A TRUE ISRAELITE (Mt.10:4; Mk.3:18; Lk.6:15; Ac.1:13; Jn.21:2: 1:44-51)
My identity will puzzle historians. Those, who will write about Jesus, shall identify me by different names. Some called me Simon the Zealot. Simon means being “snub-nosed.” There was something about that description. I snubbed at some ideas and at some people. When I was first told about a “Man” by the name of Jesus from Nazareth, I tried to dismiss Him as if anything worthwhile could come out of Nazareth. To me, it was an unimportant place with unimportant people. What could possibly come from such an insignificant place? I raised my nose a little higher than I should have and then ended up swallowing my pride. The word “Zealots” was not my family name, but my zealousness for my country and my faith. I burned up inside of me at the political and religious situation of our nation. I was ready and willing to take up arms and drive our enemies and false leaders out of our country. I was, however, waiting for the right leader to come along and guide us. I expected “Him” to be another Moses or a King David and not some unknown carpenter’s son from Nazareth. I was a proud enthusiast. I did nothing half-ways. I put my heart and soul into the cause of delivering our people from oppression.
Actually, I came from Cana in Galilee. That is why some identified me as Simon of Cana. Cana was a real town and not just an Aramaic word for a zealot (Kana). Our town may have been named for the zealousness of the people for Israel. We had quite a few that were zealous for the Lord and for our country. We were preparing ourselves for the Messiah. I personally studied the Scriptures and prayed by myself for the Day of Yahweh. And many of us expected that Cana provided the kind of an environment that would bring forth a leader that would match the prediction of Moses and the Prophets. We had a garden of figs and one tree in particular became my place of meditation. My friend Philip knew about it. After he had met the Man from Nazareth, he was anxious to share his discovery with me and told me that he and someone else had found the Man that Moses and the Prophets had written about. And told me that He was Jesus of Nazareth. That floored me. Nazareth was not and had not been known for any contributors to the delivery of our people. There were no zealots or enthusiasts in Nazareth. How wrong could I have been? If I only had studied my Scriptures a little closer and were not so obsessed with heroism, I would have learned that the Lord told the prophet Samuel to bypass the heroic sons of Jesse and anoint his shepherd son David to be the next King of Israel. He was merely a lad when the Lord delivered the giant into his hands and freed our people from the invaders.
Philip knew that talking would not do much for my fixed mind. He simply told me that I had to come and see for myself. Was I in for a surprise! When Jesus saw me coming, he said, “Look, here is a genuine Israelite, in whom there is no deception.” I asked Him “how do you know me?” He replied, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” I was overwhelmed and declared, “Teacher, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” We then heard Him say, “You believe because I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things. In truth, you will see heaven open up and the angels of God ascend and descend on the Son of Man.” What a revelation that was for all of us. We were not just in the presence of a leader like Moses or David, but with the Son of God in person. He was far greater than all of our past leaders were. We were soon to learn that He was before Abraham and before the world was created. It seemed to me, that I was dreaming. I, the skeptic, had just professed before the others that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed God’s Son and Israel’s King. The reason that I knew who He was is because He knew who I was. He looked into my heart as no other man ever did. And what Jesus saw in me was exactly how I felt.
My real name was Nathanael. It meant, “God has given.” Indeed, God had given me insight as to who His Son was. In that sense, I was blessed above everyone else in the group. I am also one of the followers Jesus did not have to call. Once I was convinced, I followed Him on my own and I had the privilege of inviting Him to my hometown of Cana for a wedding. He honored us by turning water into wine and brought joy to our wedding party. It was also in Cana, where my Lord snatched our Roman guardian’s son from death. The remarkable thing about this Roman officer was that he believed before his son was saved from death. He was the exact opposite from what I was. I had to see in order to believe; but he believed in order to see. These, and many other lessons, I learned while I traveled with Jesus. I, too, met the Risen Lord in Jerusalem and in Galilee. I, along with others, went fishing with Peter on the lake when Jesus appeared to us for the third time. He treated us to a breakfast and then appointed Peter as our leader. We were ordered to return to Jerusalem and wait for the Holy Spirit. Before He was lifted up into the clouds, I was one of those who anxiously awaited the restoration of Israel to nationhood. But He bypassed our concern and told us that it was not up to Him to give us a date. Instead, our job was to announce Him to the whole world. Being a true Israelite, I chose to serve Him at home among my people. Posterity will report that I ended up as the head of the Jesus movement in Jerusalem. I was still zealous but not to restore Israel by force but by conversion, one soul at the time. It was heartbreaking to realize that we would not have enough time to reach every one of our people. It was even more painful to see that our political and religious leaders were leading us like sheep to the slaughter. I firmly believed what our Lord Jesus predicted regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, the Temple and our nation would come to pass. In choosing Barabas over Jesus, the desolation became unavoidable. Hopefully, posterity shall believe Jesus’ message of how to gain peace rather than war. I know, for I was zealous for the wrong cause.