71AD - on the road in coastal Judea, James the Lesser and James the Greater argue about their enforced hierarchy - James the Lesser pointing out that while there are only two of them, there are many more Peters and Marys, to whom a ‘ranking system’ does not apply. While walking, they attempt to convert passersby - it becoming clear that while James the Greater is impressively multilingual, James the Lesser must resort to mime and handouts to communicate - he was on the loo at Pentecost, missing the gift of multilingualism - James the Greater challenging him to focus on ‘works not words’ instead. Things escalate when they meet Roman soldiers Fedex and Costco assaulting a fishmonger girl. James the Lesser intervenes and discovers that she is in fact deaf and uses his skills learnt on the road to communicate, infuriating the soldiers who turn their violence onto him. With James the Greater cowering in fear, James the Lesser prays for help and having discovered his calling, is rewarded by a miraculous shower of fish, driving the Romans off - James the Greater announcing that he is truly lesser than no-man, as they leave with renewed evangelical zeal.
Mark 9:30-37 contains the brief but stand-out anecdote of an argument between the disciples concerning who is greatest among them on their way to Capernaum, reflecting a similar debate at the Last Supper in Luke 22:24-30. In both, Jesus proposes the path of humility to everlasting greatness, that anyone wanting to be first, must make themselves last and servant to all – neatly personified in the medieval tradition of the two James’ being named Lesser and Greater, and in APOSTLES, James the Lesser’s inability to communicate as learnedly at his fellow disciples. Jesus expounds further that good works to children are of the greatest service, represented in APOSTLES by James the Lesser realising his ability to communicate with the young fishing girl, disparaged by the Romans doubly for her age and deafness, perceiving her as inferior. Many of us know what it’s like to feel humbled in life and be going nowhere – in careers, relationships, academia – comparing ourselves to peers, especially in the age of social media. And we might know others who are overlooked by society. The message to keep trying and applying oneself through works and deeds is therefore as salient today, as it ever was.