Key Verses: “Look, these are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother!” Matthew 12:49-50
We all know the expression, “You can choose your friends, but you can not choose your family.” What we mean when we say this is that regardless of our differences we are united as members of the same family.
Getting along with each other was probably as much of an issue for the original twelve disciples as it is for us today. Under normal circumstances, the disciples should never have been in the same group. Simon, one of Jesus’ disciples, was a zealot (Luke 6:15, Acts 1:13). The name itself describes one who is filled with zeal and prepared to fight for what he believes. The Zealots differed from the other groups of Jesus’ time. The Pharisees believed that it was God’s will for them to live in the culture where God had placed them, but to remain pure, resisting the temptation and trials of the age. The Sadducees sought the good life and power in prominent positions. The Zealots however, confronted opposition head on. Today we would call them extremists, taking the fight to anyone who opposed them. The Romans described them as ‘bandits’ and on occasion ‘terrorists.’
Then there was Matthew, the tax collector. Tax collectors have never been the most popular people. When was the last time you heard someone excited to receive a visit from the taxman? In Jesus’ day, the Jews despised tax collectors because they worked for the enemy, Rome. If that was not a sufficient reason for their hatred, the fact that tax collectors would often overcharge their fellow Jews and pocket the difference made matters worse. They were not only considered to be traitors but also thieves.
Within Jewish society, no two groups resented each other as much as the tax collectors and the zealots, yet Jesus chose both of them. We would have been afraid these two would kill each other or at the very least want to avoid the hassle of the ongoing conflict between them. Yet Jesus knew the love of God was more powerful than the hatred of men. The fact that Jesus appointed two men of such incompatible worldviews demonstrates God’s power to unite us in Christ.