For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 KJV)
There was a group of Jews who were part of the Jewish Freedom movement, who believed that paying taxes to Rome was paramount to idolatry. They were first known as Galileans as they were led by Judas of Galilee (Acts 5:37). They based their charge of idolatry on the First Commandment, as Rome had implemented the cult of emperors throughout the empire in the first century BCE. Taxation was viewed similarly to paying tithe to Caesar, an ancient form of paying tribute to a deity.
Nevertheless, the publicans were viciously hated by the Galileans. Several of the discipes were from Galilee. In fact, in Matthew 26:73 Peter was pinpointed by a group as a Galilean. After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” (ESV) The Galileans were insurrectionists and the crowd knew that this charge against Peter could have gotten him crucified along with Jesus and the other insurrectionists. In other words, the Galileans may have hated the Romans and the people who supported them, but Rome had little tolerance for them either.
Enter the scene another figure, Simon the Zealot in Luke 6:14-16. This man was a Galilean on steroids (so to speak). The Zealots were exactly what their name implied. They received their name from the “zealous” actions of Phinehas in Numbers 25. Many of them were ruthless killers who carried little knives under their clothes to assassinate people with. In fact, they were quite possibly the worlds first terrorists. Their actions led to the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD.
Question: how do you suppose a man like Matthew the Publican could have gotten on with Simon the Zealot and all of these Galileans? These people fellowshipped together on a regular basis. They were still under the Old Covenant! These people would rather call fire down from heaven, but yet could get on with a traitorous publican in their midst. Talk about theological differences! They would have had almost nothing in common as to their philosophy of life. They were going in different directions when Christ met them. How could they get along? Daily? In fact, the love of God had not yet been poured out into their hearts by the Holy Spirit, a characteristic that the New Covenant regenerate are supposed to have received. How did they do it?
I’ll tell you. Because the PRINCE OF PEACE was in their midst. If Christ was truly in our midst, we would not have the gall to fight one another. It is our unconsciousness to the presence of Christ that emboldens the disunity. Simon and Matthew? Old Covenant? What a sad commentary on what many purport to have under the New Covenant. If the love of God had truly been poured out into hearts, we would love one another with a pure heart, fervently.