Someone once asked Leonard Bernstein, the celebrated orchestra conductor, “What is the hardest instrument to play?” He immediately replied, “Second fiddle. I can always get plenty of first violinists, but to find one who plays second violin with as much enthusiasm or second French horn or second flute, now that’s a problem. And yet if no one plays second, we have no harmony.”
I know so very little about orchestras, and I do not know if there is any position like a “third violinist,” but if there were it must be an even more awkward position to occupy. There is a man who played “third fiddle” in the Bible extremely well and we need to strive to be like him.
However, before discussing him, let me tell you about one of his brothers, James. The brother was not one of the original apostles, but following the death of James, son of Zebedee and brother of John, this James became a great leader in the church. When the angel delivered Peter from Herod’s prison, the apostle made certain that this James was informed of his deliverance. This James was one of the chief spokesmen in the discussion they had over circumcision in Acts 15. It was his wise counsel which became the basis for the decision they made. He was also one of the chief advisors to Paul when he returned to Jerusalem after his third missionary journey. Imagine growing up in the shadow of such a great leader of the church. Yet our “third fiddler” had such a brother.
How could this man be the one who played the third violin when it was obvious that James must have been the first violinist? The truth is that, as great as James was, his older brother was “first violinist” because James’ brother was Jesus. Can you imagine James having such a great brother who was not only part of the church, He was the one who built it! James knew how to play second fiddle!
Then, who is this man who played “third fiddle”? It is Jude, the brother of James and the brother of Jesus. Now imagine that you are Jude and you have been selected by God to write one of the books of the Bible. The book’s purpose was to identify and confront false teachers. Would you not have thought it wise to remind your readers that you were the Lord’s brother? Would you not have wanted to let others know that what you said was authoritative because Jesus was your brother?
Look at his opening words, “Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ and the brother of James . . .” What a man! He knew how to play “third fiddle.” God give us more men in the church who know how to do this!