Sons of Thunder

Reading: Luke 9:37-62


Jesus called James and John “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17). How did these brothers earn this nickname? The Scriptures reveal that, like their fellow apostle Peter, their time following the Lord had personal highlights and low points. Based on this evidence, it would seem James and John struggled with something all of us must confront on a regular basis: pride.


While all the disciples struggled with a desire for greatness (vv. 46-48), Matthew’s gospel shows us that it was the sons of Zebedee who desired a place at the left and right hand of Jesus in his kingdom’s hierarchy (see Mark 10:35-45). They tried to stop an exorcist using Jesus’s name because he wasn’t following their group (vv. 49-50). And when a Samaritan village refused to receive Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, the sons of thunder wanted to deal out punishment on this disrespect in the form of fire from heaven (vv. 51-56).


As Jesus would teach these brothers, pride undermines everything Jesus calls us to do as children of God. Pride keeps us from asking the questions we need to ask for our own growth and spiritual development (v. 45). Greatness isn’t about selfish ambition and personal success, but child-like trust and service in his kingdom. When we encounter differences in matters of faith, we ought to appeal to the Lord’s authority and doctrine instead of our own opinions and preferences. And instead of seeking vengeance on our terms, we must trust that the Lord will repay any wrongs done in perfect justice.


These behaviors stem from genuine love—love for God and love for people. After all, if we don’t have love, all our good intentions might as well be a noisy gong… a clanging cymbal… or a rumble of thunder.