Jesus called them sons of thunder

What would you expect from two brothers who were called ‘sons of thunder’?

“Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, ‘Sons of Thunder’” (Mark 3:14-17).

The following incident might indicate why Jesus called them sons of thunder. “When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem; and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him. But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?’ But He turned and rebuked them, and said, ‘You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.’ And they went on to another village” (Luke 9:51-56 NASV).

These sons of thunder, James and John, wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy those people who had refused hospitality to Jesus.

Through the ages many have destroyed others in the name of religion. During the crusades people who falsely claimed to be Christians murdered thousands of Moslems. In the middle ages the Catholic church murdered Protestants who dared to reject the authority of the Pope. Some Protestants murdered other Protestants they considered to be heretics.

Much grief is caused in the world today by this same godless attitude. Deceived, warped souls blow themselves up along with innocent men, women and children in the name of their religion.

Followers of Christ are of a different spirit, “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” Jesus rebuked James and John. They still had much to learn.

They also showed that they did not yet understand the spirit of the Messianic reign when they wanted to rule at the right and left hand of Jesus.

“Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, ‘Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.’ And He said to them, ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?’ They said to Him, ‘We are able.’ So Jesus said to them, ‘You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.’ And when the ten heard it, they began to be greatly displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, ‘You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many’” (Mark 10:35-45).

What do we know about James and John? With their father, Zebedee, they were fishermen who worked together with Peter and Andrew (Matthew 4:18, 21; Luke 5:10). Their mother, Salome, was a witness of the crucifixion and visited the tomb (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56; Mark 16:1).

James and John, along with Peter, were with Jesus when He raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead (Mark 5:37) and also when He was transfigured on the mountain (Mark 9:2). Peter, James, John and Andrew asked Jesus privately for clarification about the destruction of the temple (Mark 13:3, 4). In Gethsemane Jesus took Peter, James and John with him when He went farther into the garden to pray (Mark 14:32, 33). After Jesus was arrested, John went with Him into the courtyard of the high priest (John 18:15).

No details are known about the activities of James in the early church, but he must have served prominently since he was the first martyr among the apostles. He was killed with the sword by Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:2). This was probably about ten years after the church was established.

John and Peter are often mentioned together in the early days of the church (Acts 3:1, 3, 4, 11; 4:13, 19; 8:14; Galatians 2:9).

John lived to an old age. According to tradition he was the only apostle who was not martyred. He served churches in Asia Minor (currently Turkey) and for a time was exiled to the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9)

John penned the Gospel of John, the three Letters of John and the Revelation, which are the later books of the New Testament. He wrote the most New Testament books other than Paul.

This ‘son of thunder’ who at one time wanted to call fire down from heaven to destroy people, is now known as the apostle of love because He emphasizes love in his writings. “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another” (1 John 3:11). He calls himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20) and he admonishes his fellow believers, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11).

Are we improving as followers of Christ? Are we becoming more like Him? Are we growing up in all things unto Him? (Ephesians 4:15). Are we growing up to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ? (Ephesians 4:13). Are we farther along than we were a year ago?

Do we know what kind of spirit we have?

Through the influence of Christ, two sons of thunder learned to have a different spirit: a “spirit of faith” (2 Corinthians 4:13), “a spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1), a “spirit of wisdom” (Ephesians 1:17), “a gentle and quiet spirit” (1 Peter 3:4).

Following their example, let us learn to have “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16): a spirit of faith, gentleness, wisdom and love. Amen.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive