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The Master's Men Part 4: James the Son of Alphaeus B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
August 2, 2022 4:00 am

The Master's Men Part 4: James the Son of Alphaeus B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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Now, a man like Simon, to attach himself to them must have been a man with a tremendous passion, a tremendous capacity for zeal. And you can imagine that he must have been a fireball when it got to the work of the Lord.

He found a better leader and a greater cause. You might play golf often, be able to dunk a basketball, and know some chords on the piano, but you probably wouldn't say you're ready to tee off at the British Open or join the Golden State Warriors or play at Carnegie Hall. All of that is out of your league. Well, you might consider that your spiritual credentials are even less impressive. But that puts you in pretty famous company. You see, the apostles were not chosen because they were spiritual all-stars.

They were as ordinary as you and me. So, can Jesus work in your life the way He worked in theirs? Consider that today on Grace to You as John MacArthur continues his series, The Master's Men.

Here's the lesson. Turn in your Bible with me to the 10th chapter of Matthew, Matthew chapter 10. And just as a setting, let me read verses 1 through the first part of verse 5. Speaking of the Lord, it says, And when He had called unto Him His twelve disciples, He gave them power against unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these.

The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus and Lebeas whose surname was Thaddeus, Simon the zealot, and Judas Iscariot who also betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent forth. Now we've been asking a question, and the question we've been asking is what kind of people does God use in His special service? When the Lord went out to pick people, what kind did He pick?

And we've found some interesting answers, haven't we? He picked all kinds, all kinds of people. I mean we have seen that the Lord can basically take any kind of raw material at all and use it for the advance of His glorious eternal kingdom. He uses strong, dynamic, bold leaders like Peter who take charge, initiate, strategize, confront. He uses humble, gentle, inconspicuous souls like Andrew who quietly seek no prominence but bring people to Christ behind the scenes. He uses zealous, passionate, ambitious, uncompromising, task-oriented, insensitive men like James who wind up being early martyrs. He uses loving, sensitive, people-oriented, believing, trusting, intimate truth seekers like John.

He uses skeptical, analytical, mechanical, slow to believe, slow-witted, visionless, pessimistic, unsure men like Philip. And He'll use even a man with prejudice in his heart who is a seeker of truth and honest and open and clear-minded and deeply surrendered like Nathanael. And He'll use an outcast, extortionist, tax collector, a traitor, and the most hated man in His entire society like Matthew who knows he is a sinner and seeks forgiveness.

And He'll turn him into a meek and quiet, humble man who loves the riff-raff of society and who has a great faith in Christ. And now the last group, James, Lebeas, and Simon. What about the second one, verse 3? Lebeas whose surname was Thaddeus. And if you look in Luke 6, 16 and Acts 1, 13, you don't have to look it up, you'll find he had a third name, Judas son of James. And he's one place called Judas, not Iscariot. Judas also is a common name. It means Jehovah leads. And many people in that time named their son Jehovah leads, God leads.

This is Judas. That's probably his given name. And then he probably received the names Lebeas and Thaddeus as people add names almost like nicknames. Thaddeus is a fascinating word.

It comes from a Hebrew root thad which has to do with a female breast. And basically Thaddeus means breast child. And it likely reflects the fact that Thaddeus was the baby of his family. It was common to have large families. Thaddeus was the baby.

He was Thaddeus. You've seen a mother. She comes up and says, I want you to meet my baby.

And she looks up and the guy is 6'5", you know. This is my baby. Well, that's the baby of the family.

That's the last one, right? That's the breast child. That's just a little colloquialism perhaps for the baby. And so to his family, he was the baby. He was breast child, especially cherished by his mother probably. And then he was called also Lebeas.

Now that may be a nickname too. It comes from the Hebrew root leb which means heart. And it means a heart child. And a heart child was someone with a great heart and usually that was related to courage. So his family saw him as their baby and it may well be that the disciples kind of nicknamed him or other men who knew him nicknamed him Lebeas because that reflected his courage. He may have been a man of courage.

