How many of you have a brother or sister, son or daughter, husband or wife or some family member, who does not believe in Christ Jesus? I'd be surprised if anyone reading this doesn't have a dear loved one, who does not trust in Christ. It's the saddest thing in the world. You want your loved one to have what you have, confidence in the forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. You want your dear loved one to be in heaven with you for eternity.
Today the Church observes the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem, Brother of our Lord. And as we thank God for his example of faith and good works, even his innocent martyrdom, we are given hope for our loved ones, who have strayed from the saving faith.
James was Jesus' brother (Mark 6:3). Yet, we are told in Scripture that Jesus' brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5). In fact his family thought he was insane! (Mark 6:21) His family even sought to prevent his ministry, which caused Jesus to reply, "'Who are my mother and my brothers?' And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, 'Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.'” (Mark 6:33-35)
Although Jesus had two men named James as his disciples (Matthew 10:2-3), neither of them was James his brother. Scripture makes it clear that his brothers, including James, did not believe Jesus to be the Messiah. Yet, that is not where the story ends.
At some point James believed in Jesus. St. Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15:7 that after his resurrection Jesus appeared to James after he appeared to his disciples. Acts 1:14 records that Jesus' brothers, who didn't believe in him in John 7:5, were in Jerusalem devoting themselves to prayer with Mary and the disciples of Jesus as they waited for the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. James didn't only become a believer and a witness of the resurrection of Christ, but he is counted among the Apostles (1 Corinthians 9:5) and St. Paul even calls him a pillar of the church! (Galatians 1:18-19; 2:9). Indeed James became an important leader in the church along with St. John and St. Peter. He even made the concluding comments at the Council of Jerusalem and dictated the letter to be sent to Gentile Christians (Acts 15:13-29). The Epistle of James also is believed to be written by the brother of our Lord. When one compares that letter to the teachings of Jesus, especially in the Gospel of Matthew, he sees that James listened and absorbed the teachings of his brother and Savior.
Finally, according to Hegesippus, James boldly confessed, "Christ himself sitteth in heaven, at the right hand of the Great Power, and shall come on the clouds of heaven" before the scribes and Pharisees threw stones at him and finally one of them struck James dead with a staff. James, the former skeptic died confessing Christ Jesus as his Savior.
We know that Jesus being a man is able to sympathize with us in our weakness and was tempted like us in every way, except without sin (Hebrews 4:15). Yet, we also know that Jesus dealt with the pain of having his own flesh and blood reject him and not have saving faith. But our Lord continued to pray for his brother. He continued to preach and confess the truth. And those prayers and those words worked. James came to faith, confessed Christ, and died a Christian death.
So you have this encouragement. Christ knows your sorrow. He too desires your loved one to repent and believe in the Gospel. You have the comfort that God does hear your prayers for your loved one. And you have the encouragement to not give up confessing Christ. God's word has the power to create faith (Romans 10:17). As it turned the heart of James, it can turn the heart of your loved one. May this message give you strength to continue in your prayers and confession.