God’s People, part 175: Bar James

Read Luke 6:12-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Judas (not Judas Iscariot, but the other disciple with that name) said to him, ‘Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?’”  (John 14:22, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

St._Thaddeus,_St._Sandukht_and_other_Christians_in_Sanatruk's_prisonPart 175: Bar James. The twelve disciples, as a whole, are so well known because of their proximity to Jesus throughout his ministry as accounted for in the Gospels; however, if you were to ask people to name the twelve disciples off of the top of their heads, the list would sound a lot like this: “Peter, James, John, Andrew, Mathew… Thomas….. Judas……..???” That is because there isn’t a whole lot written about the other disciples.

Of course, the Judas mentioned in anyone’s list of the twelve would automatically be Judas Iscariot, who was the only one of the disciples named Judas, right? Well, not exactly. There was also Judas son of James among the Twelve. In fact, Judas was a common name in Jesus’ time. About 60 or so years before Jesus’ birth, there was a Jewish revolutionary ruling as King named Judas Maccabeus. His successful revolution against the Seleucid Dynasty resulted in the re-dedication of the Jewish Temple, an event that is still celebrated in the holiday of Hanukkah.

There was also the revolutionary named Judas of Galilee who founded the Zealot sect, which we discussed in our devotion on Simon the Zealot. As one can see, Judas (another form of Judah) was a popular name and so it makes sense that another disciple would be named Judas, beside the one known as Iscariot.

Judas son of James, also known by the name Jude (but not to be confused with Jesus’ half-brother of the same name), is so named in Luke’s Gospel (Luke 6:16) and is considered to be the same as the Judas who is listed in John’s Gospel (John 14:22). In Mark and Matthew, there is no Judas son of James listed as being one of the disciples. Instead, they list Thaddeus as one of the Twelve.

Most scholars believe that Thaddeus (which is a Greek nickname meaning “a courageous heart”) is the same person as Judas, son of James. This is quite plausible considering that some of the disciples took on nicknames such as Simon (called Peter), John and James (“sons of Thunder”), etc. Add to the fact that the name Judas was tarnished by Judas Iscariot, and perhaps having a nickname might be quite beneficial for someone with the same name.

Whatever the case may be, Judas went on to preach the Gospel throughout Judaea, Samaria, Idumaea, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Libya. Along with Bartholomew, Judas was the first to bring the Gospel to Armenia. Also, in what is a favorite tidbit for me, Jude is traditionally believed to have been a vegetarian. In about 65 A.D., Judas and Simon the Zealot were executed by beheading in Beirut.

My hope for those who are reading this is that they will reflect on all of the disciples and their sacrifice for the spreading of the Gospel. In an age where modernists and even seminary presidents try to dismiss the miraculous and scandalous claims of Jesus, these Apostles went to their deaths proclaiming it as Gospel truth. The question is this, who should we believe? Arm chair theologians and modernist historians, or those who were willing to give up their very lives to proclaim the Gospel as truth?

The challenge for all of us is to stop abandoning our hearts for our heads. Yes, God gave us heads to think with, to reason with, and discern with. Yes, we should be using our heads; however, God didn’t just give us our heads, but our hearts as well. None of us truly live by evidence alone. If we did, none of us would ever step foot into a car again, let alone a house. None of us could survive life without faith. None of us could survive (long) without reason and discernment. Learn to balance the two and place your faith in Jesus Christ, just as Judas son of James and the other Apostles did. Serve Christ, no matter the cost.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“The Resurrection is at the core of our beliefs as Christians. Without it, our faith is meaningless.” – Joseph B. Wirthlin

PRAYER
Lord, help me to be strong and keep the faith. With you, all things are possible. Amen.

Episode 70 | Revelation, part 1: In Plain View

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-n37jb-af4033

In this episode, Rev. Todd begins a new, Eastertide message series entitled, Revelation. Based off of selections from the Book of Revelation, Rev. Todd discusses the need to recognize Jesus for who He as revealed himself to be to us. This message is based on Revelation 1:4-8.

EPISODE NOTES:

A LOOK BACK: Living in Sin

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well.

