Sometimes I ask myself, “Why me?” “Why did God pick me for this?” “Why does he pick anyone for that matter?” When we look at Simon the Zealot, we see that Jesus does not choose us according to what we can give. He chooses us because of his incredible grace.
Jesus brings us into His world because of what He can make us be. No matter how flawed we are, he molds us into faithful and effective disciples.
The fact that Simon is one of the 12 disciples is testimony to the mindset of Jesus. While we may know little about him, we do know one important fact: He was a “Zealot.” (See background section on pages 4-5)
The Zealots were super patriots who swore on their life that they would resist Rome rule at all costs. The early historian Josephus calls them ‘daggermen’ because they would just as soon drive a dagger into the heart of the Roman as look at them. Their motto was: “We have no King but God”. They were frequently involved in assassinations of Roman soldiers and officials. Today I believe we would call them religious terrorists.
This is the pre-disciple life of Simon the Zealot. He was a freedom fighter always carrying a knife. He was a willing participant in organized crime against the Romans. A disciple with a killer instinct!
Simon the Zealot became Simon the Apostle. The choosing of the man goes to the depth of change which Jesus brought into his life.
I truly believe Jesus picks us because He wants us! In a different circumstance there is a good chance that Matthew would be dead if Simon the Zealot had his way. Yet, here they are, two men who had completely opposite perspectives on life, working side by side for the kingdom. That’s discipleship.
Discipleship recognizes that Jesus will bring people together with different backgrounds, cultures, religious perspectives, and different experiences with the intent of uniting them together as one.
As Paul so aptly states in Colossians 3:11, the church is a place where neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision or not, slave or free…Christ is all, and is in all. Simon was not chosen because he would make some special contribution. He was made a disciple because of the grace and love of Jesus.
Think about it, we might be zealously making ourselves indispensable. We try and do everything on our own. We take the satisfaction in being told, “This would not have happened if it wasn’t for you.” We are zealous…but not zealous for God’s work…we want the credit and the attention.
Yet we are called to be zealous…but having a zeal that is transformed by Jesus. We are those who put Jesus first. We are those who are zealous for compassion and concern for others.
That’s what Simon did. He discovered in Jesus the zeal that comes when we realize what Christ has done for us.
Jesus appointed twelve that they might be with Him and that He would send them out to preach. It didn’t happen by accident. Out of the many that followed Jesus at that time only a few were chosen who would begin the journey of discipleship. Each disciple was divinely appointed and handpicked. With all of their short-comings, flaws, sin, guilt and shame, they were chosen.
Billy Graham was asked the question:
“When we do something wrong, why doesn’t God just ignore it? He knows we’re not perfect, so why doesn’t He just overlook the bad things we do and hope we’ll do better the next time?”
A: You’re right when you say that God knows we’re not perfect, because He knows all about us—not only what we do but what we think. The Bible says, “Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account” (Hebrews 4:13).
Why, then, doesn’t God simply ignore it when we do something wrong? One reason is because He knows what happens to us when we sin: it always—without exception—ends up hurting us. And because God loves us, He doesn’t want this to happen. God’s way is always best, and when we deliberately choose to ignore Him and go our own way, eventually we’ll pay the price for our disobedience. But this grieves the heart of God, because He loves us and wants what is best for us.
Think of it this way. If you lived on a busy street, wouldn’t you warn your children to keep out of it? Of course you would—and if they disobeyed you, you wouldn’t ignore it or simply say, “Oh well, children will be children.” Instead you’d do everything you possibly could to keep them from doing it again—because you love them. The same is true with God.
I’m curious, however, why you’ve asked this question. Is it because you have chosen to go your own way in life—and you hope God doesn’t care? But He does care—because He loves you. He loves you so much that Jesus Christ came into the world to give His life for you. Put your life into His hands today.
So we ask the question, “Why me?” “Why does God chose me?” We are not part of God’s family because of what we can give to God. Jesus does not look at our leadership and knowledge and say, “I can use a person like that in charge of a church-they can really make an impact.
Nor does Jesus look at our character and the way we deal with people and say, “Boy, they’re really compassionate and giving.”
Becoming part of God’s family is not about what we can give. Jesus brings us into His world to make us what He can make us to be.
Pastor Steve Yeschek, Crystal Lake, Illinois, lost his sister, Judy, after a five-year battle with cancer. She was a woman who, as Steve described her, was a party animal—a big drinker with a self-contented lifestyle. She was someone everybody loved, because she exuded excitement and a thrill for life.
