I’m not sure Jesus was given to nicknames for his closest circle. There is no indication that James was “Jimmy the Jew” or that Matthew was “The Scribe” or that Luke was “Doc.” But two disciples did get a nickname, Mark 3:17 is part of a list of the disciple’s names and it says among them are “James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder.”
The name never appears again and there is no further explanation. Still, the name had to stick.
However, Jesus has a purpose for everything He does, so He must have had a good reason for dubbing James and John as “Sons of Thunder.” He knew their personalities. He knew their destinies. He called them “Boanerges” and they certainly filled that nickname.
A misplaced zeal
On one occasion, Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Jerusalem and they stopped in Samaria. They were met with nothing short of naked prejudice, as they were denied short-term housing Jesus was met with prejudice, as the Samaritans told them to “move along.” The Sons of Thunder, rather than turn the other cheek, suggested something a little harsher. “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’” (Luke 9:54). Jesus rebuked the brothers, and they simply moved on to another village.
“Thanks for the passion, Boanerges, but that’s counterproductive.” The Sons of Thunder had struck!
Later on, the mother of these two wondered aloud which brother would sit on the left and which brother would sit on Jesus’ right in the next kingdom. Not only were the brothers bold, but so was mom.
Balance the passion with love
With discipleship, training, and maturity, Jesus nurtured this passion into action and competency.
They were among Jesus’ closest friends. James was the first apostle to be killed a martyr’s death. (Acts 12:2). John would later die on Patmos, his Revelations his final word to the coming days.
John also wrote the book of 1 John which is known as the ultimate book of love, with more than 40 mentions. But also in the book are strong denunciations of deceivers and apostates. He had the Fire. But he had the Love. This is a true Son of Thunder.
What if John walked among us?
I recently saw a great little movie called, “Translated” which transported the Apostle Paul from the Roman Empire directly into Rome, Oregon in the 20th century. Once Paul figured out where he was, he continued to preach his message in the Epistles, encouraging the church to operate with a singular goal and message.
I wonder what would happen if John, the son of Zebedee, the Son of Thunder walked the earth today. I believe he would set the pace for Righteous Zeal, balanced by the Love of the Savior. You can do both.
John would not be compassionate with the Deconstruction and Exvancelical movements. He would simply call them apostates, and those who are profiting off their departure from the church as deceivers. In days past, people would leave the faith and pursue their own path. Today, you get a book deal and a podcast and actually charge people to help them leave the faith.
He would not stand by to see girl’s privacy exploited by open bathrooms, unfair sports programs and pornography. He would unleash the Thunder and the Lightning.
He would not stand by to see the church slouch toward Gomorrah, ditching 2000 years of church teaching simply to appease social media. You cannot change the teachings of Christ simply because they are no longer popular in society.
Let the Rumble begin.
Will you take a stand?
We need Sons (and Daughters) of Thunder today like never before. The freedom of religion that the West has come to embrace and has become enshrined in society is under assault. Using the cloak of a pandemic, churches in Canada and Australia are closing. Pastors are being imprisoned. Freedom is being chipped away.
Those who embrace God must embrace freedom. Freedom is an essential Gospel imperative that frees us from the bondage of a sinful life. but also frees us from despots. There is a reason authoritarians hate Christianity because we are above all an empowered people who answer to a Higher Call. We are a threat to their own petty tyrant rule. They despise people who are given a free choice and encouraged to think and to act according to their conscience.
Throughout the book .of Acts, we see ordinary men and women, who empowered by the Holy Spirit, “Go out boldly speaking.” That needs to be us, people who stand for righteousness, who oppose evil, who never give in to the Lies of the Age.
God is calling you to the Thunder. To stand up and push back. This is no time for small talk, for engaging behind the scenes, for nighttime prayer. The freedom of our culture is at stake. We’re watching schools, workplaces, courts, and legislative ruling bodies leaning toward the Samaritan way of minimizing and denying Jesus and his followers even a place to lay our head.
Can we do it in love? Of course. Jesus demonstrated that. My problem isn’t in embracing Love. My problem is to find the courage to embrace the Power of Truth.
Give me the courage to stand and to be a Son of Thunder.