Simon Zelotes • Terry Kruger
(After John Eastham’s portrayal of “Bartholomew” in Zeffirelli’s, “Jesus of Nazareth.”)
Jesus the Son of God was a man among men, and the men closest to him were twelve diverse, unique personalities of that day. The Bible and apocrypha contain scant few historical insights concerning these men; until the appearance of The Urantia Book in 1955, nothing was known about their personal natures, not excepting in some cases even their actual names.
Such is the case with Simon Zelotes, who is virtually unknown, yet the subject of many traditional beliefs, among them that he was crucified in Samaria, died peacefully at Edessa, was martyred at Weriosphora in Caucasian Iberia, and was sawn in half at Suanir, Persia. The most widespread tradition is that after evangelizing in Egypt, Simon joined Jude¹ in Persia and Armenia or Beirut, Lebanon, where both were martyred in 65 AD.
The Urantia Book remarks Simon Zelotes was a high officer in the patriotic organization of the Zealots, a position which he gave up to join Jesus’ apostles.
There are far too many extraordinary things revealed in The Urantia Book to rank them on any scale of importance. But in the small apocrypha surrounding the Fifth Epochal Revelation, it has been said that Dr. William Sadler, a key figure in the eventual appearance of the book in print, supposedly remained a skeptic of the Papers until he read the profiles of the twelve apostles in Part IV. As a psychiatrist, he had a well developed sense of personality types and traits; he perceived these accounts were genuine recitations of real personalities; not fiction.
This is the eleventh of those apostolic accounts. —ED.
Simon Zelotes, the eleventh apostle, was chosen by Simon Peter. He was an able man of good ancestry and lived with his family at Capernaum. He was twenty-eight years old when he became attached to the apostles. He was a fiery agitator and was also a man who spoke much without thinking. He had been a merchant in Capernaum before he turned his entire attention to the patriotic organization of the Zealots.
Simon Zelotes was given charge of the diversions and relaxation of the apostolic group, and he was a very efficient organizer of the play life and recreational activities of the twelve.
Simon’s strength was his inspirational loyalty. When the apostles found a man or woman who floundered in indecision about entering the kingdom, they would send for Simon. It usually required only about fifteen minutes for this enthusiastic advocate of salvation through faith in God to settle all doubts and remove all indecision, to see a new soul born into the “liberty of faith and the joy of salvation.”
Simon’s great weakness was his material-mindedness. He could not quickly change himself from a Jewish nationalist to a spiritually minded internationalist. Four years was too short a time to make such an intellectual and emotional transformation, but Jesus was always patient with him.
The one thing about Jesus which Simon so admired was the Master’s calmness, his assurance, poise, and inexplicable composure.
Although Simon was a rabid revolutionist, a fearless firebrand of agitation, he gradually subdued his fiery nature until he became a powerful and effective preacher of “Peace on earth and good will among men.” Simon was a great debater; he did like to argue. and when it came to dealing with the legalistic minds of the educated Jews or the intellectual quibblings of the Greeks, the task was always assigned to Simon.
He was a rebel by nature and an iconoclast by training, but Jesus won him for the higher concepts of the kingdom of heaven.He had always identified himself with the party of protest, but he now joined the party of progress, unlimited and eternal progression of spirit and truth. Simon was a man of intense loyalties and warm personal devotions, and he did profoundly love Jesus.
Jesus was not afraid to identify himself with business men, laboring men, optimists, pessimists, philosophers, skeptics, publicans, politicians, and patriots.
The master had many talks with Simon, but he never fully succeeded in making an internationalist out of this ardent Jewish nationalist. Jesus often told Simon that it was proper to want to see the social, economic, and political orders improved, but he would always add: “That is not the business of the kingdom of heaven. We must be dedicated to the doing of the Father’s will. Our business is to be ambassadors of a spiritual government on high, and we must not immediately concern ourselves with aught but the representation of the will and character of the divine Father who stands at the head of the government whose credentials we bear.” It was all difficult for Simon to comprehend, but gradually he began to grasp something of the meaning of the Master’s teaching.
After the dispersion because of the Jerusalem persecutions, Simon went into temporary retirement. He was literally crushed. As a nationalist patriot he had surrendered in deference to Jesus’ teachings; now all was lost. He was in despair, but in a few years he rallied his hopes and went forth to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom.
He went to Alexandria and, after working up the Nile, penetrated into the heart of Africa, everywhere preaching the gospel of Jesus and baptizing believers. Thus he labored until he was an old man and feeble. And he died and was buried in the heart of Africa.
