Matthew 10:1-4 – These Guys Changed The World? Part 11 (Simon the Zealot)

Posted: November 30, 2015 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 10:1-4
These Guys Changed The World? Part 11 (Simon, the Zealot)

Clemson vs. South Carolina is a passionate rivalry in any sport. Clemson and Carolina fans would hate each other’s chess teams if either school had chess teams and the NCAA had chess as a sanctioned sport. Most of it is in good-natured fun among friends whose allegiances between the two schools differ. There are those on both sides that are give the rivalry a bad name such as those fans who on national television throw water bottles and flip the bird at a Clemson player as stops at the back of the end zone after scoring a touchdown this past Saturday in Columbia. I have seen people fights after games in Clemson between fans. However, for the most people the rivalry is among gentlemen and gentle women. Like this past Saturday, with exception of the things I mentioned. This past Saturday was very calm after the game. Gamecock fans were proud that their team finally played their best game of the season even though they lost and Clemson fans were simply happy that the Tigers had escaped with a victory and remained unbeaten. Fans of both teams generally walked away talking to each other without anger. A sense of relief was evident on both sides. However, there are those fools on both sides that take the rivalry too seriously and make it distasteful for all. Some might call these fringe Clemson and fringe Carolina fans the zealots of the rivalry. Living in house divided myself, I have learned to make the rivalry fun rather than bitter. My wife is a Carolina fan while I am a lifelong Clemson fan. By being exposed to each other’s allegiances and in the interest of preserving our relationship, we see the other’s passion for their team and respect it. It gives new perspective. But, like I said before, there are those on both sides that make it into something that it should not be – destructive. These are what we call the zealots. Those that can see only orange or those that can see only garnet. For these fans, there is no middle ground. There is no compromise. It is either all Clemson or nothing. It is either all Carolina or nothing. They would as soon get in a fight with you than compliment the other’s team. It’s crazy. Most of these types have no association with the school except through their sports teams. But for these it is an all consuming identification. If you say something about Clemson, you are saying something about me and my value as a person or if you say something about the Gamecocks you are saying something about the kind of person I am. Zealots. Destructive. All consuming. That leads us to today’s subject disciple. No Simon wasn’t a Clemson or South Carolina fan, but he and his brethren were Israel zealots. They gave us the word, zealot.

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 the other two places he is called Simon Zelotes (Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). The New Testament gives us practically nothing on him personally except that it says he was a Zealot. The Zealots were fanatical Jewish Nationalists who had 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. It was this hate for Rome that destroyed the city of Jerusalem. Josephus says the Zealots were reckless persons, zealous in good practices and extravagant and reckless in the worst kind of actions. They were guerilla warriors. Popping in to cause destruction where they knew Romans or Roman soldiers would be. Today, we would call them religious motivated terrorists. Their actions were intended to strike fear in their Roman occupiers and weaken their authority in Jerusalem. Sound familiar to anything that you know today?

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. As a Zealot, he would have seen the Jewish religious ruling elite as a bunch of sell out to the foreign pagans of Rome. Sound familiar to anything that you know of today? They longed for the day when Israel was its own nation and longed for it to return to what it saw as its religiously pure roots. Never mind that Israel throughout its history was imperfect and went through cycles of obedience and disobedience to the Lord. However, they saw those days as Israel controlling its own destiny and if they could get back to those days they would be able to return Israel to its roots. However, they chose violence to achieve those ends against a force that was far greater than they. The vast majority of Jews did not care for their Roman occupiers or their sell-out local religious elite rulers. However, most just saw this world as “this is what we have to deal with so let’s make the best of it” or “as long as I can make a living for me and my family I can deal with it” mentality. Not too much unlike most Americans today.

Yet, Simon clearly emerged as a man of faith. He encountered this Jesus Christ and was forever changed by Him. 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. Simon, the Zealot, the man who once would have killed in loyalty to his ideal of religious and political Israel, became the man who saw that we must win men’s hearts to Christ and we cannot do that through violence and hatred.

Simon is so topical for today’s world and we have much to learn from him. From Simon, we see several things that we can learn in this world in which we live today that is full or similarly zealous nationalists and religious fanatics. The first thing we learn from him is that hate is not the answer to anything. The second thing we learn is that even the most hated person is made in the image of God and deserves the grace offered in Jesus Christ. Finally, we learn from Simon that if we use our passions appropriately for the kingdom we can be of great use to the kingdom.