Now we can't be sure about these things. But it may well be that from his mother's perspective, he was the tender baby. But from his friend's perspective, he was a man of hard courage. He too is wrapped in obscurity.

He would never make the who's who either. But he did ask one very important question. And it's the only time we meet him in the Scripture. John 14.

Look with me quickly and we'll just look at this rather briefly. Jesus speaking the night before His trial and He says in verse 21, He that hath My commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me. He that loveth Me shall be loved of My Father and I'll love him and manifest Myself to him. That is an incredible statement.

You could sit and look at that and think about it and dwell on it for hours. You keep your commandments, you show you love Me. That's all it says basically. I can tell who loves Me, they obey Me. You may claim to love God and love Christ, you don't obey, that claim is a lie. He that keeps My commandments is the one that loves Me. And the one who loves Me will be loved of My Father and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.

That is an incredibly important statement. God can only be manifest to a heart that loves Him. That's the reason people in the world don't know God.

That's the reason they can't perceive the truth because they don't love God. There has to be a love toward God, a willingness to obey, and then God is manifest. The point being, here's the sum of it, God is only manifest to a loving heart. Did you get that?

That's all. Only of those who love Him is He manifest. Now, the word manifest triggers this thought and Judas, Lebbeus, Thaddeus responds in verse 22. Judas said unto him, not Iscariot, different Judas, Judas son of James, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us and not unto the world? You're saying that only those who love you are going to see you and know you, and you will be manifest only to those who love you. How can you manifest yourself to us and not unto the world?

What does he mean? Well, he's thinking of the manifestation as an outward one. You see, he came into the apostolate like so many others did, thinking of an earthly kingdom, an earthly rule, an overthrow of Rome, great expectation of establishing the earthly kingdom, and he's saying to him, how could you possibly fulfill the messianic hope? How could you possibly set up the kingdom on earth? How could you possibly reign on the throne of David? How could you possibly demonstrate who you are and the world not see it?

I mean, how could you do that? How could it be done in such a way that they wouldn't see? And there may be another illusion in the statement. He may be also saying, why would you think of manifesting yourself only to us?

I mean, this motley group of nobodies. I mean, if you're the Messiah and this is the moment, why would you only show yourself to us? I mean, it is the world that the Messiah is to rule.

It's a good question. Why won't everybody see you? I mean, if it's the time for the kingdom, let's get it on. You might see a little of that courage that he perhaps was known for. Let's go for it, Lord.

The whole world needs to know why you just want to show us. But you see, he didn't understand. So the Lord says again, If a man love Me, he'll keep My words, and My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. And he repeats the same principle. The point is this, Judas, Levias, Thaddeus, the only people who will perceive Me are the ones who love Me.

That's all. And verse 24, He that loves Me not keeps not My sayings, and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. In other words, the one who doesn't love Me, doesn't know what I'm talking about, and doesn't know what came from God. He says, Manifestation is limited to reception. It's like a radio station.

You can send the signal out, but until you turn on the set, you can't receive it. Christ came unto His own, but His own what? Received Him not. He was in the world, the world was made by Him, but the world knew Him not. The God of this world had blinded their minds. Light has come into the world, but men love darkness.

You see, the receivers aren't on. And Jesus is saying, I can only manifest Myself to people who receive. I'm so glad that He asked that question, because that's a tremendous truth to know, isn't it? I'm so glad Jesus got to answer that. That was an insightful question. This guy really thought through. He reflects a typical Jewish view of the kingdom, that it was an earthly, literal, real kingdom.

That's exactly what the Jews believed. And he couldn't figure out how you could bring it without everybody knowing it. He also reflects, I think, humility. Why would you tell it to us, and not the whole world? Why would you limit yourself to just us?

