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James, Simon and Judas

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Today we are going to continue the sermon series on the Twelve Apostles by examining the lives James the Less, Simon the Zealot and Judas Son of James and conclude that while their feats for God are not known their lives testify to three profound truths: serving God in obscurity is far better than riches, fame or power, serving God is to be done with the right zeal and serving God to obtain an eternal legacy means planting seeds of righteousness.

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James, Simon and Judas 1 Corinthians 1:26-27, Matthew 28:16-20 Online Sermon: http://www.mckeesfamily.com/?page_id=3567 Ever wonder what kind of “mark” you are going to leave on this world upon your death? Attempts to build a legacy that “outlasts” physical life comes in a variety of forms. For some this means acquiring great wealth in hopes that the inheritance they pass on will keep memories of them fresh in the minds of their family. For some building a legacy means getting one’s name recorded in the history books so that future generations might read about the powerful positions they acquired in their lifetime. For others legacy means passing on their values of honor, integrity and love to their family members. And yet despite their best efforts, legacy tends to be as short lived as the temporary things and people upon which it is focused! The only way to get a legacy that lasts beyond a few generations is to serve our eternal God! Today we are going to continue the sermon series on the Twelve Apostles by examining the lives James the Less, Simon the Zealot and Judas Son of James and conclude that while their feats for God are not known their lives testify to three profound truths: serving God in obscurity is far better than riches, fame or power, serving God is to be done with the right zeal and serving God to obtain an eternal legacy means planting seeds of righteousness. James the Less There is very little that is known about the ninth name in Luke’s list of apostles (6:1416). If he ever wrote anything it has been lost1 and any conversations he might have had with Jesus have not been recorded in Scripture.2 He is not to be confused with James the son of Zebedee who was a man of great prominence or James the half brother of Jesus who became the leader of the Jerusalem church and wrote the book of James. His father was Alphaeus (Matthew 10:3; Mark 3:18) and his mother Mary (Mark 15:40) was a devoted Christian, present at the crucifixion of Jesus and was one of the women who came to prepare His body for burial.3 While some scholars have suggested James might have been the bother of Matthew or a cousin of 1 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic: A Division of Baker Publishing Group, 2018), 204. 2 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You (Nashville, TN: W Pub. Group, 2002), 170–171. 3 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 171. 1|Page Jesus these suggestions are the product of mere speculation.4 There is some historical evidence that James took the Gospel to Syria, Persia5 and Egypt6 and was “either stoned, clubbed to death or crucified like His Lord.”7 Both the Church of Holy Apostles in Rome and the Cathedral of Saint James in Jerusalem claim to have his relics. Considering all these unknowns is it fair to say that James the Less was “a figure lost in the deadening shadows of obscurity?”8 Even though not a single sign, wonder or deed that James performed was recorded in Scripture (2 Corinthians 12:12) his legacy is intact for he will one day sit on one of the “twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:27-30). Even if James had not been granted this honor his eternal legacy would still have been secured in the crowns he was about to receive (2 Timothy 4:8) for having done the will of Jesus Christ! Even though he was not mythic, a celebrity, rich or powerful in the world’s eyes; 9 God chose him, an ordinary, weak person (1 Corinthians 1:27) to plant and water seeds of righteousness in His kingdom (1 Corinthians 3:6-9). Like James, despite our weaknesses and lack of worldly “success,” our eternal legacy is found not only in the grace and mercy we have received at the cross (Ephesians 2:8-9) but also in our faithful obedience to He who bought us at a price (1 Corinthians 6:20)! It is far more lasting of a legacy to be a foot washer in Jesus’ kingdom than to gain the entire world and yet loose one’s standing before a holy God (Matthew 16:26)! Simon the Zealot The only thing that is known about the tenth name in Luke’s list of apostles (6:14-16) is his title, “a Zealot” (Luke 6:15, Matthew 10:4, Mark 3:18). While this term could have referred to a “fiery temperament,”10 it most likely refers to Simon having belonged to a political party called the Zealots. Believing that God was their only ruler11 fueled members of this party’s hatred and desire to overthrow Rome through acts of terrorism and “surreptitious acts of 4 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 203. John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 173. 6 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 207. 7 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 173. 8 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 204. 9 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 168. 10 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 174. 11 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 224. 