So what transformed James from a skeptic to a Christian saint? Two things—Jesus’ resurrection and the persuasive power of a sinless life. These two factors together compelled James to believe that Jesus, his brother, was God and convinced him to stake his life on that conviction (he died a martyr).
My brother isn’t God. It’s pretty obvious (we grew up together, after all), and nothing he could do or say could convince me of his divinity. I’m not God, either, and nothing I could do or say would convince him otherwise, too.
Yet somehow, Jesus convinced his brother he was God. And James was so confident, he was willing to die for his belief. How did Jesus do it? What convinced his own brother to acknowledge Jesus was God and worship him?
Early on, James had a different opinion. When it came to his brother’s bold claims, James was a skeptic. James, his brothers, and even his mother thought Jesus had “lost his senses” and showed up once when he was teaching “to take custody” of him (Mk. 3:21). Another time, Jesus’ brothers told him to go to Judea, where the Jews were seeking to kill him (Jn. 7:2–4) since “not even his brothers were believing in him” (Jn. 7:5).
“A prophet is not without honor,” Jesus said, “except in his hometown and among his own relatives and in his own household” (Mk. 6:4). During Jesus’ public ministry, his brothers rejected his message, criticized him, and refused to follow him.
Later, after Jesus’ ascension, we see these same family members in the upper room praying continually with the disciples (Acts 1:14). What happened? What convinced Jesus’ brothers to believe he was Messiah, become one of his disciples, and devote their lives to him? What persuaded them their brother was God? What transformed James from a skeptic to a convert to the leader of the church in Jerusalem and author of a book of the Bible?
Two things made all the difference.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:7 that Jesus personally appeared to James alive after the crucifixion. Pretty impressive, but it raises a question.