Because of the 19th century B. C. patriarch Judah ben-Jacob and the 2nd century B. C. patriot Judas Maccabeus, the name “Jude” (or “Judah”—Hebrew spelling; “Judas”—Greek spelling) was a popular one among Jewish parents. Even Joseph and Mary had a son with that name (Matthew 13:55). It was not until the infamous Judas Iscariot that the name’s popularity plummeted.
As he began his inspired epistle, the New Testament prophet writes, “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James” (v. 1). This self-identification informs us of two significant relationships in Jude’s life:
His spiritual relationship with Jesus. As foreshadowed in Exodus 21:5-6, Jude had voluntarily opted to be a slave to Jesus. He chose to live in self-determined submission of another’s will. Unlike many a devotee to Islam, he had not been “converted” by a carnal sword ready to slit his throat; rather, he had been constrained by the love of Christ as the sword of the Spirit cut his spiritual heart into godly sorrow which prompted his repentance and resulted in his common salvation through baptism (1 Peter 3:21). Because of his spiritual relationship, Jude sought to be sure that whatever he did in word or deed was joyfully done in submission to and accordance with the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Colossians 3:17).
His physical relationship with James. It is impossible to know for certain whether this is James the apostle or James the half-brother of Jesus. However, because of the apostle James’ early martyrdom (Acts 12:1-2) and the recognition as a pillar in the early Jerusalem church which the half-brother of Jesus had (cf. Galatians 2:9), the most likely possibility is the latter.
If this identification is correct, Jude—like his sibling, James—is another subtle, yet distinct proof of Jesus’ resurrection. During His ministry, Jesus’ flesh-and-blood brothers did not believe in Him (John 7:1-9); later in their lives, they did. In between these two opposite periods in their lives, the resurrected Christ appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7) and quite possibly to Jude (1 Corinthians 15:6).
Once he and his brother had experienced the common salvation found in Christ, Jude and James (cf. James 1:1), no longer regarded Jesus according to their flesh-and-blood connection to Him. “Even though we have known Christ, according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer” (2 Corinthians 5:16) was their mindset.
Jude’s introduction of himself to this readers is a testament to his spiritual mindedness and is historical proof that “blood is thicker than water” ought not be true of any disciple of Jesus, not even one who is His half-brother.