“He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”
James was most probably beheaded.
He wasn’t the first martyr, that was Stephen. However, he was the first of the Twelve to be killed.
The importance of this is that it would have been very shocking that one of the Twelve had been put to death. Where was the divine protection? Surely the Twelve would not be the ones to die?
Jesus never promised protection. In fact he promised these 2 brothers that they would drink from the same cup as Him. James martyrdom was the fulfilment of that promise.
Why did Herod choose James to kill? It was most definitely for his own popularity. This action will gain support for him.
Watch carefully for those near you who are searching for fame and praise of man. They may even resort to your demise in order to gain.