Tag Archives: Ministry

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.

Risky Business

Read Matthew 8:1-4

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)

jesus-heals-the-leperAs I have mentioned before, one of my favorite TV shows as of late is the AMC series, “The Walking Dead.” Aside from it being about a world overrun by zombies, the show is filled with situational ethics, moral dilemmas, as well as metaphors for life.  Each character is tested to their limits with the things they have to deal with. They are literally living in a nightmare world and it is hard to imagine yourself having to live in a world like that.

Then again, take a look at the world around you. Our world may not be overrun by the walking dead; however, when you think about it, our world is filled with much worse. There are children being used as human shields, women being treated like property or worse, boys being forced to join armies and die for tyrants and murderous leaders. There are people starving because their economies are being undercut by rich, Western economies. There are people dying of common illnesses because corrupt governments won’t allow humanitarian aid into their countries.

We live in a broken, and often times ugly, world. Our reality may be different than the one found in “The Walking Dead”, however, if it is different, it is only so on the surface. In one episode of the series, the group is being threatened by a nasty illness that is highly contagious. In fact, there is an outbreak in the group and many of the people are isolated to keep the illness from spreading. The healthy people were separated from the sick. The sick, in essence, were left to choke on the blood they were coughing up…until they die.

One man, named Hershel, decided he wasn’t going to sit by and watch those people die. He went out and collected berries to make a tea that he knew was helpful for people who were sick with illnesses like the flu, and he was hoping that it would help buy others enough time to go and find medicine to bring back. But in order to give the people the tea, he had to go into the isolated area and risk being infected himself.

Though the others tried to talk him out of it, he couldn’t be persuaded. He went into the isolated area and began to treat one of the doctors who had fallen ill because he had been treating others. He cared for the man and even had blood coughed up on him in the process. Despite the personal risk to his own health, he chose to be present to someone in need of his help.

When I saw this, I instantly thought of Jesus. How many sick, disease-ridden people did Jesus surround himself with. How many of them touched him, breathed on him, coughed on him? He was laying his hands on people with contagious skin diseases such as leprosy. He was constantly putting himself at risk for others. Ministry, after all, is totally risky buisness…and God is calling us to it.

We have been given the opportunity to not value ourselves above others. We have been given the opportunity to take the next step in our faith and be present for people in need, no matter what the cost is. We have been called to be healers for those who are not well. We are called to risk it all for “the least of these”, just as Jesus did for us. Whether or not people are suffering from a physical illness, from oppression, from poverty, from starvation or anything else, Christ has called us into an active and living faith. Today’s challenge is for you, if you haven’t already, to begin to answer that call.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” – Hippocrates

PRAYER
Lord, use me to bring hope, healing and wholeness to those who need it. Use me also to bring others your peace. Show me what you would have me do today. Amen.

A LOOK BACK: What Did Jesus Do?

press-job-work-1

This past month has been a busy one, filled with pressing work and fast-approaching deadlines. As a result, I taken the liberty of sharing some devotions from the past that, I believe, are just as relevant now as they were when I first wrote them. Of course, I have written a couple of new ones over the course of the month and, once November 1st passes, I will get back to my usual discipline of writing new devotions every week. I thank you for your patience and for journeying with me, looking back at some very relevant messages.

Click here to read today’s devotion.