Recently on Sunday mornings, we have been studying the apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. This past Sunday we looked at Matthew, the tax collector who Jesus called to be one of his disciples. His calling is recorded in both Luke 5 and Matthew 9. In each recorded calling Matthew throws a big party for his tax collector friends to meet the Lord Jesus Christ. In one of our future studies, we are going to be studying Simon the zealot. The combination of Matthew the tax collector and Simon the zealot as two of Jesus’s apostles should be a great picture of hope for us as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ living in these days of great divisiveness. Jesus could not have chosen two more different worldviews than these two men. Tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people. They were considered traitors and enemies of the state, for they were collecting taxes for the Roman oppressors from the Jewish people. They were not even allowed to testify in the court of law. The people considered tax collectors to be on the lowest step of the social ladder. Not even prostitutes were considered with such disdain as tax collectors.
The political group known as the zealots on the other hand were fanatic opponents of Roman rule. Many considered violence as justified as long as it accomplished the fulfilled desire of their party – the overthrow of the Roman occupation. The zealots came into existence in A.D. 6, and their sole purpose was to fight the Romans and deliver freedom to Israel. They were founded on two guiding principles – 1) they would not pay taxes to Rome, 2) they would in no way give allegiance to the Emperor as their master. It was the zealots who led the rebellion in A.D. 66 that ultimately delivered Jerusalem from the hands of the Romans. That victory was only short-lived, and in A.D. 70 the Romans destroyed not only the Temple in Jerusalem but also the whole city. The zealots fled to Masada where in A.D. 73 they lead a mass suicide of over 950 Jewish men women and children who refused to be taken captive by the Romans in March to the city streets of Rome. This mass suicide is a picture of their zeal for their political point of reference. We have no doubt in understanding what Simon’s desire was when he became a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. Matthew and Simon could not have been more different in their political viewpoints. It must’ve been interesting sitting in some of the meetings with these two rival viewpoints present at the same place.
I think it’s a legitimate question to raise – how was it possible that these two men could come to be apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ? I think the answer to that question is very instructive for the ills that we see happening in our world today. Both Matthew and Simon the zealot received completely new identities when they came into a relationship with Jesus Christ. You see being born again of God’s Spirit gives us a completely different perspective than anything that we had before. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians these instructive words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come”, (2 Cor. 5:17 NIV). When Jesus Christ comes into our heart and life, He completely changes our worldview, if we allow Him to be Lord of our lives. When we see our primary identification as being a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ that puts everything else into perspective. Regardless of the color of a person’s skin or their political association or what country they’re from if they are a follower of Jesus Christ than they are my brother or sister in Christ. I will spend eternity with those who are in Christ. We have many today with all kinds of identity issues, some do not know their sexual identity or their political identity, but when we are found in Christ, he completely changes our perspective and our worldview. When our identity is in Jesus Christ, He takes priority over every other relationship. When we invite the Lord Jesus Christ into our lives our Heavenly Father accepts us, adopts us and unites us with the body of Christ, not on the basis of our performance or our efforts but because of what Jesus Christ has done for us. Not only do we receive a new relationship with God, but we are given a new identity as a child of God.
“In Christ” we have been set at liberty to pursue not what pleases a political party or political correctness or the flesh but what pleases the Lord Jesus Christ. There is much disagreement today about the Presidency of Donald Trump. Even some of my readers may have strong feelings one way or the other, but I don’t serve the President of the United States or any political party, I serve the sovereign of the universe, and that’s way more important than who the President of the United States is. Finding our identity in Jesus Christ also helps us find the purpose and meaning of our lives. In the same chapter of 2 Corinthians Paul talks about God having made us ambassadors for Jesus Christ. It is our responsibility as followers of Jesus Christ to represent Him in all of our actions and deeds, and we should do so with delight and joy. Will you join me in serving the King of glory who has called us into a relationship that gives us a completely different identity? Have you found your identity in Christ yet? If not, why not?
Rejoicing in the Greatest King,
Pastor Rich Sivo