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James, the son of Zebedee, was also referred to as James the Elder or St. James the Great, in order to differentiate him from another apostle named James, the son of Alphaeus. Jesus called him along with his brother John while they were in their boat with their father Zebedee mending their nets (Mt 4:21). Hence, his name always appears in the Bible, along with his brother John. Alongside Peter and John, he was part of Jesus’ inner circle.

James was the son of Zebedee, a fisherman on the Sea of Galilee, and Salome. He was the elder brother of John the Apostle. Like his father, James was a fisherman. He and his brother John worked together with their father Zebedee. James is considered a cousin of Jesus due to Salome’s connection to Mary.

Jesus called James and John while they were fixing nets with their father. Instantly, they left behind their nets to follow Jesus (Mt 4:21-22). Jesus called James and John “Boanerges,” which means “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17), likely due to their passionate and fiery personalities.

James was part of Jesus’ inner circle, along with Peter and John. These three apostles were present for important events like Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead, and accompanying Jesus in his agony at the Garden of Gethsemane.

Along with Saints Peter and Andrew, James and John were among the first four disciples whom Jesus called (Mk 1:16–19). Jesus’ eschatological discourse in Mark 13 was triggered by their question regarding the destruction of the Temple. James and John once asked Jesus if they could sit at His right and left in His future glory (Mk 10:35–40). Salome, their mother, even went to Jesus herself on their behalf (Mt 20:20-23). Jesus replied that He did not have the authority to grant this request.

James’ ministry was centered in Jerusalem and Judea. He also preached in Spain. While he was in Spain, at first, he found no positive outcome from his preaching. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, bi-located and appeared to him in 40 A.D. on a pillar on the bank of River Ebro at Zaragoza and encouraged him, stating that his mission would have a great outcome. Blessed Mother asked him to build a church there in her name. She gave a pillar of jasper to mark the spot where she had appeared to him.

James demonstrated bravery and unwavering commitment by spreading the message of Jesus and guiding the church in an area that posed great danger to early Christians. Similar to Stephen, he also became the first martyr among the apostles. Blessed Mother Mary helped him with his difficult mission in Spain.

James was the first apostle to be martyred. King Herod Agrippa I ordered his execution by beheading around 44 AD (Acts 12:1-2). His martyrdom carries great significance as it shows his unwavering faith and dedication to Jesus, even in the face of death. According to Spanish tradition, his body was taken to Santiago de Compostela, where his shrine attracts Christian pilgrims from around the world. His feast day is celebrated on July 25.


James and John had common characteristics. Both were sons of Zebedee and Salome from Bethsaida. Both were fishers on the Lake of Galilee, along with their father. Jesus nicknamed James and John as Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17) which reflects their character. While Jesus and the apostles were going through Samaria to Jerusalem, the Samaritans declined to welcome Jesus. Then James and John asked, “Lord, do you want us to call down fire from Heaven to consume them?” (Lk 9:54). During the public ministry of Jesus, both were desirous of sitting at the right and left of Jesus in his kingdom (Mk 10:35-45). However, Jesus selected them, along with Peter, to be in his innermost circle, thereby achieving prominence among the apostles. Out of the 12 apostles, Jesus took only Peter, James, and John to special places like the mount of Transfiguration, the raising of Jairus’ daughter, and to the Garden of Gethsemane, because of which the evangelist lists James and John immediately after Simon Peter, although Andrew was Simon’s brother. After Pentecost, their zeal turned to proclaiming the gospel of Jesus, dedicating their lives to it.


James displayed a strong commitment and fervent passion in his devotion to Jesus. His readiness to leave his livelihood and follow Jesus immediately is a powerful message about prioritizing spiritual calling over earthly concerns.

James’ experiences at the Transfiguration and in Gethsemane highlight the need to acknowledge and affirm Christ’s divinity. His intimate connection with Jesus underscores the value of developing a meaningful and personal relationship with God.

James’ bravery as the first apostle to face martyrdom exemplifies unwavering commitment to faith. Christians can find inspiration in his courage and unwavering commitment, even during times of persecution.

The change in James, from a hot-tempered “Son of Thunder” to a wise leader, demonstrates the transformative impact of Jesus’ ministry. It offers hope that personal flaws and weaknesses can be overcome through a relationship with Christ.

Even though James died early, his leadership in the early church shows how dedicated service can make a significant impact. He inspires believers to actively contribute to their faith communities, understanding that their actions can have a lasting impact.

In conclusion, the life and ministry of Apostle James, the son of Zebedee, provide a powerful message about passion, transformation, and unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ. His demonstration inspires believers to actively seek a deep relationship with Jesus, to confidently proclaim their faith, and to stand firm in the face of hardship.

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