How would you like to be known as “the less”? What does that mean? You don’t amount to much? You’re but a fraction of a person, incomplete, not whole? You walk into a room and no one notices – Mr., Mrs., or Miss Nobody – the “Less.”
There was an apostle of Jesus known as James the “less.” Here’s what we know about him: His father’s name was Alphaeus. That’s it. That’s all the Bible has to say about James the less, the son of Alphaeus. Of all the apostles, he is the most obscure. But he was an apostle and therein lies his significance.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus didn’t call the rich, famous, and powerful to be His apostles? Just imagine how much attention people like that could attract. Why didn’t He call Nicodemus and the rich young ruler? Instead, He called a nearly anonymous man called “the less”!
In his book, The Waiting Father, Helmut Thielicke makes the following poignant observation:
Though the burden of the whole world lies heavy upon His shoulders, though Corinth and Ephesus and Athens, whole continents, with all their desperate need, are dreadfully near to His heart, though suffering and sinning are going on in chamber, street corner, castle, and slums, seen only by the Son of God – though this immeasurable misery and wretchedness cry for a physician, He has time to stop and talk to the individual. He associates with publicans, lonely widows, and despised prostitutes. He moves among the outcasts of society, wrestling for souls of individuals. He appears not to be bothered at all by the fact that these are not strategically important people, that they have no prominence, that they are not key figures, but are the unfortunates, lost children of the Father in heaven. He seems to ignore with a sovereign indifference the great so-called “world historical perspectives”of His mission when it comes to one insignificant blind and smelly beggar, this Mr. Nobody, who is nevertheless so dear to the heart of God and must be saved!
That’s why he chose James the less. And that’s why He chooses us. That’s why you and I – non-famous, non-notorious, nobodies – can be in His company, too!
James the less was chosen by Jesus Himself. He walked and talked with Him on a daily basis – a personal friend of the Son of God! Can you imagine what that must have been like? He saw Him heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. He saw Him walk on water and still a storm. He saw Him feed thousands and drive scoundrels from the Temple. He heard the Sermon on the Mount and the Olivet Discourse. He heard Him tell those simple earthly stories with heavenly meanings. He was at the Last Supper. Immanuel, God with us, even washed his feet! He was with the rest of the confused and frightened disciples during the Crucifixion. He saw the Empty Tomb. And he was on the Mount of Olives and saw with his own eyes Jesus ascend back into heaven.
What do you think of James the less now? Sort of envy him don’t you?
There’s one more thing we know about James the less. He was entrusted with the precious Gospel of Jesus and told to go preach it – and he did. Where or to whom we don’t know, but that’s what the apostles did; they preached Jesus Christ and Him crucified, God’s power to save.
And that brings me to this observation – God entrusted the greatest story ever told to a nobody like James the less – and to a nobody like me. Perhaps it takes a nobody to know a nobody or to reach a nobody. It’s the nobodies who are the most receptive of the Gospel. Watch the celebrities on the TV talk shows. They are so arrogant and so full of themselves. They think just because they are rich and famous they’re
brilliant and profound. Now how does a nobody reach them with the simple message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified? No, it’s the man who cleans the TV studio theatre after the show and the woman who cleans the dressing rooms; the guy who drives the taxi and the fellow selling newspapers on the corner – they’re the nobodies I can talk to. That’s us, you and me, and them – nobodies for whom Christ died.
Maybe that’s why James the less was called to be an apostle.