Simon the Zealot – a redirected religious fanatic
Currently Australia is in the middle of The Master Chef phenomena. In this TV show people with great cooking skills, but who are not professional chef’s, compete against each other to make certain meals and meet various challenges. The competition is very high pressure and there needs to be a great level of skill.
Now imagine if I went on the show – and cook my speciality ... bacon and eggs on toast ... and I actually won. Everyone would be saying why in the world would they pick Allan?
Sometimes I also find myself asking the same question about my place in God’s family.
Why did God pick me?
Why did God pick you?
Why does He pick anyone?
Do you sometimes wonder?
Let’s keep that question in mind as we focus on the next disciple in our series. Here is the list of disciples from Matthew 10:2-4
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
The disciple we are going to focus on is
Simon the Zealot
Like a couple of people in the list we don’t know much about him.
We do know it’s not Simon who is called Peter.
We find his name listed, along with the other disciples, four times in the Scriptures.
We know he was a Zealot.
There is not one word recorded in the Bible that is spoken by this Simon. There is not one deed that he alone did which was important enough to make the pages of the Scriptures. Yet we know he is an important disciple. How do we know?
Luke 6:12-13 tells us that before Jesus decided who was going to be His disciples 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. Jesus didn’t randomly choose the disciples. Jesus brought this important issue before the Father in prayer, and together they came to a conclusion.
When it came time to announce the decision Jesus made it very clear that these people were handpicked. Mark 3:13-14 says Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to Him those He wanted, and they came to Him. He appointed twelve—designating them apostles—that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach. The appointing didn’t just happen by accident. Nor was it the result of choosing from a few left overs. Out of many who were following at the time these were the ones who would come on the journey of discipleship. Each disciple was divinely appointed and hand-picked.
Each disciple was divinely appointed and hand-picked. That is a great truth to know. That’s a truth which should get us excited. Because we are disciples. We are divinely appointed. We are hand-picked to come on the journey.
With all our short-comings.
With all our character flaws.
With all our good-intentions that turn to vapour.
With all our desires to be faithful … only to flounder.
With all our sin, guilt and shame.
With all that … we are still chosen.
And that makes a huge difference on the way we should see life.
When I was in grade 7 we had a teacher who always made us pick teams. As is often the case at that time there were always certain people were picked last. One time I was allowed to be the captain and pick. So I decided to do something different and I pick first the people who were always picked last. The great thing about it though was that our team won. Because these people were given a chance and they stepped up.
Our western society teaches us to compare ourselves with others and to make an assessment of ourselves on the basis of what others are doing. There are people around us, both in the church community and the not-yet-believing community, who seem so much more worthy.
They have more leadership skill then we do.
They are able to make wise decisions.
Their marriages and family life seem to be great.
They have more financial means then us.
We look … we compare … “What have we got that Jesus needs?”
If we ever get to that point we need to realise that we are asking the wrong questions. Here is God’s perspective on the issue. He is telling the Israelites why He chose them.
For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you out of all the peoples on the face of the earth to be His people, His treasured possession. The LORD did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you (Deuteronomy 7:6-8)
We are not a part of God’s family because of what we can give to God.
Jesus doesn’t look at our skills and abilities and then say, “Well they would make a good addition to My family – they’ll be good workers.
Jesus doesn’t look at our leadership and knowledge and say, “I could use a person like that in charge of a church – they’ll really make an impact.
Jesus doesn’t look at our character and the way we deal with people and say, “Boy, they’re really compassionate and giving – just the sort of Christian I need”.
Becoming part of God’s family is not about what we can give. Jesus brings us into His world because of what He can make us to be. Jesus takes us … warts and all … sin and all … and he moulds us into faithful effective disciples. The fact Simon is one of the 12 disciples is testimony to this mindset of Jesus. You see, while we may only know a little about Simon, we do know one important fact:- his nickname is “Zealot”. Let me explain why this is important.
The Zealots were super patriots who swore on their life that they would resist Rome rule at all costs. The early historian Josephus calls them the ‘daggermen’ because they would just as soon drive a dagger into the heart of a Roman as look at him. Their motto was: “We have no King but God”. They were frequently involved in assassinations of Roman soldiers and officials – men of intense dedication and violent passion. Today we would call them “religious terrorists”.
