November, 2005: Simon the Zealot

We continue our series on the lesser-known Apostles with Simon the Zealot. It appears that he was born in Cana in Galilee. He received the attribution of “Zealot”, distinguishing him from Simon Peter. The term “zealot” was either due to his Canaanite origin, which means zealot in Aramaic, or for his passionate pursuit of Christ. Tradition says that he was the bridegroom at the wedding where Jesus performed his first miracle. After the witnessing the water being turned into wine, he became a zealous follower of Christ.

Simon the Zealot was with the others who received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. From there, traditions vary. There are some accounts which have him traveling from Britain to the Black Sea. Other strands put him in Egypt and Mesopotamia. His death is similarly ambiguous: some say he was crucified in Samaria; others say he was sawn in half in Suanir, Persia; still others write that he was martyred at Weriosphora in Iberia.

What can we make of what little we know? Changing water into wine is among the most famous of Jesus’ miracles – non-believers enjoy the imagery of a partying Jesus – but it hardly ranks as the most spiritually inspiring. It is not a healing; it is not an exorcism, it is not even on par with raising Lazarus from the dead.

It is an interesting miracle because it took place in the midst of a time devoted to something else. John reports that the miracle took place after the third day of a wedding celebration. Weddings often took more than a week, the longer time depending upon the wealth of the family involved. Here, the family’s wine had run out; an embarrassment to them. Jesus’ action was known only to the servants and, ultimately, to the bridegroom who was pulled aside and told, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” Thus, the bridegroom learns of the miracle that has been done. His eyes were open to understand the significance of what took place in the midst of the ordinary. He was blessed with eyes to see and a heart ready to receive what God was doing.

Awareness of what God is doing is a good thing. It is not easy to do. If you remember the old transistor radios, you remember how much work it took to keep a station tuned in. Particularly after sunset. I remember growing up on the East Coast trying to listen to Phillies games on the West Coast. I would keep the handheld transistor under my pillow with the sound just loud enough to penetrate. The problem was that one little nudge of the dial up or down and suddenly I was listening to static. I spent more time struggling to fine-tune the station than actually hearing the action being reported. The irony was that – sometimes – if I just sat still and waited, the signal would find the radio. It brings a smile to my face just thinking about it.

For many Christians, the struggle with the transistor radio can be a frustratingly realistic portrayal of discipleship. Studying the Word, praying, coming to church each Sunday; always hoping that God will suddenly break in through the static and issue the clarion call to action. Sometimes, the call comes in a form we are not anticipating. Sometimes, it comes in a form we do not recognize. Sometimes, it comes in the form of something so ordinary and obvious that we are caught overlooking it. Sometimes, we have to sit and wait for God’s signal to find us. Sometimes, we simply have to remember what God has already done to remember the joy we have already received. 

Upon realizing what Jesus had done, Simon the Zealot became an ardent follower and disciple. Even this ordinary miracle had extraordinary consequences. It is worth noting that Simon did not actually see the miracle. He heard from others what had happened and shared in the joy of the result. Simon’s life was transformed.

Likewise, we did not actually see the crucifixion and resurrection. We have heard from others what happened and share in the joy of the result of what God has done. Our lives have been transformed; we, too, can be lead the example of Simon’s passionate (yes, zealous) following of Jesus. Our passion is not diminished by time. Simon had good news to share. We have good news to share. 

May God bless each of us with renewed passion for sharing the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ as we remember what God has already done for us.

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