When Steve tried to share Jesus with her over the years, she would laugh it off and keep partying. But at the age of 44, her world caved in. She found out she had breast cancer. She later learned her husband had cancer, too. Adding to the devastation of these two blows, she discovered her husband was having an affair. He subsequently announced he didn’t love her anymore and left her.
It was in that context that she began to ask eternal questions and soon prayed to receive Jesus as her Savior. From that time until her death, Jesus and his Word and purpose became her priority. With the same gusto she lived life as an unbeliever, she now approached her new life in Christ. Her greatest aim was winning others to Christ. She boldly shared her faith even as she was undergoing surgery after surgery, praying for a miraculous healing from the Lord.
Judy ultimately came to see that the greater miracle would be for her friends and family to come to know Christ. Even as she struggled for every breath, she talked her way out of the hospital about ten days before her death so she could be baptized and publicly proclaim Christ as the only way of salvation.
Judy invited everyone she knew to come to her baptism service. Under the Spirit’s anointing, she powerfully and urgently shared her testimony. Her 84-year-old father came to faith in Christ that night and was baptized—along with her ex-husband, a number of nieces, a college roommate who was a New Age cultist, her aunt, her sister, and others.*
Ten days later, Judy died. Even still, more people came to know the Savior. When Steve read the message she had prepared for her own funeral service, another 100 people prayed to receive Christ that day.* (Excerpt from a sermon by Pastor Bob Page, Crystal Lake, Illinois (used by permission); submitted by Lee Eclov, Vernon Hills, Illinois
Simon the Zealot, a disciple after Jesus’ heart! Simon the Zealot, a redirected religious fanatic! He remained a disciple of Jesus!
Simon Zelotes, the eleventh apostle, was chosen by Simon Peter. He was an able man of good ancestry and lived with his family at Capernaum. He was twenty-eight years old when he became attached to the apostles. He was a fiery agitator and was also a man who spoke much without thinking. He had been a merchant in Capernaum before he turned his entire attention to the patriotic organization of the Zealots.
Simon Zelotes was given charge of the diversions and relaxation of the apostolic group, and he was a very efficient organizer of the play life and recreational activities of the twelve.
Simon’s strength was his inspirational loyalty. When the apostles found a man or woman who floundered in indecision about entering the kingdom, they would send for Simon. It usually required only about fifteen minutes for this enthusiastic advocate of salvation through faith in God to settle all doubts and remove all indecision, to see a new soul born into the “liberty of faith and the joy of salvation.”
Simon’s great weakness was his material-mindedness. He could not quickly change himself from a Jewish nationalist to a spiritually minded internationalist. Four years was too short a time in which to make such an intellectual and emotional transformation, but Jesus was always patient with him.
The one thing about Jesus which Simon so much admired was the Master’s calmness, his assurance, poise, and inexplicable composure.
Although Simon was a rabid revolutionist, a fearless firebrand of agitation, he gradually subdued his fiery nature until he became a powerful and effective preacher of “Peace on earth and good will among men.” Simon was a great debater; he did like to argue.
He was a rebel by nature and an iconoclast by training, but Jesus won him for the higher concepts of the kingdom of heaven. He had always identified himself with the party of protest, but he now joined the party of progress, unlimited and eternal progression of spirit and truth. Simon was a man of intense loyalties and warm personal devotions, and he did profoundly love Jesus.
Jesus was not afraid to identify himself with business men, laboring men, optimists, pessimists, philosophers, skeptics, publicans, politicians, and patriots. Jesus had many talks with Simon, but he never fully succeeded in making an internationalist out of this ardent Jewish nationalist. Jesus often told Simon that it was proper to want to see the social, economic, and political orders improved, but he would always add: “That is not the business of the kingdom of heaven. We must be dedicated to the doing of the Father’s will. Our business is to be ambassadors of a spiritual government on high, and we must not immediately concern ourselves with aught but the representation of the will and character of the divine Father who stands at the head of the government whose credentials we bear.” It was all difficult for Simon to comprehend, but gradually he began to grasp something of the meaning of the Master’s teaching.
After the dispersion because of the Jerusalem persecutions, Simon went into temporary retirement. He was literally crushed. As a nationalist patriot he had surrendered in deference to Jesus’ teachings; now all was lost. He was in despair, but in a few years he rallied his hopes and went forth to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.
He went to Alexandria and, after working up the Nile, penetrated into the heart of Africa, everywhere preaching the gospel of Jesus and baptizing believers. Thus he labored until he was an old man and feeble. And he died and was buried in the heart of Africa.