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Sons of Thunder


I truly admire James and John, the sons of Zebedee from Scripture.  The fact that Jesus refers to them as the Sons of Thunder is very telling.  We know of very few that received name changes from Jesus – there was Cephas who was known as Peter, and then the brothers Thunder.

In the Gospel of Luke we find the brothers wanting to rain down fire upon a Samaritan town.  The Sons of Thunder take Jesus command to “shake the dust from your feet” to a completely new level.  At times they sound very much like the Psalmist calling out for the destruction of his enemies.

In the Gospel of Mark (yesterdays Gospel) we see James and John asking Jesus to sit at his left and his right.  Jesus asks them directly, “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?”  The brothers to not back away and answer, “We can.”

In Matthew’s Gospel it’s not James and John that come to make right and left hand requests, their mom comes to make the request.  (As a long time coach it’s nice to know parents haven’t changed much over the years.) In both Mark’s account and Matthew’s account Jesus agrees that they are able to drink from the same cup, be baptized with the same baptism. In both accounts the other disciples become enraged at the Sons of Thunder and their boldness.  However, Jesus goes on to speak of service, of sacrifice, and of leadership.

This boldness of James and John provide Jesus with a teaching moment that is beautiful because it comes from within the circle of disciples.  This isn’t Jesus being tested, this isn’t Jesus being trapped, this is just one of those moments where Jesus can teach.  The beauty of it for me is that the Gospel writers do not report Jesus being angry, only the other disciples.  It is a powerful moment.

So, why do I love the Sons of Thunder so much?  Perhaps it’s because of all of the people in Scripture I better identify with them than any others.  I see me – plain and simple.  I have been known to pray an Imprecatory Psalm a time or two,  I have been known to ask God to rain down fiery wrath on those who have somehow offended me (beware taking 15 items into the 10 item or less line at the grocery store), I have been known to think I deserve respect and honor, I have moments of wondering when is it my turn to be served.

I love James and John because they give me hope.  If Jesus can love them, then it’s possible that Jesus can love me.  If it’s possible Jesus gives them grace and spares the Samaritan village, then Jesus can give me grace and offer grace to the person that cuts me off in traffic.  It’s possible that all of my frustrating questions to God when I am crying out in prayer aren’t answered with anything more than a loving moment of teaching for this child who so often thinks God should listen to my wish list.

I love James and John because if God can love them, then God loves me too.

Oh wait, if God loves them, then God loves you.


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