Bible Study: Sons of Thunder

Who were James and John, and what can we learn from them?

Bible Study: Sons of Thunder.html

Imagine Jesus likening you to a storm or the rumble that precedes it—or the crash that makes dogs scurry and children cry. Now imagine you’ve got a brother just like you. Being around him might make it hard to change. But Jesus is greater than any storm, and He knows why we are the way we are. With time, our uncompromising but patient Savior smooths our edges into something gracious, strong, and bright.

 

READ

Luke 9:51-56

 

BACKGROUND

Brothers James and John have been with Jesus since the start of His earthly ministry. A few years later, they’re full of faith and protective of His mission.

 

REFLECT

How can you keep your service from crossing the line into self-service?

  • First-century Jews and Samaritans have tremendous animosity for one another. So on hearing Jesus is headed to Jerusalem—a Jewish city—the Samaritans refuse to grant hospitality (Luke 9:53). Thinking of this kind easily spreads among families and groups, with unfortunate consequences. Blessing sometimes comes in unexpected forms, and if our hearts aren’t pure, we might miss it. What do the Samaritans lose here? Can you identify fear, mistrust, or anger in your own heart that could prevent you from handling similar situations correctly? If so, ask the Lord to help you let it go.

  • James and John react strongly (Luke 9:54). Love and loyalty are motivators for good but can lead us astray if not tempered by wisdom and self-control. Do you find anything laudable in the suggestion to “command fire to come down from heaven and consume them”? Why do you think Jesus rebukes the brothers (Luke 9:55)?

  • On first encountering James and John, Jesus called them Boanerges, or “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). This nickname indicates He saw similarities between the brothers. How might the events outside the Samaritan village (Luke 9:51-56) shed further light on His reasons for calling them “Sons of Thunder”?

  • Family dynamics can be strong shapers of personality. Think of some ways yours bring out the best in you, and areas where you might need to resist negative influence. Pray for growth in your family role—and for wisdom and love to bring out the best in others, too.

 

CONTINUING THE STORY

James and John were fishermen on their father’s boat until Jesus called them to join Him.

  • Mark 1:20 says, “And they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and went away to follow [Jesus].” The call of God on our lives affects not only us but also our families. This can mean tension and sacrifice as well as joy and celebration. How might obedience and faith have helped Zebedee here? What can you do to thank family members for their support, or help them better understand the importance of your faith?

  • Blessing sometimes comes in unexpected forms, and if our hearts aren't pure, we might miss it.

  • Zebedee’s wife Salome, like her sons, is a close follower of Jesus. In fact, she publicly requests that He give them the most honored places in His kingdom (Matt. 20:20-23). What does His response tell you about the dangers of pride (Matt. 20:26-28)? How do Salome’s family ties get in the way of her (and her sons’) spiritual growth on this occasion?

 

REFLECT

Following Jesus sometimes calls for changes in what we think is right.

  • Our Lord invited the impetuous “Sons of Thunder” to be His closest companions. John eventually wrote eloquently on love and brotherhood, while his mother was among those who received the first news of Christ’s resurrection (Mark 16:1-6). Jesus’ love doesn’t shame—it changes and blesses us.

 

GOING FURTHER

Consider how this study applies to your life.

Love and loyalty are motivators for good but can lead us astray if not tempered by wisdom and self-control.

Your family status may not look anything like that of James and John, who shared a close sibling bond, or Salome and Zebedee, who were blessed to have children with faith. Perhaps you are without children, a spouse, or any close relatives. But when your love for God is central, it will define everything—even a family situation that you regard as limited. And though it may take time and patience to see it happen, simply being His child can make beauty out of ashes and crown your life with goodness (Psalm 65:11).

  • Anna, a widow who had spent many years growing closer to God, was one of the first to recognize Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah (Luke 2:36-38). A solitary life can bring both blessing and pain. Describe how solitude (or its lack) has affected your own spiritual growth, for better or worse.

  • When Peter’s mother-in-law was ill, Jesus was present to heal her (Luke 4:38-39). Then she was able to serve Him, and many neighbors came to her home so they, too, could receive healing (Luke 4:40). The ability to serve is a profound and satisfying human need. What can you do to share Christ’s love with relatives or neighbors, so they can give back and feel like valued members of the family and community?

  • Whether your faith is a family affair or something you nurture alone with God, trust Him to help you grow steadily in Christ’s image—and make you a blessing to all, related or not.

 

Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Reading Bible

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51 When the days were approaching for His ascension, He was determined to go to Jerusalem;

52 and He sent messengers on ahead of Him, and they went and entered a village of the Samaritans to make arrangements for Him.

53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.

54 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?"

55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;

56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."] And they went on to another village.

53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem.

54 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?"

55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, You do not know what kind of spirit you are of;

17 and James, the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James (to them He gave the name Boanerges, which means, Sons of Thunder");

20 Immediately He called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and went away to follow Him.

20 Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came to Jesus with her sons, bowing down and making a request of Him.

21 And He said to her, What do you wish?" She said to Him, Command that in Your kingdom these two sons of mine may sit one on Your right and one on Your left."

22 But Jesus answered, You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?" They said to Him, We are able."

23 He said to them, My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."

26 It is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant,

27 and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave;

28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."

1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices, so that they might come and anoint Him.

2 Very early on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.

3 They were saying to one another, Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?"

4 Looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, although it was extremely large.

5 Entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting at the right, wearing a white robe; and they were amazed.

6 And he said to them, Do not be amazed; you are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who has been crucified. He has risen; He is not here; behold, here is the place where they laid Him.

11 You have crowned the year with Your bounty, And Your paths drip with fatness.

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years and had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage,

37 and then as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the temple, serving night and day with fastings and prayers.

38 At that very moment she came up and began giving thanks to God, and continued to speak of Him to all those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.

38 Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon's home. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her.

39 And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them.

40 While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them.

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