Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ. –Jude 1:1
My brother Dennis isn’t much to look at. Rarely does he sport the latest fashions, and frequently his appearance shows evidence of the work he does at his stable. Let’s face it, when you’re dealing with thousand-pound animals and dirt and hay and such, it’s not realistic to always keep your fingernails perfectly clean.
On the other hand, people who know Dennis tend to think a lot of him. He’s a devoted father and grandfather, an attentive son, and the sort of person you want as a friend, the sort of person who doesn’t mind sharing a heavy job or sharing a Chiefs game. When I meet people who know Dennis, I always point out that he’s my brother. I don’t think it has ever failed to raise me in their estimation.
Who doesn’t like to claim positive family associations? If it’ll get you out of a speeding ticket or into a college class–which it almost certainly won’t–you can claim me as family. That’s what’s so strange about Jude’s salutation in his letter. He claims one brother, James, but he doesn’t claim another. Follow the family tree with me for a moment. James, the guy who wrote the book bearing that name, was the brother of Jesus. In Matthew 13:55, we read that Jesus had four brothers, including James and Judas. Since Judas and Jude are essentially the same name, isn’t it reasonable to suggest that this Jude is that Judas and therefore the brother of Jesus?
Yet Jude calls himself the servant of Jesus. He doesn’t claim his brotherly connection with Jesus but does point out the one with James. How intriguing.
Perhaps Jude did not want to forget his ultimate relationship with Jesus. It’s all too easy for us, who aren’t born of the same mother as Christ, to remember Jesus as the great friend and the elder brother. That’s all fine, but we should never forget our debt to Christ. If we do, we run the risk of taking him for granted.