If you missed the post about Simon the Zealot on Monday, click here.
This summer series is almost over. Next week, we’ll take a look at Judas Iscariot. If you’d like to start from the beginning of the series or simply learn about one of the apostles, all of the posts covered in this series can be found under the tab, People of the Bible or by clicking here.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:12-16
In Matthew 10:4 and Mark 3:18 of the King James Version of the Bible, Simon is introduced as Simon the Canaanite. The Greek word for Canaanite is Kananaios and means “zealous.” In Luke 6:15 and Acts 1:13 of the same version of the Bible, Simon is introduced as Simon Zelotes. This Greek word, Zelotes, means “one burning with zeal, a zealot.” Nothing more is said in scripture regarding Simon. This description might imply that Simon was given the term as a nickname for his temperament or that he was part of a political and religious sect called the Zealots.
The Jews had three major factions: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the Essenes. The Zealots were a smaller faction founded by Judas the Galilean. Firstly, they were modeled after Phinehas, the son of the high priest, who set an example of zeal for God, during a time of apostasy and testing in the wilderness.
“The LORD said to Moses, “Phinehas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for my honor among them, so that in my zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making my covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites.”” Numbers 25:10-13
In addition to Phinehas, this group also modeled themselves after the example of Mattathias and his sons who opposed the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes (175-164 BCE). In 6 CE, Judas the Galilaean led a revolt against Rome to oppose the payment of tribute by Israel to the Roman emperor on the grounds that giving tribute to this pagan was treasonous to God. They felt that agreement to the taxation was an acknowledgment of the right of Rome to rule them. What began as a nationalistic movement to defend the life and law of the Jewish people soon became a sect called the Zealots following this revolt. They believed peace would be restored only if the Romans were expelled from their land and the Law of God was adhered to strictly and faithfully. This group even despised their own Jewish brothers and sisters that favored peace and conciliation with Rome. They had no qualms of resorting to aggressive and violent acts to achieve their means. Sometimes, the Zealots allied themselves with a fanatical extremist group known for their terrorism and assassinations called the Sicarii.
A well known story of the Zealots took place at the fortress of Masada. Herod the Great built the fortress at Masada for his winter home and as a southern defense for the kingdom. In 70 CE during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, a group of 967 men, women, and children fled to Masada. The Roman army pursued these fleeing Zealots all the way to Masada. The fortress was difficult to breach so the Romans, under the command of Flavius Silva, held Masada under siege for three years. With the exception of two older women and five children that hid themselves in a well and lived to tell the story, this entire Zealot community chose suicide rather than slavery to Rome. Their actions stand as a symbol of bravery and freedom from slavery.
In addition to Simon, others are also described in scripture as having a zealous temperament. Paul calls himself a religious zealot for God ( Acts 22:3). While the disciples, perhaps astounded by the clearing of the Temple by Jesus, reflected on a passage from Psalm 69 that they felt Jesus fulfilled.
“His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”” John 2:17
Whether Simon was zealous because of his temperament or a Zealot through affiliation, we don’t know with absolute certainty. He did, however, become zealous about being a follower of Jesus. He transformed and redirected his passion into devotion, dedication, and committed obedience to his Lord.
Questions to Consider
Talk about easily getting people confused! Today, we will be looking at two apostles named James and Judas but they’re not the men with whom we are most familiar. James son of Alphaeus and Judas son of James were given common names but they were uncommon men. To start from the beginning or to learn more about the other apostles covered, click on the People of the Bible tab under the header or click here.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”Luke 6:12-16
James son of Alphaeus is often called James the Less or James the Younger. He was not less in the sense of worth. The Greek word for less means minor, less, little, or young. The scholars turned to this terminology to distinguish him from James son of Zebedee, brother to John, who is sometimes called by the name James the Greater.
Judas son of James is generally identified by the following names: Thaddeus, Jude, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus, or Lebbaeus. Matthew 10:3 in the King James Version of the Bible lists him this way; “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.” Lebbaeus translates “breast child; child of one’s heart; a man of heart.” Some scholars believe he is the author of the epistle of Jude.
Scripture has little to say regarding these men but they lived their lives not for their glory but for the glory of their Lord. They answered when Jesus called. Their loyalty, their eagerness, and love distinguished them from all of the other followers to be chosen as part of the Twelve. Many people serve as faithful followers of Jesus and are never known by name. They are anonymous workers for the Lord to man but not to the God they serve. Just as Jesus knew their name and their character, he knows those of us who serve him without fanfare and accolades.
Beyond the listings of the Twelve Apostles in the gospels, this verse highlights Judas.
“Then Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?” Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me will not obey my teaching. These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me.” John 14:22-24
The night of the Last Supper was a confusing one for the apostles. They felt the tension of impending trouble to come. Jesus talked of leaving and returning, of the bread and wine being his body and blood, and of a betrayer among them. Jesus told them that if they loved him and obeyed his commands, he would ask God to give them the Holy Spirit to be with them forever. He continued by saying that he would show himself to them but not to the world. Judas wonders why them and not others. His confusion would turn to understanding at the resurrection of Jesus. On that day, James son of Alphaeus and Judas son of James saw the risen Christ and knew without any doubt that Jesus was the Son of God.
Questions to Consider