May 13 – Being Zealous for the Lord (James, son of Zebedee)

The twelve apostles included “James the son of Zebedee” (Matt. 10:2).

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God can use overzealous and ambitious people for His glory.

Like Peter and Andrew, James and John were fishermen. One day as Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee, He saw them in a boat with their father Zebedee and some hired servants. When Jesus called them to follow Him, they immediately left the boat and went with Him (Mark 1:19–20).

James and John were zealous and ambitious men—so much so that Jesus nicknamed them “Boanerges,” which means, “Sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). At times their great zeal got the better of them. In Luke 9:54, for example, after a Samaritan village had rejected some of the disciples, James and John asked Jesus for permission to call down fire from Heaven to incinerate the whole village! On another occasion they sent their mother to ask Jesus to give them the most prominent places in His Kingdom (Matt. 20:20–28). They wanted power, prestige, and honor, but Jesus promised them suffering and, in James’s case, a martyr’s grave.

James was probably the eldest of the two brothers. His name is listed first whenever their names appear together in Scripture. Perhaps he was also the most zealous and passionate of the two, since he was the first apostle to be martyred. When King Herod decided to persecute the early church, he had James put to death with a sword (Acts 12:2). When he saw how much that pleased the Jewish people, he had Peter arrested but didn’t kill him. Apparently James was a bigger threat than Peter. That tells us something about the powerful ministry he must have had.

Like James and John, some Christians have a zeal that prompts them to run ahead of the Holy Spirit. If that’s true of you, be thankful for your zeal, but also be careful to allow the Spirit to govern what you do and say. However, if you’ve slipped into spiritual complacency and your life isn’t much of a threat to Satan’s kingdom, you need to repent and become more zealous for the Lord!

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Ask God to give you a holy zeal that’s motivated by love and governed by His Spirit.

For Further Study: Read John 2:12–22. ✧ How did Jesus demonstrate His zeal for God’s house? ✧ Why were His actions necessary?[1]


10:2 the names of the twelve apostles. The 12 are always listed in a similar order (cf. Mk 3:16–19; Lk 6:13–16; Ac 1:13). Peter is always named first. The list contains 3 groups of 4. The 3 subgroups are always listed in the same order, and the first name in each subgroup is always the same, though there is some variation in the order within the subgroups—but Judas Iscariot is always named last. Peter … Andrew … James … John. The first subgroup of 4 are the most familiar to us. These two sets of brothers, all fishermen, represent an inner circle of disciples often seen closest to Jesus (see note on 17:1).[2]


10:2 Apostles (plural of Gk. apostolos; used only here in Matthew; see note on Rom. 1:1) describes those commissioned to be Jesus’ special representatives, while “disciples” (Matt. 10:1) was also used more broadly to refer to anyone who believed in Jesus. Peter heads all the lists of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:13–16; Acts 1:13) and serves as their spokesman. Peter, along with James and John, made up Jesus’ inner circle.[3]


10:2 apostles. The Gk. word apostolos designates an authorized representative or emissary whose word has the authority of the sender (cf. 2 Cor. 8:23, where it is translated “messengers,” and 2 Cor. 1:1 note). Here the Twelve receive authority to do exactly what Jesus has been doing (vv. 7, 8).[4]


10:2 In the early church an “apostle” (apostolos, Gk.) is a representative of the authority of the risen Lord. The term describes the function of the Twelve (cf. Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16; John 1:40–49) who are sent out by Jesus. The Twelve made up the body of authoritative leaders in the church. James, the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), Silvanus (1 Thess. 1:1), Andronicus and Junia (Rom. 16:7), Barnabas and Paul (Acts 14:4, 14), and others are designated “apostles,” though not in the same technical sense that the Twelve are. Peter specifies that an apostle must be an eyewitness of Jesus’ life and activity from the time of His baptism to the resurrection/ascension (Acts 1:22).[5]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 146). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Mt 10:2). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Crossway Bibles. (2008). The ESV Study Bible (p. 1839). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.

[4] Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 1687). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.

[5] Criswell, W. A., Patterson, P., Clendenen, E. R., Akin, D. L., Chamberlin, M., Patterson, D. K., & Pogue, J. (Eds.). (1991). Believer’s Study Bible (electronic ed., Mt 10:2). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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