5 2|Page violence.”12 Before the apostles better understood and accepted Jesus’ teachings one can’t help but wonder if there were some rather fiery debates13 between Simon who wanted to kill Rome one person at a time and Matthew who supported Rome by collecting their taxes! The fact that Simon put his dagger away14 and accepted that Jesus had not come to help conquer Rome but to sacrifice His life for everyone including His enemies (Romans 5:10, 6:10), is truly a miracle! There is “some” historical evidence that Simon took the Gospel message to Persia, Egypt, Britain and/or North Africa, and was either put to death by the sword or spear, stoned or crucified on a cross. Both St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Sirnan’s Basilica in Toulouse, France claim to have the bones of Simon.15 From the life of Simon, we learn that the right kind of zeal is necessary to effectively serve in God’s kingdom. One of the biggest challenges facing today’s churches is spiritual complacency. Even though Scripture states that Christ’s love as demonstrated on the cross is to compel us to deny self (Matthew 16:24) and serve Him (2 Corinthians 5:14) with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Luke 10:27); too many of today’s Christians have become like the church of Laodicea, neither hot nor cold (Revelation 3:15)! When will the “sleeping giants” wake up and realize that the spiritual gifts they have received are meant to not only build up the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) but to spread the Gospel message to this world (Matthew 28:16-20) with words and the demonstration of God’s power (John 14:12-14; 1 Corinthians 2:4)? This does not mean that we are to offer “strange fire” (Leviticus 10:1-3) by trying to set God’s agenda for His kingdom. Those who try and “bully” God and/or His people into going any other path than the one He has already set will not only be unsuccessful in doing so but will also invite God’s disapproval of their service. It is only when we passionately seek and obey God’s will that nothing becomes impossible for a Spirit led Christian to accomplish (Matthew 19:26)! 12 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 175. 13 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 224. 14 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 176. 15 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 230. 3|Page Judas the Son of James Unlike James the Lessor and Simon the Zealot s little more is known of the eleventh name in Luke’s list of apostles (6:14-16). This apostle has three names: Judas which means “Jehovah leads,” Thaddaeus Lebbaeus which means “breast or heart child, beloved and courageous” 16 and possibly Jude.17 While some scholars have suggested that he might have been a tax collector like Matthew or a Zealot like Simon at this point in history these suggestions are mere speculation.18 The New Testament records one incident in which Judas shows his tender, childlike heart by asking Jesus: “Lord why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world” (John 14:16)?19 Jesus response is that He will show Himself to the world when He sends His Advocate the Holy Spirit to lead and guide them to the truth (verse 26). Most early traditions suggest that Judas spread the Gospel to the royal city of 20 Mesopotamia, Edessa, and possibly even to Armenia from 43 to 66.21 While some scholars suggest Judas was martyred by either a saw or sword,22 he most was likely clubbed to death.23 The Bascilla in St. Peter’s in the Vatican City state they have relics of Judas and the Church of the Holy Savior in Lauro, Rome state they have a small bone fragment of his arm.24 From Judas the Son of James we learn that serving God to obtain an eternal legacy means planting seeds of righteousness. God was so concerned for the welfare of those dead in sin that He sent His Son to die on the cross (John 3:16; Romans 8:3)! While Jesus’ atoning death provided the path for reconciliation with a Holy God (2 Corinthians 5:20), many people are still dying in their sins because they refuse to believe He is the way, truth and life (John 14:6). Unless they repent and believe in Jesus upon their physical death they will go to the realm of the dead (Psalms 9:17), into a blazing furnace (Matthew 13:50) to be punished with an everlasting 16 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 178. 17 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 212. 18 Ibid. 19 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 178. 20 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 180. 21 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 218. 22 Ibid., 220. 23 John F. MacArthur Jr., Twelve Ordinary Men: How the Master Shaped His Disciples for Greatness, and What He Wants to Do with You, 180. 24 W. Brian Shelton, Quest for the Historical Apostles: Tracing Their Lives and Legacies, 221. 4|Page destruction (2 Thessalonians 1:9) that will be so intense that their weeping and gnashing of teeth will never stop (Matthew 13:42)! With this reality firmly fixed in our minds surely fulfilling the Great Commission to GO and make disciples (Matthew 28:16-20) is our number one priority in life! Like Judas the Lessor, let the grace, mercy and comfort you have received compel you to tell the lost about Jesus before it is too late! And even if you don’t see much fruit from spreading the Gospel message, is not planting or watering a single seed into the life of another whom in turn becomes saved from the fiery pits of hell, not worth more than all the money, fame and power one could ever acquire? Conclusion We make a “mark” on this world that lasts beyond the grave by faithfully serving our Lord, Savior and King. From James the Lessor we learn that serving God in obscurity is far better than trying to acquire a legacy built on the temporal things of money, fame or power. From Simon the Zealot we learn that neither spiritual complacency nor trying to “bully” God into changing His will to match that of our own will lead to pleasing Him. Only those who seek and obey Him will have a legacy that lasts eternally! And finally, from Judas the Son of James we learn that our salvation is to spur us on to reach those who are dying in sin and are about to spend an eternity in the fiery furnace of hell where there will forever be wailing and gnashing of teeth. We are to spread the Gospel message to the world in hopes that our planting and watering the seeds might lead to the salvation of others. Praise be to God we don’t have to be rich, famous or powerful to successful serve God; we just have to believe and kneel before Christ with one burning desire in our hearts: faithfully and obediently I will serve You Lord, for You alone are my legacy and portion forever, AMEN! 5|Page
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