So you see some things in Him that are admirable. One writer said, you could take a Charles Wesley hymn, pull it out of a hymnal, throw it out in the street, just let it sit there. Dog would come by and sniff it. Wouldn't mean anything to that dog. And maybe the garbage guy will come along and pick it up and throw it in the trash. Or some enthusiastic person who's worried about the tidiness of the street would come along and say, oh, this litter, delicately remove it. Or somebody in the world might come along who's very materialistic and think, I better pick that up, might be the title deed to some property or something. A literary man might pick it up and say, aha, Charles Wesley, my, he was a literary fellow. Wonderful poetic expression here. Then there might be a spiritually minded person pick it up and get his soul blessed.

The paper was one thing, but it was how you received it that was the issue. That's how it is in the world too. Only those whose hearts are purified by love and walk in obedience will know the manifestation of God. I think that's the kind of person Thaddeus was. So we see the Lord uses obscure people like James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, Lebbaeus, Judas.

They wouldn't make the who's who, but they'll reign in the millennium. By the way, early church tradition tells us about Thaddeus, that he was tremendously gifted with the power of God to heal the sick. And a certain king in Syria by the name of Adgar heard about it and was ill. And he called for Thaddeus to come and heal him. And on the way, he healed multiple hundreds of people throughout Syria. And when he finally reached the king, he healed the king and presented the gospel to the king and the legend says the king became a Christian. This threw the country into such chaos that an apostate nephew of the king seized Thaddeus, made him a prisoner, and martyred him.

And he was killed in Syria. If you ever pick up an old church history book on Thaddeus, you will see that each of the disciples have a symbol and the symbol for Thaddeus is a big club because the legend says they beat him to death with a club. Faithful to his Lord. Finally, Simon the Zealot.

Now listen closely because I'm going to run this by real fast. You have in your Bible perhaps the word Canaanite. That is an unfortunate transliteration of the word kind of naos really. And the assumption that it referred to Canaan geographically, that is not true. It comes from a root, cana, which means to be jealous or to be zealous for the law. In Luke, he is called Simon the Zealot, zealates.

And this is just another word meaning the same thing. Simon, the man full of zeal. Simon the Zealot. And it may mean that he was actually identified with a party in Judaism known as the Zealots. And that when he became a disciple, they didn't change that name.

He must have continued to manifest the same kind of fiery, passionate zeal that he had when he was a Zealot. There were four basically dominant groups within Judaism. Pharisees, they were the rightists. They were the fundamentalists, legalists. Then there was the Sadducees and they were the liberals.

Then there was the Essenes and they were the mystics, the ascetics, the monastics out in the caves. And then there were the Zealots. They were the political oriented group. They were the terrorists. They were the guerrillas. They were the brigands. They went around looting and burning and murdering. A group of them within the zealots were known as Sicarii from Sica, sword. They were the assassins. And they had revolted against the Roman domination. In fact, they really were born out of the Maccabean period. Whether by name or not, we can't be sure, but out of the Maccabean period when the Jews were led by Judas Maccabeus to revolt against the Greek power, there were statements made about being a revolutionary and standing to defend the covenant of God.

Particularly in 1 Maccabees, there's some stuff about that. And it seems out of that came a sort of a politically oriented kind of terrorist approach that became later known as the zealots. They found a leader in New Testament times by the name of Judas, another, as I say, very common name. And under this Judas of Galilee, they began seditious acts and all over the land these things were going on. In fact, if you could see the rest of history as you read the New Testament, there would be little interludes going on all over the place led by the zealots that the Romans are putting out like little fires.

They would murder here, murder there, plunder, burn, anything they could do, much like you see in the Middle East today with guerrilla type engagements. Now for many years, the land had been ruled by an Idumean king, not a Jew, by the name of Herod the Great. And when Herod the Great died, he gave the division of his territory to three of his sons, Philip who took the northeast regions and then there was Antipas who took Galilee and then there was Archelaus who took the Judea-Samaria part.

