Saints Simon and Jude, Apostles of the Lord
(Deut 32:1-4 / Ps 119:89-96 / Eph 2:13-22 / John 15:17-27)
Grant, O God, that as your apostles Simon and Jude were faithful and zealous in their mission, so we may with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Today, I feel a special affinity for St. Andrew, first called of the Apostles of our Lord. It’s all about Jesus’ feeding of the multitude. On the hillside before him sit five thousand men, maybe upwards of ten thousand people when women and children are numbered, too. Jesus tells the Apostles to give the people something to eat (Lk 9:13). Andrew, at a loss for how to do this, looks around and finds a young boy with five loaves and two fish. He takes this lunch, a pitiful little offering but all that he has, to Jesus and asks, even as he presents it, “What is this among so many?”
You know the rest. Jesus takes the bread, gives thanks, breaks it, and has the Apostles give it away. Of course, this is an image of the Eucharist and of the Gospel, in which bread, and the Bread of Life, is taken, blessed, broken, and given away for the life of the world. Then Jesus does the same with the fish. Everyone eats. Everyone is satisfied. There are even twelve baskets full left over.
So, back to my affinity with St. Andrew. I am presented with the Feast of Saints Simon and Jude today in the Church calendar and asked to give the people — you — something to eat, some word and wisdom to feast on. And, I’ve got nothing. So I look around for a kid with five loaves and two fish, and this is all I find: Simon was known as the Zealot and Jude may also have been named Thaddeus. Some think that Jude/Thaddeus also wrote the Epistle of Jude, but that’s highly questionable and disputed among scholars. So, that’s it; that’s about all we know about these two: their names and that they were Apostles. I’m supposed to feed you on that pitiful fare. Well, not unless Jesus takes it, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it away.
Let’s pray that he does just that.
The Lord be with you.
And with your spirit.
Let us pray.
Lord Jesus, who turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana and who fed the multitudes with fives loaves and two fish: where you are present, there is abundance. Take, bless, break, and give back to your people the small offering we have this day, that all may be filled and may take that which is left over into the world to feed others; to the glory of your name. Amen.
Some of the Apostles did great things. Peter first confessed Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living God. He was given the keys to the kingdom and was made the chief shepherd of the Twelve. John was the disciple whom Jesus loved. He authored the most theologically rich and reflective of the Gospels, and he received his great Revelation while in exile on Patmos. John’s brother James was the first of the Apostles martyred for the faith. Matthew composed a record of Jesus’ life and teachings especially for the Jewish people, to present Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophets and as Israel’s messiah. Great things, all.
But Simon and Jude — what did they do? No one knows. Oh, there are a few pious legends, but those are sketchy and highly uncertain. So we are left with a blank, not even five loaves and two fish to work with. What we do know — and really all we know with certainty beyond their names — is that these men were Apostles:
Luke 6:12–16 (ESV): 12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Matthew adds that Jesus gave these twelve “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Mt 10:1b), and that Jesus sent them out, first instructing them:
Matthew 10:5–15 (ESV): , “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6 but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7 And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay. 9 Acquire no gold or silver or copper for your belts, 10 no bag for your journey, or two tunics or sandals or a staff, for the laborer deserves his food. 11 And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.”
Jesus also warned them:
Matthew 10:16–23 (ESV): 16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17 Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”
Simon and Jude took their part in this ministry and shared these hardships no less than Peter, James, and John. They were not in the “inner three” but there is no reason to believe they were “inferior,” second-rate Apostles. They were with Jesus from his baptism in the Jordan until his ascension and were witnesses of his resurrection (cf Acts 1:21 ff). They were filled with the Holy Spirit on Pentecost and, so we suppose, they went and made disciples of the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that Jesus had commanded them (cf Mt 28:19 ff).
That’s what we really know about Simon and Jude: that Jesus wanted them and chose them, that Jesus empowered them to act with his authority and in his name, that Jesus commissioned them and sent them out to proclaim the Gospel, and that they were faithful in their day. The Church confesses that these two laid hands on faithful men consecrating them as bishops in Apostolic succession empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue the apostolic work in the next generation, and in the next, down to our own generation. Simon and Jude were crucial links in the chain of faith and played their part in preserving it and passing it along unbroken and undefiled. And that’s no small thing. They did faithfully what Jesus asked of them, though no one remembers the details of what that was.
These are the Apostles for the rest of us, for ordinary people like me, and perhaps like you. I’m no Peter, James, or John, no Matthew. I’m just an ordinary follower of Christ trying to be faithful in my day. No one will ever hear of me. I’ll likely leave no record behind. Years from now someone may well come across my name in the church records or see my name plaque on the columbarium and wonder why it’s there, what this person did or why he was important enough to even name. And then they’ll get on about more important business. But the fact is, like Simon and Jude, Jesus wanted me, want each of us and chose each of us. He filled us with his Spirit and empowered us to act with his authority and in his name. He commissioned us to go out into the world to do the work he has given us to do, to love and serve him as faithful witnesses, to pass on the Gospel whole and true to the next generation. And that’s no small thing.
There is a passage in the apocryphal book of Sirach that means a lot to me and is fitting on this day, I think:
Sirach 44:1–10 (NRSVCE): Let us now sing the praises of famous men,
our ancestors in their generations.
2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory,
his majesty from the beginning.
3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms,
and made a name for themselves by their valor;
those who gave counsel because they were intelligent;
those who spoke in prophetic oracles;
4 those who led the people by their counsels
and by their knowledge of the people’s lore;
they were wise in their words of instruction;
5 those who composed musical tunes,
or put verses in writing;
6 rich men endowed with resources,
living peacefully in their homes—
7 all these were honored in their generations,
and were the pride of their times.
8 Some of them have left behind a name,
so that others declare their praise.
9 But of others there is no memory;
they have perished as though they had never existed;
they have become as though they had never been born,
they and their children after them.
10 But these also were godly men,
whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten…
Of others there is no memory…but these also were godly men. This is true of Simon and Jude: of these two there is little human memory, but they were also godly men. And, most importantly, they are not forgotten by God. When we read the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, we find:
Revelation 21:12–14 (ESV): 12 It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed— 13 on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. 14 And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
Simon’s name is there, and Jude’s, carved into the very foundation stones of the heavenly city. While our names likely adorn no heavenly cornerstones, no pillars or posts in New Jerusalem, they are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. And that’s enough and more than enough. Amen.