The twelve apostles included "Simon the Zealot" (Matt. 10:4).
Even people of vastly different backgrounds can minister together for Christ.
During the time between the Old and New Testaments, a fiery revolutionary named Judas Maccabaeus led the Jewish people in a revolt against Greek influences on their nation and religion. The spirit of that movement was captured in this statement from the apocryphal book of 1 Maccabees: "Be ye zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant" (1 Maccabees 2:50). That group of politically-oriented, self-appointed guardians of Judaism later became known as the Zealots.
During the New Testament period, Zealots conducted terrorist activities against Rome in an effort to free Israel from Roman oppression. Their activities finally prompted Rome to destroy Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and slaughter people in 985 Galilean towns.
After the destruction of Jerusalem, the few remaining Zealots banded together under the leadership of a man named Eleazar. Their headquarters was at a retreat called Masada. When the Romans laid seige to Masada and the Zealots knew defeat was imminent, they chose to kill their own families and commit suicide themselves rather than face death at the hands of the Romans. It was a tragedy of monumental proportions, but such was the depth of their fiery zeal for Judaism and their hatred for their political enemies.
Before coming to Christ, Simon was a Zealot. Even as a believer, he must have retained much of his zeal, redirecting it in a godly direction. We can only imagine the passion with which he approached the ministry, having finally found a leader and cause that transcended anything Judaism and political activism could ever offer.
It's amazing to realize that Simon the Zealot and Matthew the tax-gatherer ministered together. Under normal circumstances Simon would have killed a traitor like Matthew. But Christ broke through their differences, taught them to love each other, and used them for His glory.
Perhaps you know believers who come from totally different backgrounds than yours. Do you have trouble getting along with any of them? If so, why? How can you begin to mend your differences? Be encouraged by the transformation Christ worked in Simon and Matthew, and follow their example.
Suggestions for Prayer
Pray for the people in your church, asking the Lord to give everyone a spirit of unity.
For Further Study
According to Romans 12:9-21, what attitudes should you have toward others?
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.