In this ongoing series on the 12 Disciples, we have looked at Matthew, the tax-collector and James, son of Alphaeus and when we last left off, we mentioned that one other disciple besides James, son of Alphaeus appeared only in the four lists.
Simon, the Zealot; and that is all we know about him!
In First Century Judaism, there were four notable sects: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes and the Zealots. In the Gospels, Jesus has dialogs and disagreements with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The Pharisees were the keepers and defenders of the Law while the Sadducees’ center of power was the running of the Temple. The Essenes were the separatists and it is thought that some inhabited the Qumran community near where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found leading to the theory that the scrolls were collected and prepared by the Essenes. Lastly, the Zealots were the rebels who wanted to oppose Rome militarily. This group is probably best known for the Siege of Masada.
There are two possibilities for the “zealot” designation of Simon. One, of course, was that he was part of the Zealot sect. The other possibility was that he was a zealous individual.
John MacArthur offered some interesting lessons one might draw from the story of Simon the Zealot.
Whether Simon was a Zealot in the sense of being part of the sect or zealous in a sense of zeal for God and the Law, he was without doubt a passionate individual and he was won over by Jesus! Quoting from MacArthur’s sermon transcript:
Now a man like Simon to attach himself to them must have been a man with a tremendous passion, a tremendous capacity for zeal. And you can imagine that he must have been a fireball when it got to the work of the Lord. He found a better leader and a greater cause.
Another consideration MacArthur brought up was what kind of tension might have been within Simon and for that matter within the group towards the former Roman collaborator, Matthew, the tax-collector. Another excerpt:
Simon believed and was transformed, Judas did not, and so no one names anything Judas. Simon became Christ’s man. Think of how wonderful it must have been for him to get along with Matthew who collected taxes for the Roman government. I wonder if he ever had just little anxieties about Matthew.
The 12 Disciples were an interesting collection of diverse individuals. Yet, they had in common being called by Jesus and loved by Jesus and sent by him to start the daisy chain of communicating the Good News of the Gospel to all the world down the ages.
We started this series with Matthew, a social outcast as a tax-collector who became part of the fabric of the new community in Jesus. Though, we only have his name in the lists and the one episode of his calling by Jesus, his recollections became Scripture in the Gospel according to Matthew. James, son of Alphaeus, possibly Matthew’s brother and Simon, the Zealot who may have had nothing but contempt for tax collectors and anyone connected with one, yet, in Christ, they were united!
Next up, the disciple whose voice is heard in one question in the four Gospels.