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