James: Boanerges “Sons of Thunder” was the nickname Jesus gave to the brothers, James and John. James, the eldest, was obsessive, passionate, fervent, and thunderous. He was also ambitious and bloodthirsty. James sometimes had a tendency to let such misguided zeal get the better of him. James wanted a crown of glory; Jesus gave him a cup of suffering. He wanted power; Jesus gave him servanthood. He wanted a place of prominence; Jesus gave him a martyr’s grave. He wanted to rule; Jesus gave him a sword, not to wield, but to be the instrument of his own execution. James became the first disciple to die for his faith. Although James started out as “in it for himself” when he met Jesus, by the grace of God, he was transformed into one of the leading apostles and his life became less about himself and more about God’s Kingdom.
The younger brother of James was zealous, passionate, fervent, and thunderous, just like his brother. How did this man become known as “the apostle of love?” John wrote more about love than any other New Testament author. He focused on Christ’s love for His church, a Christian’s love for Christ, and the sign of true believers, love for one another.
Love did not weaken John’s passion for truth. Truth remained John’s passion to the end of his life, but the love he learned from Christ gave him the necessary balance that enabled him to proclaim truth to his last day on earth.The balance of love and truth, John wrote, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 4). He used the Greek word for truth twenty-five times in his Gospel and another twenty times in his epistles. In his early years, truth was “it.” He had no concept of love by which to balance this zeal.
Then, in Mark 9, we see him confess to dealing with a man who was driving out demons in Christ’s name by telling him to stop. This showed intolerance, rebuking the man for using Jesus’ name because he wasn’t part of the group. Jesus corrects him, “Do not stop him. No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (verses 39-40). With this, John began to transform, to understand the need for balance between love and truth. The truly godly person must cultivate both virtues in equal proportions…Know the truth, and uphold it in love.
We know very little about Matthew, which is interesting since he wrote the Gospel that bears his name. We do know that he was a tax collector. Tax collectors were the most reviled people in Israel. The best answer we can deduce is that whatever Matthew’s tortured soul may have experienced because of the profession he had chosen to be in, down deep inside he was a Jew who knew and loved the Old Testament and realized something when he saw Jesus and Jesus called him to follow. Matthew was spiritually hungry, so the draw of Jesus was irresistible. For the rest of his life, he was a quiet and humble man who cared for the outcasts of society and introduced them to Jesus.
Thomas – The Pessimist:
It is easy for an optimist to be loyal, after all, optimist think positive and believe everything will be okay! How much harder it is for a pessimist to be loyal? A pessimist is convinced the world is full of evil and pessimist are quite skeptical of things especially faith and the supernatural. In spite of Thomas’s pessimism, Thomas was determined to be at Jesus’ side. This may be pessimism but it is heroic pessimism and that takes incredible courage and faith! As a pessimist, Thomas realized he wouldn’t have all the answers or facts, his faith couldn’t be scientifically and mathematically proven, yet he chose to believe and follow Christ and spent the rest of his life fighting his skepticism and teaching others about Christ.
Simon The Zealot or Terrorist:
Simon was probably a former member of a political party known as the Zealots, a feared outlaw political sect in the fist century. The Zealots objected to Roman rule and violently sought to eradicate it by generally targeting Romans and Greeks. Another group, likely related, was the Sicarii or dagger men, who raided Jewish habitations and killed Jews they considered apostate and collaborators, while also urging Jews to fight Romans and other Jews for the cause. Simon was a modern day member of something like ISIL/ISIS.
In both Matthew and Mark, he is listed just before Judas Iscariot, which indicates they were probably a team and the low listing probably means he was despised or not trusted by the others. Simon probably had political reasons to follow Jesus initially, possibly thinking Jesus was there to overthrow the Romans, but along the way Simon actually accepted Christ and became a true believer. Simon and Matthew were at opposite ends of the political extreme, like putting a liberal and ultra conservative together, yet they became spiritual brothers who worked side by side to spread the gospel of the Lord they both worshiped. They put their political differences aside for the greater good and the advancement of God’s kingdom.
Is there a point to all this, besides a nice history and Sunday School lesson?
Stay tuned for the final post on what all this means and how it applies to our lives today.