That is the pre-disciple life of Simon the Zealot.
A freedom fighter who always carried a knife … just in case a Roman was vulnerable.
A willing participant in organised crime against the Romans.
A disciple with a killer instinct.
Simon the Zealot who became Simon the Apostle. The choosing of such a man just goes to show the depth of change which Jesus can bring into our lives. The choosing of such a man brings us back to the heart of Jesus; and the heart of the Gospel.
Jesus picks us because He wants to change us. In the beginning there was no sin.
No broken relationships.
No second guessing ourselves.
No getting to the end of the day with a list of actions which needed to be forgiven.
No impure thoughts.
No guilt and regrets.
And Jesus watched.
Then the whole world changed.
Perfection is replaced by sin.
Harmony is shattered by hostility.
God would not walk with man in the cool of the evening any more.
Jesus watched ... then Jesus acted.
Jesus entered the world as a man.
A man whose was thought to be illegitimate.
A man who was slandered by the spiritual leaders of Israel.
A man who would be put to death … a cruel death … for a crime He didn’t commit.
Jesus watched ... then Jesus acted ... then Jesus died.
Jesus did that because we would not change. So He came to change us. That is the essence of discipleship. Jesus calls us because He wants us to be moulded and shaped by His love. Jesus died because He has chosen us to be different … radically different to what we once were. That’s what drives us forward. That’s what makes us a powerful community of faith
The family of God so diverse. We so different in our characters and in our social attitudes and in our vocations. We have such different backgrounds. Yet we are brought together for a purpose. Under different circumstances we would not be together – we could even be enemies. Think about it for a minute.
One of the disciples is Simon the Zealot ... a daggerman who kills Romans or those who help the Roman cause. Another disciple is Matthew the tax-collector. A man who willingly worked for the Roman cause.
In different circumstances there is a good chance Matthew would be dead if Simon the Zealot had his way. Yet, here they are, two men who had completely opposite perspectives, working side by side for the kingdom. That’s discipleship.
Discipleship recognises that Jesus Christ will bring in people from different backgrounds, different cultures, different religious perspectives, different characters and different experiences … with the view of uniting them together as one. As Paul put it in Colossians 3:11 the Church is a place where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Jesus came and He makes a radical difference in our lives.
Simon was not chosen because he would give some special contribution. It’s truer to say that Simon could actually have been a liability.
Simon was the Zealot … making him a member of the disciple band was not a good way to avoid the detection of the ever watchful Romans.
Simon wanted revenge … he could easily have tried to turn the other disciples into a band of “freedom fighters”.
Simon comes with an attitude of violence … it was an approach that was totally against the ways of Jesus.
But Simon is a disciple ... and another illustration of Christ’s grace in our lives. The Author of our faith was willing to take the risk.
Why did Jesus choose you? At the end of the day that is not the right question. The question now is – how are you going to live as one who has been chosen? Because like Simon the Zealot ... our lives can be Zealous for the wrong things.
We might be zealously building our own little empires. Constantly putting everything on hold … including God … so that we can have just that little bit more. Someone once asked a multi-millionaire how much would be enough. His reply? “Just one dollar more”. Zealous … for an empire.
We might be zealously building our reputations. Constantly working at pleasing everybody and being liked by everybody … but having to make compromises with God in the process. When our esteem in the eyes of men has become more important than our integrity in the eyes of God … then we are zealous for reputation.
We might be zealously making ourselves indispensable. We try and do everything on our own. We take satisfaction in being told, “This would not have happened if it wasn’t for you”. When help is offered we politely refuse, for nobody can do it better than us. We are zealous … but not zealous for God’s work … we want the credit.
We are to be zealous … but having zeal that is transformed by Jesus Christ. Being those who put Jesus first. Being those who allow that zeal to overflow into compassion and concern for other people. See the Gospel as being much more important than anything else.
That’s what Simon did. He went to Jesus and discovered the excitement and enthusiasm that comes when we consider what Jesus has done for us. He was willing to remain as a disciple on a list.
No mention of the works he did.
No mention of the miracles he performed.
No mention of the sermons he preached.
It’s not the kind of stuff that makes the movies … but as a disciple it is the kind of stuff that brings souls to heaven. When all is said and done, that’s all that matters.