Matthew and Marks account call him Simon the Cananaean, the Aramaic equivalent of Simon Zealot.
History behind the Zealots:
It all started in the year 6 A.D. when Quirinius was govenor of Syria.
He ordered a census for the purpose of preparing tax rolls...the intent behind the census was a proposed new tax of 10% on grain and 20% on wine and fruits.
For years the Roman occupiers had allowed the temple in Jerusalem to support temple activities with a tithe on produce. Although some might have seen this as a form of cooperation with the Romans,which bordered on collaboration,many practical Jews saw it as preserving some amount of self determination. However, the Zealots joined religion and politics together. They had a view that the Temple was the focus of Judaism. Since the occupation by the Romans, the State of Irael as an
independent nation stopped. The zealots saw themselves as "true Israelites who sought to preserve Judaism and the Israel as a separate nation. They saw the census and the new taxes as a subtle plot by the Roman occupation. The Zealots were afraid that this new tax would strike at the root of the establshed religion by drawing off revenue that would otherwise be used in support of the temple.
Judas of Gamala and his four sons organized a guerrilla band which harassed the Roman garrisons and struck terror into the heart of any Jew that was a friend of the Roman conquerors. This wasprobably the same Judas referred to by Gamaliel in his advise to the Sanhedrin. (Acts 5:37)
The targets for this band of guerrilla (terrorist?)?..rich landowners who favored appeasement so they could increase their investments, priests who preached a doctince of conciliation and
anyone else who was suspected of collaboration. The daggers of the Zealots were weapons used to remove any opponent.
Probable Vision for the Zealots:
The memory of a grand past of independence was a vision of hope for the Zealots. They remembered Mattathias Maccabaeus and especially his son Judas Maccabaeus who threw off the shackles
of Syrian tyrany and established an independent state. However, the powerful legions of Rome quickly crushed the first rebellion. Judas and his sons were killed and his movement destroyed.
Nonetheless, the cause continued among a small group of underground revolutionaries. Simon the Zealot is identified as one of these. It can be supposed that Simon shared the thinking and tactics of the Zealots
The New Testament records nothing about the call of Simon. His name is mentioned only four times in the New Testament, and there it is only listed with the names of the other Apostles. There is no mention of any outstanding work that he did and no record of any miracle that he performed. There is no account of his interaction with other disciples not even a slight
reference to his interaction with Jesus. Indeed there is no record of anything that he did.
Yet, even though we do not know much about Simon Zealot, we may ask the question, "What made Simon Zealot follow Jesus? Could it be that this man of zeal,this man whose loyalty was to a cause beyond himself-that he found in Jesus a new and better cause to support. He may not have been a leader but he could be a enthusiastic supporter. The idea of "enthusiastic supporter" is significant.
Not all of the Apostles had super star status. Not every follower of Jesus can claim the headlines. But there is a real need for those who support the cause.
Sadly, all too many Christians want the headlines and the acclaim that accompanies it. When we view the landscape of today's Church, how many individuals feel that they are the powerhouse stars?
The writer has experienced in the local congregation those who want to head this group, or lead that study, or be the developers of something new and different. But, when they are not followed, they accuse fellow Christians of not being motivated. Or, when they are opposed, they lash out and blame others,yes,other Christians, claiming that these "inferior" "so called Christians" have no real understanding of what is required of a follower of Jesus.
Even worse, having lead a group, or developed a ministry and having enlisted the work and the offerings of others, the writer has witnessed these "super Christians" abandon their ministry
for some new arena and some more exciting prospect. They tell those who have in fact supported them that it is "the Lord" who is calling them away. One can only wonder if they believe that "the Lord" speaks to them but not to the others?
What then can be said about Simon Zealot, who finds in Jesus a new cause, and a new mission and a new philosophy? Does he leave off his radical views and adopt a milder form of devotion?
Or, does Simon symbolize all those who had thought one thing was true only to find that in Jesus is all the truth?
Reflecting on the group of twelve, it is almost inconceivable that a zealot and a tax collector could be members of the same band of disciples. Yet, Matthew, a tax collector and collaborator and Simon, a man pledged to destroy collaborators, were both Apostles. Did they find a new cause, a new direcion, a new loyalty in Christ?
This underscores an obvious but often overlooked fact: the fellowship of Christ is a community where old loyalties are eclipsed by a common faith. People who would never associate with one another under any circumstances can find a fellowship when assembled around the Lord. In Jesus they find a junction, a common union which is so beautifully expressed in the Communion, the Holy Community of faith that participates together in bread and wine. They are a community in
common union with their Lord and with each other. They have found God and therefore have found that which unites all humankind. The Church is where people can tolerate conflicting opinions on social and political questions. It is a communion where people learn to be charitable toward other viewpoints. It is a fellowship where old loyalties can be submerged in a
common faith in the Lord Jesus.
Why did Jesus invite Simon to be an apostle? It was because Jesus saw the potential for good that was in Simon. Jesus choose Simon not for what he was or had been but for what Simon could become. Isn't this, after all, the same reason Jesus extends his invitation to you and me? And isn't this,
after all, what the Church of Jesus is called to do? We are called to see the "why" and "what" of others. We are called to seek out the good that others have to contribute and finding it in even one person, we are tasked to encourage that good, to mentor that good, to facilitate it and support it so that
it will not be lost - lost to the one who never developes it and lost to us.