So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

A LOOK BACK: Fulfilled: Easter Sunday

bflw-devotional-800x490Writing the Life-Giving Water devotionals is not only an important ministry, but is a deeply rewarding spiritual discipline for me as well. With that said, observing Sabbath (aka rest) is an important spiritual discipline as well.

So here is a LOOK BACK to a devotion I wrote in the past. Read it, reflect on it, be challenged by it. Who knows how God will speak to you through it and how it will bear relevance in your life today? May the Holy Spirit guide you as you read the suggested Scripture and subsequent devotion.

God’s People, part 174: The Zealot

Read Luke 6:12-16

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“After him, at the time of the census, there was Judas of Galilee. He got people to follow him, but he was killed, too, and all his followers were scattered.”  (Acts 5:37, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SimonTheZealotPart 174: The Zealot. Because of the nature of the Gospels and the way they were written, we lose a lot of of the nuances when we merely read them like bedtime stories. Because the Gospel writers’ main focus was presenting a theology on Jesus’ identity as the Son of God, and on his death and resurrection, they did not trouble themselves with getting mired in many of the details.

Their focus was on the major people in the Jesus movement, starting with Jesus himself. Peter, James the Just, James and John (sons of Zebedee), Andrew, Philip, and Judas were all given their due and we can tell a lot about them because of the detail in which they’re described in the Gospels. The other disciples, however, were merely listed off as a record of their existence, with next to no other information provided about them.

In the last devotion, we looked at one such disciple named James, son of Alphaeus. Today’s focus is on another such disciple, Simon the Zealot. Most of us might gloss over the list of disciples without giving much thought to who they were; however, this Simon, who is given the descriptive label “the Zealot” to distinguish him from Simon Peter, can be revealed to us through the aforementioned label. Just by reading his name, we can actually figure some pretty important stuff about him and about Jesus as well.

The zealots were a Jewish sect that believed the only way to usher God’s Kingdom was to violently revolt against the powers that be, overthrow them, and restore the Kingdom of Israel. The zealots got their start through a revolutionary named Judas of Galilee who revolted when the Roman Governor Quirinius ordered a census in 6 AD. Out of that revolt came the group we now call the Zealots and it was this group that eventually went on to wage war against the Romans, kicking them out of Jerusalem and Judaea in 66 AD. By 70 AD this group and much of Jerusalem were destroyed by the Romans when they besieged and reclaimed the city.

Simon, being a Zealot, would have been aligned with this philosophy on how to deal with one’s enemies; however, there he was among Jesus’ twelve disciples. How did this come to be? Did Simon see Jesus as the Messiah who would eventually lead a revolt against the Romans? Questions such as these cannot be answered with certainty, as those details are not provided to us by the Gospel writers.

With that said, we learn a great deal about the expansiveness of Jesus’ Gospel and his willingness to include anyone who wished to be included. The Fourth Philosophy of the Zealots could not have been more antithetical to Jesus’ Gospel than it was. In fact, it is in reference to the Zealots that Jesus’ warns his disciples to not be duped by people claiming to be “Messiah”. Judas the Galilean, Simon bar Kochba and many others were such people. Each of them lead their followers, and many other innocent people, to their bloody deaths.

Jesus’ teachings were the complete opposite of the Zealots’ philosophy; yet, there Simon was following Jesus. It is likely that he didn’t fully understanding Jesus and that he was hoping Jesus would become the Messiah the Zealots were hoping for, yet despite that he grew in his understanding of Christ and went on to be one of the Twelve Apostles who spread Jesus’ Good News of God’s radical love and redemptive sacrifice.

While there is no Biblical record of how Simon carried out his apostolic call, and many of the traditions around his travels, ministry and martyrdom vary, one thing is certain, Simon was among the twelve who carried on the earthly ministry of Jesus after he ascended to the Father. Let this challenge you to reflect on your own life and beliefs. What about you and your beliefs are antithetical to the Gospel of Christ? What within you needs to change? In what ways is God trying to deepen your understanding of who Christ is? Like Simon the Zealot, you too can become a faithful and effective witness to our Lord and Savior.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.” – Jesus Christ (Mark 13:5-7, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, reveal to me who you are and transform me from who I am to who you’ve called me to be. Amen.

A biweekly devotional