“Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and brother of James…”
Over the next few installments of this blog, I’m going to be taking a little different direction. Usually, the blog is just a random collection of thoughts, with very little connection from one week to the next. What resulted was a rather scattered, cluttered mess – which, apropos, describes a lot of my life right now.
In an attempt to be more organized, I’ve decided that I’m going to start working through scripture, slowly, methodically, systematically. My hope is not to write a commentary or sermon, but to simply reflect on the passage, soak in it for a while, and hopefully, prayerfully, discern truth in it. If you benefit from reading along in this journey, all the better.
So we begin with Jude. It’s a great little letter, near the end of the New Testament. If you haven’t read it in a while, I encourage you to step away from your computer, find your Bible, and read it. It won’t take long.
Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Did you notice how Jude introduces himself, how he identifies himself?
The introduction of the letter follows the typical format of the NT epistles: name and credentials of authority. Paul did this regularly, giving his name, then commenting on his call and relationship to the audience. We see it also in James’ and Peter’s letters, while Hebrews remains anonymous and John never introduces himself except in Revelation.
Here, Jude describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James.
This is interesting because at the time this was written the only “biblical” James we know of who is still alive is James the brother of Jesus, the author of the epistle James. That means that Jude would have also been the brother of Jesus.
So why not come out and say that? If part of the introduction of a letter is the validation of authority, don’t you think that saying, “I’m the brother of Jesus” would carry some weight? Wouldn’t that make you a shoe-in for apostolic authority?
This is how a lot of the world works. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, that really counts. We drop names in order to bolster our influence, we make connections hoping to advance ourselves.
If you read about the brothers of Jesus in the Gospels, however, you see perhaps why Jude doesn’t emphasize this relationship. Mark tells us that Jesus’ family thought he was out of his mind (Mark 3:21), and John says that even his own brothers did not believe in him (John 7:5). Imagine, then, the shame that the brothers of Jesus would have felt when they come face to face with the resurrected Lord. It was the resurrection changed everything.
After the resurrection, Jude calls Jesus “Master” and “Lord.” He recognizes Jesus as the Christ. He knows Jesus not simply as the brother he grew up with, but as the Messiah, the anointed one of God, who saved him from his sins and unbelief, and to whom he owes His life. From now on, Jude’s identity is wrapped up in the person and work of Jesus Christ. “Jesus is Lord,” says Jude, “I am his servant.”
Is this how you are identified? That’s a question that gets tossed around a lot today, “How do you identify yourself?” The world says that identity is fluid; changeable, malleable by successes, failures, opinions, moods, feelings, so that it becomes impossible to even begin to know who you are. So much of our identity is established by our work, our accomplishments, even our failures. We let these things define us, and entrap us. “It’s just who I am…”
But here in the introduction of Jude we hear, not just who Jude is, but how we too may be identified: “Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master, I am His servant.“
If you want to know my real identity, if you want to see behind the mask that I wear (no, I’m not Batman), here’s who I am. I am a sinner. I have been redeemed by the grace of God in Jesus Christ. I have been purchased by His blood, redeemed by His cross, covered in His righteousness, secured in His kingdom. Jesus Christ is my Lord and Master, I am His servant.
Whatever else may be said, regardless of your accomplishments and failures, if you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, your identity is rooted in Him.
Tune in next week as we explore the second half of this verse in greater detail.