I looked up the word “Zealot” recently. I had seen where Simon, one of Jesus’ 12 disciples (not Simon Peter), was referred to as “Simon the Zealot”, so I wanted to know more. I was reminded that to be a Zealot was to be part of a political movement between the time of 6 A.D. and roughly 73 A.D., and that their purpose was to rebel against the Roman Empire and expel it from the Holy Land by force of arms.
I have seen that phrase attached to Barabbas as well (Barabbas as you may remember was the one Pilot released to the people upon their demand, when given a choice between him and Jesus). It has also been suggested that Simon was not the only “Zealot” among the twelve, and that Judas Iscariot may have also held these opinions. This could possibly be one of the reasons he was so willing to betray Jesus, with the idea being that he was fully expecting Jesus to come in power then and there, to take charge, set up a physical kingdom, and oust the Romans from the Holy Land once and for all. Perhaps he wanted to force Jesus’ hand, and “hasten the day”, so to speak.
I found it interesting that one of the translations (or words of similar meaning) for Zealot was “Patriot”. Knowing this may have been the perspective of more than one of his disciples helps me to better understand their thoughts, why they asked some of the questions they did, and why, even after Jesus told them how things were to be several times over, they sometimes just did not seem to get it.
Jesus’ teachings were in fact seemingly contrary to this political movement. I say that because, even though they had hopes He was the Promised King, He was not there to establish a kingdom of man, but the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom was far more than just physical. It was so near and everywhere that it often appeared elusive. Not only did the disciples have a hard time grasping it, but we do today as well. I’m sure this must have been ever so frustrating to one who had his hopes set on that physical kingdom, so much so that, supposing it was the means to a physical end, he could not see beyond it to the purpose of God.
It kind of makes you think of our culture and society here in America today, doesn’t it? It feels like the clouds of Revolution are brewing, and many of us are tempted to “take up arms” against the enemy. One difference, however, is that back then the one common enemy was the Roman Empire. Today we have a myriad of enemies we can choose to fight that have all permeated our land, and if you ask any one of us to provide you with a definition of “the enemy”, we would all have a different one to give. We are so scattered and divided we cannot see straight, but there is one thing we all know for sure, and that is that something has to change!
So, as a Patriot, put yourself and those thoughts of patriotism back into the time of Jesus, and try for a moment with those thoughts to see through the eyes of one of His disciples. Feeling frustrated? What message do you see from scripture that Christ kept telling them over and over? Let’s take a look at a few.
1. Look to the Kingdom of God, not to the kingdoms of man
- “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” – Matthew 24:14
- “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10
- “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21
- “And if a kingdom be divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.” Mark 3:24
- “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:33
- “And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” Daniel 7:27
2. Know Your Enemy, Stand in the Power of Christ
- “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:10-17
3. Love God, Love One Another
- “And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40
Do you think this message would be any different today? I think not.
Patriotism that is not aligned to God’s plan and purpose has no foundation. In spiritual terms, it was the difference between momentary or physical salvation and eternal salvation; in having to live in a fallen world verses having the choice to live here and now in His Kingdom no matter where we are.
In more recent historical times, you can compare it to the difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution. The American Revolution was aligned with the purposes of God, and our founding fathers humbly submitted themselves to that end. The French Revolution, on the other hand, was what many call a “mobocracy” (as compared to a democracy), meaning it was not aligned to a divine purpose, but rather to the whims of the mob or its handlers.
Take the first written French Constitution in 1791, that was dissolved when Napoleon came into the picture in 1799 (so 8 years later) and compare that to the United States Constitution that was first written in 1787 and is still in place today. It is in fact the longest running established constitution in history, and is the foundation of what makes this country so great.
Many of us would like to see it and the way of life it represents preserved, myself included. I must remind myself, however, there is only one Kingdom that is everlasting. Unless we as individuals and as a country are aligned with that Kingdom, our country will fail.
So for those of us with our eyes fixed on this physical “kingdom” (government) of the United States, how badly things appear today, and how desperately we wish to see it change, I want to encourage us to keep our eyes on God’s Kingdom. May we learn to see beyond the immediate into the purpose of God, to trust in and align ourselves with His plan, for our hope is in Him! Remember, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10