May 25 – Living Courageously (Thaddaeus)

The twelve apostles included “Thaddaeus” (Matt. 10:3).

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Victorious Christian living requires great courage.

Thaddaeus was a man of many identities. In the King James translation of Matthew 10:3 he is called “Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus.” He is also called “Judas the son of James” (Luke 6:16; Acts 1:13) and “Judas (not Iscariot)” (John 14:22).

Judas, which means “Jehovah leads,” was probably the name given him at birth, with Thaddaeus and Lebbeus added later as nicknames to reflect his character. Apparently Thaddaeus was the nickname given to him by his family. It comes from a Hebrew root word that refers to the female breast. Basically it means a “breast-child.” Perhaps Thaddaeus was the youngest child in the family or was especially dear to his mother. Lebbeus comes from a Hebrew root that means “heart.” Literally it means a “heart-child” and speaks of someone who is courageous. That nickname was likely given him by his friends, who saw him as a man of boldness and courage.

Early church tradition tells us that Thaddaeus was tremendously gifted with the power of God to heal the sick. It is said that a certain Syrian king named Adgar was very ill and sent for Thaddaeus to come and heal him. On his way to the king, Thaddaeus reportedly healed hundreds of people throughout Syria. When he finally reached the king, he healed him and then preached Christ to him. As a result, the king became a Christian. The country, however, was thrown into chaos, and a vengeful nephew of the king had Thaddaeus imprisoned, then beaten to death with a club. If that tradition is true, it confirms that Thaddaeus was a man of great courage.

It takes courage to die for Christ, but it also takes courage to live for Him. That’s why Paul said that God hasn’t “given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Each day trust in God’s promises and rely on His Spirit. That’s how you can face each new challenge with courage and confidence.

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Suggestions for Prayer:  Thank God for the courage He has given you in the past, and ask Him to help you face future spiritual battles without retreat or compromise.

For Further Study: Read Daniel 3:1–30. ✧ Why were Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego punished by King Nebuchadnezzar? ✧ How did God honor their courage?[1]


Thaddaeus (Judas the Son of James)

The second apostle listed in the third group is Thaddaeus. Based on less reliable Greek manuscripts, the Authorized text reads, “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.” From Luke 6:16 and Acts 1:13 we learn that he was also called Judas the son of James. It is likely that Judas was his original name and that Thaddaeus and Lebbaeus were descriptive names, somewhat like nicknames, added by his family or friends.

Thaddaeus comes from the Hebrew word shad, which refers to a female breast. The name means “breast child,” and was probably a common colloquialism for the youngest child of a family, the permanent “baby” of the family who was the last to be nursed by his mother.

Although the name Lebbaeus is not found in what are considered the superior Greek manuscripts, and is therefore not in most modern translations, it may well have been one of this apostle’s names. It is based on the Hebrew leb (“heart”) and means “heart child,” which suggests he was known for his generosity, love, and courage.

On the night before His arrest and trial, Jesus said, “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him” (John 14:21). At that time Thaddaeus spoke his only words recorded in Scripture: “Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, ‘Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us, and not to the world?’ ” (v. 22).

Judas (Thaddaeus) obviously was thinking only of outward, visible disclosure, and he wondered how Jesus could manifest Himself to those who loved Him without also manifesting Himself to everyone else. Like most Jews of his day, he was looking for Christ to establish an earthly kingdom. How, he wondered, could the Messiah sit on the throne of David and rule the entire earth without manifesting Himself to His subjects? Thaddaeus may also have wondered why Jesus would disclose Himself to a small group of insignificant men and not to the great religious leaders in Jerusalem and the powerful political leaders in Rome.

Jesus did not rebuke Thaddaeus for his misunderstanding, which he sincerely and humbly expressed. In light of common Jewish expectations, the question was appropriate and insightful, and it gave Jesus the opportunity to further explain what He meant. He proceeded to reiterate what He had just said and added the negative side of the truth: “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me” (John 14:23–24). Christ was not at that time establishing His earthly kingdom, and the disclosure He was then making was of His divinity and authority as spiritual Lord and Savior. That disclosure can only be recognized by those who trust and love Him, and the genuineness of such trust and love is evidenced by obedience to His Word Manifestation is limited to reception.

A radio or television broadcast can have a great range, reaching virtually the entire globe by use of satellites. But its programs are only “disclosed” to those who have proper receivers. The rest of the world has no awareness of the broadcast, although its electronic waves completely surround them.

Henry David Thoreau once observed that “it takes two people to speak the truth, the one who says it and the one who hears it.” Those who will not listen to the gospel cannot hear it, no matter how clearly and forcefully it may be proclaimed. Jesus Christ was God incarnate, yet “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10–11). During His three years of ministry, countless thousands of people-mostly God’s chosen people, the Jews-saw and heard Jesus. Yet only a few had more than passing interest in who He really was or in what He said. The god of this world so blinded their minds that when they looked they could not see (2 Cor. 4:4).

Someone has commented that if you tore a beautiful hymn out of a hymnal and threw it down on the sidewalk, you could expect many different reactions from those who saw it. A dog would sniff at it and then go his way. A street cleaner would pick it up and throw it in the trash. A greedy person might pick it up expecting to find a valuable document of some sort. An English teacher might read it and admire its literary quality. But a spiritually-minded believer who picked it up and read it would have his soul blessed. The content would have been the same for all those who came in contact with it, but its meaning and value could only be understood by a person receptive to its godly truth.

Only those whose hearts are purified by love and who walk in obedience to God’s Word can perceive Christ’s truth, beauty, and glory. Thaddaeus was such a person.

Tradition holds that Thaddaeus was specially blessed with the gift of healing and that through him the Lord healed many hundreds of people in Syria. He is said to have healed the king of that country and won him to the Lord. The supposed conversion threw the land into such turmoil that the king’s unbelieving nephew had Thaddaeus bludgeoned to death with a club, which became the symbol for that apostle.[2]


[1] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1993). Drawing Near—Daily Readings for a Deeper Faith (p. 158). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

[2] MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (Mt 10:3). Chicago: Moody Press.

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