Toward the end of the Last Supper, Jesus said good-bye individually to his apostles; as the Master went around the table talking to them, each of them rose when Jesus addressed them. Jesus came to Simon Zelotes, who stood up and listened to this admonition:
“You are a true son of Abraham, but what a time I have had trying to make you a son of this heavenly kingdom. I love you and so do all of your brethren. I know that you love me, Simon, and that you also love the kingdom, but you are still set on making this kingdom come according to your liking. I know full well that you will eventually grasp the spiritual nature and meaning of my gospel, and that you will do valiant work in its proclamation, but I am distressed about what may happen to you when I depart. I would rejoice to know that you would not falter; I would be made happy if I could know that, after I go to the Father, you would not cease to be my apostle, and that you would acceptably deport yourself as an ambassador of the heavenly kingdom.”
Jesus had hardly ceased speaking to Simon Zelotes when the fiery patriot, drying his eyes, replied: “Master, have no fears for my loyalty. I have turned my back upon everything that I might dedicate my life to the establishment of your kingdom on earth, and I will not falter. I have survived every disappointment so far, and I will not forsake you.”
And then, laying his hand on Simon’s shoulder, Jesus said: “It is indeed refreshing to hear you talk like that, especially at such a time as this, but, my good friend, you still do not know what you are talking about. Not for one moment would I doubt your loyalty, your devotion; I know you would not hesitate to go forth in battle and die for me, as all these others would” (and they all nodded a vigorous approval), “but that will not be required of you. I have repeatedly told you that my kingdom is not of this world, and that my disciples will not fight to effect its establishment. I have told you this many times, Simon, but you refuse to face the truth. I am not concerned with your loyalty to me and to the kingdom, but what will you do when I go away and you at last wake up to the realization that you have failed to grasp the meaning of my teaching, and that you must adjust your misconceptions to the reality of another and spiritual order of affairs in the kingdom?”
Simon wanted to speak further, but Jesus raised his hand and, stopping him, went on to say: “None of my apostles are more sincere and honest at heart than you, but not one of them will be so upset and disheartened as you, after my departure. In all of your discouragement my spirit shall abide with you, and these, your brethren, will not forsake you. Do not forget what I have taught you regarding the relation of citizenship on earth to sonship in the Father’s spiritual kingdom. Ponder well all that I have said to you about rendering to Caesar the things which are Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s. Dedicate your life, Simon, to showing how acceptably mortal man may fulfill my injunction concerning the simultaneous recognition of temporal duty to civil powers and spiritual service in the brotherhood of the kingdom. If you will be taught by the Spirit of Truth, never will there be conflict between the requirements of citizenship on earth and sonship in heaven unless the temporal rulers presume to require of you the homage and worship which belong only to God.”
And now, Simon, when you do finally see all of this, and after you have shaken off your depression and have gone forth proclaiming this gospel in great power, never forget that I was with you even through all of your season of discouragement, and that I will go on with you to the very end. You shall always be my apostle, and after you become willing to see by the eye of the spirit and more fully to yield your will to the will of the Father in heaven, then will you return to labor as my ambassador, and no one shall take away from you the authority which I have conferred upon you, because of your slowness of comprehending the truths I have taught you. And so, Simon, once more I warn you that they who fight with the sword perish with the sword, while they who labor in the spirit achieve life everlasting in the kingdom to come with joy and peace in the kingdom which now is. And when the work given into your hands is finished on earth, you, Simon, shall sit down with me in my kingdom over there. You shall really see the kingdom you have longed for, but not in this life. Continue to believe in me and in that which I have revealed to you, and you shall receive the gift of eternal life.”
One other excerpt regarding Simon Zelotes gives some idea of how entrenched he was in his thinking. This event took place just a few hours after the admonition above, and approximately one hour before the betrayal in the garden by Judas Iscariot:
The apostles fell asleep only because they were literally exhausted; they had been running short on sleep ever since their arrival in Jerusalem. Before they went to their separate sleeping quarters, Simon Zelotes led them all over to his tent, where were stored the swords and other arms, and supplied each of them with this fighting equipment. All of them received these arms and girded themselves therewith except Nathaniel.
Nathaniel, in refusing to arm himself, said: “My brethren, the Master has repeatedly told us that his kingdom is not of this world, and that his disciples should not fight with the sword to bring about its establishment. I believe this; I do not think the Master needs to have us employ the sword in his defense. We have all seen his mighty power and know that he could defend himself against his enemies if he so desired. If he will not resist his enemies, it must be that such a course represents his attempt to fulfill his Father’s will. I will pray, but I will not wield the sword.” When Andrew heard Nathaniel’s speech, he handed his sword back to Simon Zelotes. And so nine of them were armed as they separated for the night.
¹ Jesus had a brother named Jude, but in The Urantia Book there was no apostle with that name.