The two brothers, James and John, sons of Zebedee, were prosperous fishermen by the Sea of Galilee. Their mother was Salome, a shrewd matron, who once asked Jesus to give her two boys prime positions when he claimed his messiahship. Nor were the two brothers shy of taking what they fancied as theirs. They once wanted to call down ‘fire and brimstone’ upon a village which refused entry to Jesus and his group. Because of their aggression, they were nicknamed ‘sons of thunder’. Still, James and John come across as favourites of Jesus, together with Simon Peter, another friend. All of them came from Bethsaida, a township on the Galilean lake.
Apart from these casual glimpses from the Gospel, we do not know much more about James. The Acts of the Apostles tells us that James was the first apostle to be martyred. This happened in Jerusalem, not long after the Resurrection. The growing number of followers of Jesus must have given rise to tensions with the Jews, and the princeling Herod Agrippa, wishing to curry favour with the Jewish establishment, had James arrested and beheaded.
Legend says that James preached the Gospel in Spain. This is probably untrue. Still, one of the greatest shrines of medieval Christianity is that of Compostela in north-west Spain where ‘Sant Iago’, as he is called, continues to attract thousands of pilgrims. May this great apostle and friend of the Lord continue to inspire us, as he has done to so many Christians down the ages.