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