The goal of this series is to study the group of 12 young men who spent approximately 3 years with Jesus, from the time of his baptism until his resurrection. We’ll look at their character, their transformation, and their relationship with Jesus and learn from their lives.
You can read the full preface to this series to see how I have defined discipleship and see a timeline of how the disciples met Jesus and followed him.
A Look at Simon
Simon the Zealot is a mysterious character in the Bible. We have one special piece of information about him which has led to lots of speculation and debate throughout the centuries.
In some versions of the Bible (Amplified Bible), he is called Simon the Cananaean. In the King James Version and New King James Version, he is called Simon the Canaanite or Cananite. In the English Standard Version, New American Standard Bible, New International Version, and New Living Translation he is called Simon the Zealot.
To confuse things further, Bible scholars argue over whether Simon was a member of the radical Zealot party or whether the term simply referred to his religious zeal. Those who take the former view think Jesus may have chosen Simon, a member of the tax-hating, Roman-hating Zealots, to counterbalanceMatthew, a former tax collector and employee of the Roman empire. Those scholars say such a move by Jesus would have shown that his kingdom reaches out to people in all walks of life.
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 filled with hatred for the Romans and those that collected their taxes. Josephus says the Zealots were reckless persons, zealous in good practices and extravagant and reckless in the worst kind of actions.
From this, we see that Simon could have been a fanatical Nationalist, devoted to the Law, with extreme hatred for anyone who worked with Rome.
Simon, however, emerges in the Gospels as a man of faith. He seems to have abandoned all of his hatred, seeking the faith and love offered by Jesus that changed him and allowed him to spend years with Matthew, a Jewish man who had collected taxes for the Romans.
So Why Add Simon to the Group of Disciples?
Those who take the view that Simon was, in fact, a Zealot with a hatred for the Romans, say that Jesus may have chosen Simon to counterbalance Matthew, a former tax collector and employee of the Roman empire. Those scholars say such a move by Jesus would have shown that his kingdom reaches out to people in all walks of life.
Unfortunately, Scripture tells us almost nothing about Simon. In the Gospels, he is mentioned in three places, but only to list his name with the 12 disciples. In Acts 1:13 we see that he was present with the other 11 disciples in the upper room of Jerusalem after Jesus had ascended to heaven and commanded them to wait for the Holy Spirit. Church tradition holds that he spread the gospel in Egypt as a missionary and was martyred in Persia.
What we do know is that Simon, like the other disciples, left everything in his previous life to follow and learn from Jesus.
What Can We Learn from Simon?
1. Jesus Christ transcends politics, governments, and earthly turmoil.
We don’t know exactly how Simon met Jesus but we do know that his life was radically changed as a result. We all experience this multiple times in our walk with God. It’s that moment when our paradigm or world view is shifted. Our eyes are opened to a new truth. Simon had this moment as he watched Jesus interact with sinners, gentiles, and the religious leaders.
Simon had this moment as he watched Jesus interact with sinners, gentiles, and the religious leaders. He began to see that his political views were inconsistent with the Kingdom of God. Ultimately, he learned to love and not hate.
2. God does not want forced service.
Simon’s zealous nature, as in most zealous people, tended to create a dichotomy. You were either for God or against God. Therefore, tax collectors and Romans had to be against God.
Zealousness leads people to forcefully pursue people to enter their worldview. If they deny, they’re against you. But Jesus presented an invitation, not a forced prescription. He proclaimed that the Kingdom of God was near and invited all to enter. But He never hated those who would not join. Instead, He insisted that we love one another, even our enemies and those who persecute us.
The End of the Disciples Series
I hope this has opened your eyes to the fact that Simon was a real man. He wasn’t just an obscure character on a few pages of the Bible. He was real and there’s so much we can learn from him.
Thank you so much for going on this journey through the lives of the disciples with me. I hope that you have been encouraged and your faith has been lifted as you’ve observed the real life look at the disciples.
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*For related reading about the disciples/apostles of Jesus, please visit my friend’s pagehere.
CHECK OUT THE REST OF THE SERIES
Also published on Medium.