First, earlier we were talking about the Clemson-South Carolina football rivalry, but let’s get real right now. Football is one thing but let’s talk about Muslim terrorist and even abortion clinic bombers who do so in the name of Christ falsely. Hate never accomplished anything. It is a sure fire bet that when Simon the Zealot met Matthew, the former Roman tax collection franchise owner, there may have been distrust and even some stares of indignation and maybe even other disciples having to hold Simon back from Matthew. Hate never change anything. It only polarizes. The only thing that the zealots accomplished was to hasten the total destruction of Israel from 66AD and concluding with sacking of Jerusalem in 70AD. They accomplished the opposite what they wanted. The Romans grew increasingly militaristic in Palestine as the result of the zealots and eventually grew tired of the nice little arrangement that they had with the Jewish religious authorities and completely crushed Israel after 100s of years. Israel was no more. What do you think the Muslim terrorists of today are accomplishing with their violence. It will my friends lead to the destruction of the Islamic nations by the combined Western world eventually. Certainly they have money and oil, but we have technology and years and years of developing the craft of all out war. It is coming in our lifetime. We are tolerating their random acts of violence now but patience is growing thin among the western industrialized nations. Racial violence here in the United States in Northern or Western cities never accomplishes anything but burned out buildings and even greater unemployment. Institutionalized racism never accomplished anything but hampering the growth of the South for decades and even centuries. Hate destroys. Hate polarizes. Hate accomplishes the opposite of what it sets out to accomplish. Bomb Paris. Accomplish nothing but having people hate Muslims rather than embrace their ideology. Bomb an abortion clinic. Accomplish nothing but polarize mainstream Americans against Christians. Get riled up over Starbucks coffee cups. Accomplish nothing but looking silly when there are major social issues that we should be addressing as Christians. Black Lives Matter calling for the destruction of white society accomplishes nothing but creating distrust of blacks and further reactionary oppression. Burning down buildings in the name of racial equality does nothing but validate white people’s opinions of entitlement among black people. White people killing black people just because they are black accomplishes nothing but breeding more hate and more children who think such things are right. Hate accomplishes nothing.

Second, we learn that Jesus cut through all of that. He showed us that we are all children of God who need the grace that he offers. All of us are sinners in need of intervention. No matter if you are Muslim or call yourself Christian. We all need Jesus no matter if you are black or white. We all need Jesus if your wear garnet or orange. We all need Jesus whether you are Yankee or a Southerner. Not one of us deserves heaven. None of us have the franchise only Jesus does. We need him. Simon came to see that he and Matthew were not that much different. Just two guys with problems. Just two guys who are really just trying to get by. Maybe if we took a lesson from Simon and Matthew maybe we would get to know a Muslim and lead them to the one and only way to the Father in Jesus. Maybe we would get to know an abortion clinic operator and love them to the point that they walk away from the violence that they do to the unborn. Maybe we befriend the girl going to the clinic and lead her away from the decision to he decision of life. The love of Christ changed Simon full of hate to Simon the spreader of the gospel.

Finally, Jesus saw passion in Simon. He wanted that passion on his team. He wanted a guy that once He understood the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ that he would be awesome in spreading the gospel. If we were just as passionate about spreading the gospel as we are about the Gamecocks or Tigers, imagine where the church would be. Imagine if we were as passionate about showing love to our neighbors and talking to them about Jesus Christ as we are about talking about the game this past Saturday in Columbia, would we not be better off as the church of Christ. What if we worried about people’s eternal destinies as much as where our teams are in the national rankings, where would the church be then! I bet you Simon was as passionate as Peter about Jesus. I bet he worked hard to make sure people knew what Jesus had done for him and how knowing Jesus changed his life. I bet Simon shared his salvation story every chance he got. He was passionate about Christ I bet just as much as he was previously passionate about getting rid of the Roman pagans. Jesus took his passion and directed it after the right things, the kingdom of God and the salvation of souls. Maybe, you and I should examine the things that we are passionate about and redirect them to the things that are holy and that are about salvation. Simon is our example. Jesus is the team we should be pulling for. Maybe one day we can see Clemson Tiger fans and Carolina Gamecock fans more passionate about Jesus Christ than they are about their football teams. Maybe we can see black and white people passionate about the same thing, Jesus Christ. Maybe we can all get there with the love of Jesus Christ in our hearts! Amen and Amen.

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