Recently I ran against a bad case of PR. I was sitting in church practicing silence and solitude. Instead of mediating over the verses presented to me for my consideration, I found myself stuck on the transfiguration.
In short summary, during the transfiguration, 3 disciples (Peter, John and James) witnessed Jesus in his glory and in conversation with Moses and Elijah:
28About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.)
34While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. 35A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." 36When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen (Luke 9:28-36, NIV).
Here is what struck me. John, we all know about John. He wrote a gospel and epistles and Revelation. Jesus proclaims him beloved. We know a lot about John and his life after the resurrection compared to the majority of the other twelve disciples. John has gotten some great public relations and rightfully we respect him and hold him up as an example to this day.
And then there is Peter, the Rock. He wrote Epistles and his post resurrection actions are documented in Acts and by tradition. We respect Peter, study Peter both his failings and triumphs. And Peter has gotten some great PR.
But then there is James! What about James. He is not the same James who had an epistle added to canon. Acts does not carefully chart James’ movements to help shepherd the early church. Though we can likely assume he was one of the decision makers when Acts refers to the disciples. But beyond being a Son of Thunder with his brother the Beloved, it’s not like we study James’ life intently as an example of holy transformed living or gave him a great nickname.
But why not. Jesus showed James his glory. Jesus not only allowed James into his inner circle of 12 but even added him to the inner inner circle of just three men that got to see this event. So we have to assume that Jesus knew what was in James’ heart and what great work was ahead of him. Jesus chose to reward James by sharing with him this moment. And I have to assume that James did not leave this event changed. I have to assume that after the resurrection, like John and Peter he looked back on this moment and gained strength. And I have to assume that James did great and wonderful things. But again, we don’t elevate him to the position of respect that we do Peter and John.
Now in-depth research, i.e, Wikipedia, shows that James by tradition had a great influence in spreading the church to Spain and was martyred for his efforts. But tradition and history leads me to simply assumption. And my assumption is…James did important things we should all greatly respect. But we fail to place him on the pedestal of John and Peter.
So, what do we learn from this. How about this…..praise doesn’t matter. James did not need accolades to do his important work. James did not need studies completed on his character in order for his efforts to matter. His work glorified Jesus and transformed himself and others. His work was eternal, more eternal than any praise that could be given by men. James mattered to Jesus no matter what raises, plaques, ribbons, gift cards, statues, brand new corvettes or other awards men failed to give him. In the end, seeing Jesus in his glory was more important praise than James could have ever received from men. Jesus’ smile is the best reward any of us can have.