governors in 62AD to have James executed.

So the reading today has Jesus growing up in an ordinary first century Mediterranean peasant family – of five boys: Jesus, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas, and at least a couple of girls.

In Christ, God became what we are so that we might become what Christ is.

Isn’t it funny how some people want our heroes to be different to us. Some people want models to look more glamorous than we will ever manage. And what’s the consequence of that? Well we will never be able to be like them – so we don’t even try. We won’t even need to try. We don’t even start out on the journey. We can give up before we start.

When models are a lot more like us, when heroes are a lot more like us, when spiritual leaders are a lot more like we are – then maybe we are challenged – scary eh! – to go on the same journey they went on. Or at least a similar one.

So in the reading, Jesus goes to his hometown and it says they “take offence at him.” Because this is the guy who grew up in their midst We’ve known him since he was a kid; he’s the carpenter’s son– that’s his carpenter’s shop down there; We know his Mum, Mary. We know his brothers James and Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live here. Who does he think he is?” They get their noses all out of joint.

In Christ, God became what we are so that we might become what Christ is.

Jesus said: “Prophets are not without honor except in their own country and in their own house. A prophet is taken for granted, he is not accepted, in his hometown and his family.”

Look at the pictures we see of Jesus, the stained glass images. The Shroud of Turin notwithstanding – this is an image of Jesus pretty hard to live up to. But what if Jesus didn’t look like that.

We now know a lot more about Mediterranean peasant diet and lifestyle at the time of Jesus. We know more about their health, what they looked like. What if Jesus actually was short, and old looking, bald, and fat, with bad teeth and bad breath? That would not have been uncommon for a first century Mediterranean carpenter, a building-site labourer, a builder.

Jesus was essentially indistinguishable from the people of his day. He was one of them.

In Christ, God became what we are so that we might become what Christ is.

postscript: a useful alternative perspective on “brother of Jesus”
pps. untangle the different biblical James here

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3 thoughts on “St James of Jerusalem brother of Jesus”

  1. Eugene A. Koene

    Some ancient Christian sources give the names of Jesus’ sisters as Mary and Salome. (Bible Review, April 2000, article by Richard J. Bauckham “All in the Family: Identifying Jesus’ Relatives.”) He makes reference to the Protevangelium, the Gospel of Philip, and Epiphanius, Panarion — perhaps not the most reliable sources. The whole article, however is quite fascinating — accessible in Bible Review Archives, Biblical Archaeology Society website.

  2. When a psychiatric nurse, I worked with girls who had anorexia, before the phenomenon in boys was well-understood. They were so easily “triggered” by pics of real-life celebs who were too thin, I hesitate to think what this pic will do to them and people like them. The Photoshopper in question should be hung, drawn and quartered. (Apologies for the lack of liturgical comment…)

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