During our recent cold snap I had to use multiply layers of clothing. One of the sweaters on put on has on the front of it Gary Railcats. They are a minor league non-affiliated baseball team. I like to go watch them play from time to time.
While I have some stuff of theirs and I check to see how they are doing in the standings I am not a real fan, more of a casual fan. I don’t live and die with the team, nor do I attend ever game or follow them religiously in the paper. A true fan does all that.
The word fan in this case is short for fanatic. As a noun it means a person with an extreme and uncritical enthusiasm or zeal, as in religion or politics.
But let us look at a fan or fanatic that is found in the New Testament, a disciple named Simon Zelotes Luke 6:15; Acts 1:13). At first blush without any studying we would think Zelotes was maybe a last name or perhaps where he was from like Judas Iscariot. It doesn’t help much that we don’t easily know much about this man.
However Zelotes means zealot, zeal, or fanatical. In his case he wasn’t fanatical so much for religious reasons as he was for political reasons. Zealots were radicals determined to get rid of Roman rule by force. They only could see the law with a strict literal interpretation with God as the only who should be ruling over their nation. As such their opinion held that the coming Messiah was going to be a great general who would lead the Jews to victory over Rome. In fact they believed that to pay taxes to any foreign government meant you were a traitor.
Can you imagine how awkward dinner time must have been with Matthew the tax collector sitting in the same room as a man who wanted to cut his throat for having been a Roman tax collector?!?! Yet somewhere along the way Simon Zelotes became a fan of a different cause. At some point during the three years of Christ’s earthly ministry Simon Zelotes came to understand that the cause he truly needed to be fighting for was the cause of Christ and not the Jewish state. Jesus was able to take this man’s natural passions, zeal, and sense of loyalty and rearranged it for him to become an apostle of the Lord. Tradition holds that he gave his life for preaching the gospel over in British Isles. He was a true fanatic, who lived and died with his team.
Not everyone who preaches the gospel will have to die physically for what they believe, though a great many do. Jesus is not necessarily asking each of us to do that, but he is asking us all to live for him. He was willing to give his life so that we might have eternal life. Can we live for him?
Twelve Ordinary Men by: John Mac Arthur
Foxe’s Book of Martyrs by; John Foxe