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