Archelaus proved to be a loser so he was replaced by a Roman governor and that's how Pilate got into the picture. But in all of this sort of political unrest and the shifting and moving and struggling of powers, the flame from the zealots began to burn under the leadership of Judas. Finally the Romans murdered Judas but they couldn't stamp out the zealots and so they continued doing what they did. They led what they called a holy war. Josephus says they believed it was a holy war and they would just loot and burn and plunder and kill and all of that. It's very possible that Simon was a member of the zealots.

He is called Simon the Zealot. He was a terrorist engaged in guerrilla warfare. It might be interesting for you to know that they were so anti-Roman that they wouldn't even give a thought about murdering a Roman, but they were so anti-Roman that anybody of their own countrymen, even a Jew of their own countrymen who would in any way side with Rome, they would also assassinate. Finally in 70 A.D. the Romans had to put a stop to all of it and so they came and destroyed Jerusalem and Josephus says writing in his antiquities that the key reason for the destruction of Jerusalem was the activity of the zealots. The Romans got so tired of fighting these little seditious things all over the place that they decided to come in and just destroy the whole operation and if they could just destroy Jerusalem, they would then move from there and they did. They destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

They moved out. They slaughtered people in 985 towns in Galilee. They just obliterated the nation and the zealots were the thorn in their side that finally brought this about. Now there was a leader after 70 A.D. of the zealots by the name of Eleazar and he led the zealots in continuing plunder. There were just a few left but they were going everywhere doing what they'd always done. They finally found a retreat where they could hide. The place was Masada and the zealots were located in Masada. From there they would move out to do their guerrilla type activity and this of course is later than the time of Simon.

You remember how it all finally ended? The Romans finally took Masada and the zealots, not wanting to lose their life to their despised and hated Roman enemy, committed suicide. And Josephus writes in The War of the Jews that Eleazar summoned the people together and made a flaming speech in which he urged them to slaughter their own wives and children and then commit suicide.

They took him at his word. They tenderly embraced their wives, kissed their children and then began the bloody work. Nine hundred and sixty perished.

Only two women and five children escaped by hiding in a cave. Those were not the normal Jewish people. Those were the political terrorists.

And they would kill themselves before they would let a Roman take their life. That's how deep their hatred was. Now a man like Simon to attach himself to them must have been a man with a tremendous passion, a tremendous capacity for zeal. And you can imagine that he must have been a fireball when it got to the work of the Lord.

He found a better leader and a greater cause. He is listed, will you notice, he is listed right before what name? Judas Iscariot. It's interesting to me, but they probably went together. Maybe they were two by one.

They went out two by two. It was he and Judas. Because Judas had the same kind of political orientation, didn't he?

And it may well have been that they came in on the same ground, on the same level, figuring boy this Jesus could really aid our cause. And Simon could have been the betrayer. And you would have named your children Judas, not Simon. But Simon believed and was transformed. Judas did not. And so no one names anything Judas. Simon became Christ's man. Think of how wonderful it must have been for him to get along with Matthew, who collected taxes for the Roman government. I wonder if he ever had just little anxieties about Matthew. Well, the Lord uses all kinds of unqualified people, doesn't He? He can use you and me.

I'm going to close with this illustration. There was a concert violinist who wanted to demonstrate a very important point, he felt. So he hired a great hall in the city and announced that he would play a concert on a $20,000 violin. He had the place packed with violin lovers, came out and he played exquisitely. And they applauded just gloriously. He bowed and took their applause, threw the violin to the ground and stomped it into bits.

The people were horrified. And then he walked off the stage. Stage manager came out and said, ladies and gentlemen, to put you at ease, that was a $20 violin. He will now return to play the $20,000 or whatever it was, violin. And you know what?

They couldn't tell the difference. And he made his point, it isn't the instrument, it's the artist, right? Now folks, let's face it.

