Matthew 10:4 – “Simon (the zealot)”
As we come to disciple number 11 we discover like James son of Alphaeus that the bible records no dialogue or acts that are attributed to him. There is nothing recorded but his named. Each time he is mentioned it is just a named in a list. Yet as we look at Matthews description in 10:4 there is a lesson simply in how Simon is described in scripture. He is called Simon the Zealot. The word Zealot in Matthew and Mark is in the Hebrew form, and in Luke and Acts they use the Greek word, both the Hebrew and the Greek word simply mean someone who is zealous. So, the question is what was he zealous for? Today as we uncover what Simon was zealous about, we are also confronted with the question what are we zealous or passionate about? What is it that is driving us?
Some thought he was called the Zealot because he was zealous for God and the law, or that it was the basic nature of his personality. He was a kind of fired-up go-getter type of guy. Yet if he is that fired-up of a guy, you would expect him to be more like Peter, and you’d expect to hear a little bit more from him, but you don’t. Today we will discover that this disciple is far from the simple Simon some have made him out to be.
- Political Passion
Another possibility is that of a philosophical and political movement called the Zealots. This was a technical term that referred to a group of very religious people. Those who interpreted the Bible very literally and they really felt that any pagan influence, any foreigners in the land that brought their pagan influences, was an affront to God. Any influence outside the Jewish faith was really an affront to God. They didn’t believe in paying tribute to Rome because it was a pagan state, and if you paid tribute, it was treason and apostasy before God. The way to clear the way for God to bless Israel and for the Messiah to come was to toss these people out. If it meant using violent means so be it. They thought of themselves as freedom fighters; simply zealous for the state of Israel, wanting God’s blessing upon them, and not wanting any kind of outside influence. They resorted to guerilla warfare tactics and they struck soft targets that opened themselves up. The Romans called them “Sicarii” which means “daggermen”, which is what they used. They simply looked for an opportune time when someone was unprotected or unprepared, and they would stab them in the back and leave them to die. The movement started with a man named Maccabeas, who used military might to throw off the Syrian oppression over Israel. He defeated the Syrians, and repaired and rededicated the Temple, which had been desecrated by the Syrians and damaged in the fighting. The eight-day December holiday, Hanukkah meaning “dedication,” is a commemoration of this great military victory against all odds. A nation that had not had an army for 400 years defeated a great power. It continued with others like Judas of Galilee, who in 6 A.D. rebelled against the Roman census tax. The tax that began with the birth of Jesus and is recorded in Acts 5:37. By the time of Christ there was a lot political unrest and the zealots, the group that Simon belonged to, were constantly looking for ways to overthrow the rule of Rome. Simon started believing that the answer to life’s problems was through political action. What I find amazing though is as you look into Simons life, you see a man who changes. He had to choose between continuing to work for the independence from Roman rule or following after an itinerant preacher from Galilee who might well be the Messiah promised throughout the history of his people. What about us what will we choose, what will we be zealous and passionate for our political persuasion or the Prince of Peace? If there is any disciple who had a reason to betray Jesus, if there is any disciple who would have been set up to be disillusioned with Jesus, it is this man, because he believed that the answers to life came through political and military action. He really expected Jesus to set up a political and military state, but Jesus didn’t. There was a disconnect in the thinking of the Zealots as well as with almost all of the rest of the Jews about who and what the Messiah would be. Jesus Christ, the suffering Servant, did not fit the picture they had in their minds. Their pictured the Conquering King the roaring Lion not the silent and slaughtered lamb. What is surprising is that he remains faithful to Jesus. How? Because at some point in his life, as he listened to Jesus and his teachings, he began to realize that all his human means, all his faith in political persuasion and military might to solve the human problem, was wrong. Politics and people power don’t solve the human problem. If political parties cured the people problem, then we could save ourselves. Yet if there is anything that time has taught us it is that self can’t cure sin. The human condition that we experience, and what is at the root problem of all social evil is a spiritual problem not political. To get at it, you have to get to the heart of the problem. If you are going to really solve people’s problems and society’s problems, it involves a change of heart. Simon had to surrender his political passion for Jesus. What are you more passionate about politics or the Prince of Peace?Political power has yet to compete with the power of the Prince of Peace because political power can only influence this life not the one to come. Simon had to accept what the Savior had to say and that meant seeing the spiritual mission and if there is a lesson for us, that’s it. As Christians, we have to realize that politics has a limited power, and there is something more important than politics in achieving our desire ends, and that is the spiritual. You can legislate law against racism and hate and poverty all you want. But if from the heart a person hates people simply because of their color, or economic status, you can legislate all the laws you want but you won’t change their action, behavior or their attitude because policy doesn’t change people. You can legislate all the laws on compassion but, if a person doesn’t have a love for people, there is no way of making them reach out to the least of these. It is not that politics is unimportant, it has a place, and the church always struggle with how involved in politics it should be. On one side, there was a sense at one time where the church just kind of said it is dirty, it is corrupt, and we want nothing to do with it. Then there is another side where the church became very involved in politics and through movements like the moral majority, tried to legislate an agenda in affecting our culture. In our culture as Christians we have the ability to affect our political system, but it is important for us to realize that that’s not the most important thing in life. What we tend to do is to read the Bible looking at God’s views on social issues and then compare that to our political landscape and ask what party would fit what I think is God’s agenda? The problem is that we put too much importance in politics and not enough importance on what Jesus preached. More potent than politics in society is spiritual awakening, a person’s heart getting right with God. God gave us the 10 commandments and the Pharisees came up with over 600 laws to help us follow the first 10. Today we have legislated thousands of laws trying to change or correct our behavior. What would happen if, from the heart, people trusted God and their heart and life was right with Him so that they wanted to obey him and they wanted to live out his Word and his commandments. John Adams said, “The constitution is but a shell that presupposes an existing worldview. No government is capable of contending with human passion unbridled by morality and religion. The constitution is only useful for a moral and religious people.” Not that politics is unimportant, it is a tool, but what is far more important is for us to focus on the spiritual. As a people and as a church we need to realize that if we are going to solve problems in our world, that we have to get people’s hearts right with God and our heart need to be right with Him as well.