The two sons of thunder, sons of Zebedee, were interesting apostles. How did revival change both of them?
1) James the Son of Zebedee’s Revival
Can someone with impetuous and unwise passion be useful in God’s work?
Notice what Matthew records, “And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.” (Matthew 4:21-22 ESV) James’ reaction to his calling was immediate, and his commitment was serious, leaving his father. Attitude is everything, and James set the same example of zeal seen in Peter and Andrew. Is there something on earth more important than our commitment to Jesus? Everything else will fall into line if we put Jesus first.
His zeal was sometimes misplaced, so “James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He [Jesus] gave the name Boanerges, which means, ‘Sons of Thunder’)” (Mark 3:17 NASB). Zeal must not become revenge, like James and John’s reaction at Jesus being rejected, “When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, "Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?" (Luke 9:54 NLT) Was their thunderous zeal obvious to Jesus ahead of time? Not blind to our weaknesses, Jesus welcomes us to His ministry too. Always, God gets the glory and none of us. Appropriate enough to witness the transfiguration, James was part of Christ’s inner circle (Matthew 17:1-9) and he was murdered by Herod (Acts 12:1-2).
Rejoice, lovers of God, don’t judge people with misguided zeal too harshly, because God sometimes uses such people mightily in revival.
2) John the Son of Zebedee’s Revival
Can a man with unreasonable fervor be transformed into the Apostle of love?
Like his brother James, John answered the call to follow Jesus immediately (Matthew 4:21-22). His example is also seen in a Philippian jailer, who was not required to take long catechism classes, but after Paul and Silas spoke the word of the Lord to him, “immediately he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 16:25-34 NKJV) Brother to James, they both ask Jesus for high positions in the kingdom, so Jesus admonishes all the disciples about true leadership, “But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else.” (Mark 10:33-34 NLT)
John became Jesus’ closest companion, “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23 NIV), not deserting him as did the others, or denying him as did Peter the night He was betrayed, “Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest” (John 18:15 NASB). Answered perhaps, are questions like, why Mary was put into John’s care and he responded “from that hour” (John 19:26-27 ESV) or why Jesus said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? As for you, follow me.” (John 21:22 NLT)
The path that God has mapped out for each of us is different, and comparing ourselves among ourselves is “not wise” (2 Corinthians 10:12 KJV). Call to service in the kingdom can be in a great diversity of vocations, from simply following Christ to caring for an elderly widow. Immediately responding to Christ’s call to follow Him or to care for Mary, is a hallmark of John’s life.
John is known by various names, the beloved disciple, John the Evangelist and John the Elder. Was he the author of the Gospel of John, three letters and Revelation as ancient fathers taught, or are skeptical modern scholars to be believed? The modern skeptical scholar is more often the one to be taken with distrust, than those closest to the source. Beloved of our Lord is repeated six times in John’s gospel, and John spoke of love more than any other apostle (39 times in the Gospel of John, and 27 times in his first letter). Disciple means student, and one of the most important aspects of any Christian service is to sit at Jesus’ feet and learn.
John is known as the only apostle not to be murdered for his faith. Called John of Patmos, because he was banished to that Greek island, he died of old age. Beloved of Christ, he became part of the inner circle, along with Peter and James (Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37; 9:2; 14:33; Luke 8:51; 9:28). Was his status as a pillar of the church at Jerusalem (Galatians 2:7–9) indicative of strong apostolic leadership among the early Christians? The son of thunder became the Apostle of love. Apostle of Christ, he was the only one to die of old age. Of an attempt to boil him in oil before a crowd in a coliseum, Tertullian writes, and because it failed, the whole audience converted to Christianity. Love is the greatest lesson that we learn from John.
Rejoice, lovers of God, that even a thunderbolt can become a lover when the Holy Spirit revives the heart.
Two sons of thunder, filled with unwise and explosive passion, became apostles of love and rational zeal for God. So too can our passions be tamed and harnessed for good.