Most of us are $20 violins at best, right, at best. But oh, what music can the master make with us? Let's pray. Thank you, Father, for your word to us through the lives of these obscure people. Thank you that they have a special place forever, that we'll see them reigning in your kingdom, that we'll spend eternity with them and learn all of the unspoken truths about their marvelous and powerful ministries.

Lord, help us to know that the focus is never on the human tool and only on you. And oh, how that stresses the fact that we should function in the power of God, not in our own strength. Save us from the foolishness of seeing the cups instead of the Christ.

Put these truths deep in our hearts. May we see what you can do with a simple life for your glory. Thank you for this time together in Christ's name, amen. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur.

Thanks for tuning in today. John has been the pastor of Grace Community Church since 1969. He's also chancellor of the Master's University and Seminary, and you are getting a fascinating look at Christ's hand-picked disciples in the study John calls the Master's Men. You know, John, the further we go down the list of these men, one truth becomes all the more clear. These 12 people whom God used so mightily, they don't stand out because of their impressive talents, but because of their lack of talent. Well, they just didn't fit the picture for significant spiritual leadership. None of them was a Pharisee, none of them was a Sadducee, none of them was a rabbi, none of them was a teacher. In fact, it was said of them sort of collectively, can anything good come out of Galilee or Nazareth? So I mean, these are just Galileans, they said, you know, these are the hicks from hick town.

Why would we listen to them? So yeah, they started out among the common people. As many as seven of them might have been fishermen, which obviously is a simple trade. So they didn't have the advantage of all the supposedly necessary status to get elevated, but you couldn't be elevated higher than to be the disciples of the Son of the Living God, the eternal Son of the Living God. So it never was about their preparation, their talent. In fact, there's nothing Phil ever said in the New Testament about any skill that they had. It never talks about whether one was a gifted teacher or one was a great counselor or one was a very wise interpreter of the Old Testament.

It doesn't say anything about them at all in terms of any talent or any skill. What it does say about them is that they demonstrated meager faith too frequently. And the other thing it says about them is that they were so ambitious, they were always trying to push each other out of the way so they could get to the top in the kingdom.

So they were frail to be sure. The stories of these men, however, is the good news that God can use me and God can use you. And that's why I'm excited about the new book, Forty Lives in Forty Days. This is a book that will give you insight into the lives of not only the disciples but more key biblical figures.

Their personalities are somewhat familiar to you, but boy, there's a lot more that you probably don't know we can draw from Scripture. These lives are powerful, powerful examples for all of us to follow. So Forty Lives in Forty Days will take you into the story of Eve, the Samaritan woman, Samson, Paul, Hannah, the older brother in the Prodigal Son story, Rahab—wonderful stories and so helpful in learning how God uses frail people. You can order it today.

That's right, and friend, there are so many lessons to draw from the biblical characters in this book, people you can identify with and learn from, both from their victories and their missteps. Encouragement page after page in this brand new devotional, the title again, Forty Lives in Forty Days. Order yours today. Shop right now at our website,, or you can speak to a customer service representative at 800-55-GRACE.

Forty Lives in Forty Days costs $11 and shipping is free. To pick up this brand new devotional for yourself or for a loved one, call 800-55-GRACE or go to Also, friend, let me remind you of the impact you can have for Christ's kingdom when you support Grace To You. Your gifts help minister to homemakers and politicians, businessmen and prisoners, commuters and church leaders. Because of your generosity, we can connect people around the world with verse-by-verse Bible teaching that transforms lives. To partner with us, mail your tax-deductible donation to Grace To You, P.O. Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. You can also donate online at or you can call us at 800-55-GRACE. Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace To You staff, I'm Phil Johnson. Thank you for making this broadcast part of your day and be here at the same time tomorrow when John will show you just how much you can learn from history's most famous traitor, Judas Iscariot. It's another 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth one verse at a time, here on Grace To You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-03-17 15:50:13 / 2023-03-17 16:01:21 / 11

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