Thursday, May 11, 2006

Boanerges

Jesus gave this nickname to Zebedee's two sons, James and John. The word "boanerges" means "sons of thunder", which describes the character of two young men who, in their zeal for Jesus, once wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a whole city that did not welcome Jesus (Luke 9:52-56).

Significantly, Jesus did not politely and humbly decline their request -- He rebuked them for their attitude.
These are the same two, if you recall, who later got their mother to ask on their behalf about James & John getting the thrones on either side of Jesus once the Kingdom came in its fullness.

Again, significantly, Jesus not only declines their request, but rebukes their attitude and instructs ALL of the disciples that they were never to seek to "lord it over" other apprentices of Jesus (Matthew 20:20-28).

What is amazing to realize is that this same John (James was an early martyr, as described in Acts 12:1-2), is the apprentice who went on to write the Gospel of St. John, as well as three letters, and the apocalyptic Book of Revelation.

John is known primarily as the "Apostle of Love". His gospel and the three letters that he penned all stress the love of God, and the love that Jesus commanded His apprentices to have for each other.

Church tradition says that an elderly St. John, so frail that he had to be carried to gatherings of the Body, when asked to bring a teaching, would say over and over, "little children, love one another".

We don't know much about John's life between the time he was with Jesus, and near the end of his life when he wrote the gospel, the letters, and Revelation. What is fascinating to note is that the young man whom Jesus had once nicknamed "Son of Thunder" was now known as the "Apostle of Love". Obviously, a lot had changed in John over the years.

It would not be far-fetched to suggest that the "sons of thunder" approach of John Boanerges in his early years -- which Jesus repeatedly rebuked -- is a sign of spiritual immaturity. Conversely, the love that St. John stressed in his later life is a sign of his spiritual maturity; as he grew up spiritually, he became less of a fighter and more of a lover.

The question for me is: What kind of a man do I want to be known as? Boanerges or the apostle of love?

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