The Disciples: Simon the Zealot, who followed with fire

Simon, the Zealot, one of the little-known followers called the Canaanite or Zelotes, lived in Galilee. In two places in the King James Version, he is called a Canaanite (Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:18). However, in 2 other places, he is called Simon Zelotes (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13).

The New Testament doesn’t say much about Simon except to say he was a Zealot. The Zealots were fanatical Jewish Nationalists who had a heroic disregard for the suffering involved and the struggle for what they regarded as the purity of their faith. The Zealots were crazed with hatred for the Romans and known for their political activism. This hate for Rome eventually destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Josephus says the Zealots were reckless people, zealous and fanatical in good practices and extravagant and reckless in the worst kind of actions. Their guerrilla warfare made them cunning, single-minded and desperate; they’d hide in caves, cross rivers and climb mountains, to fight for their cause, nothing could stop them.

From this background, we see that Simon was a fanatical Nationalist, a man devoted to the Law, a man with bitter hatred for anyone who dared to compromise with Rome. Simon, the Zealot, the man who once would have killed out of loyalty to Israel, became the man who saw that God will have no ‘forced’ or token service.

Why would Jesus choose someone with this background?

It is amazing that Jesus would select a man like Simon to be an apostle. Clearly, however, Simon emerges as a man of faith. He abandoned all his hatred, for the faith that he showed toward his Master and the love that he was willing to share with the rest of the disciples and especially Matthew, the Roman tax collector. In any other setting, these 2 would most likely have killed each other as their political views (and Matthew’s partnership with the Romans) were at opposite ends of the spectrum. Jesus knew he was a man of fierce loyalties, amazing passion, courage, and zeal and so he wanted Him on His team.  Simon had believed the truth and embraced Christ as his Lord. The fiery enthusiasm he once had for Israel he now expressed in his devotion to Christ.

God is a jealous God, He wants all of us, all of our loyalty, all of our devotion. To the church in Laodicea, John in Revelation writes, I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. There is no place for a divided heart in discipleship, Jesus asks for and desires total devotion. This was what Simon the Zealot brought to Jesus band of disciples.  Zeal means dedication or enthusiasm for something. If you have zeal, you’re willing, energized, and motivated. Zeal in a religious sense means wholehearted devotion to God.

* Zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.– Psalm 69:9                                                                    * Do not let your heart envy sinners, but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. – Proverbs 23:17
* Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord. – Romans 12:11

Why does God ask for all of you and your life? How is your zeal or passion for God and His ways going? When do you find your zeal waning? What do you find keeps your heart and your mind passionate for God? What can you do this week that will make it clear to God of your love and devotion to Him?

The most widespread tradition holds that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude in Persia and Armenia where both were martyred in 65 AD. This version is the one found in the Golden Legend. Another tradition says that after preaching on the west coast of Africa, Simon went to England where he died as a martyr by crucifixion in 74 AD. Either way, he lived his life for Christ fulfilling the great commission. His apostolic symbol is a fish lying on a Bible, which indicates he was a former fisherman who became a fisher of men through preaching.

PRAYER: Lord, please make me more zealous for you and your Word. Show me where my heart is divided and help me to give it fully to you. I want to give you my all. In Jesus Name, AMEN

SONG: No Compromise by Keith Green –