Simon was, at one time, a member of the political party known as the Zealots. There were four basic parties among the Jews of that time.
- The Pharisees were the religious fundamentalists of their time.
- The Sadducees were religious liberals; they denied the supernatural. They were also rich and powerful. They were in charge of the temple.
- The Essenes are not mentioned in Scripture at all. They lived in the desert and devoted their lives to the study of the Law.
- The Zealots were more politically minded. They hated the Romans, and their goal was to overthrow the Roman occupation. They advanced their agenda primarily through terrorism and acts of violence.
The Zealots were extremists. Like the Pharisees, they interpreted the law literally. Unlike the Pharisees (who were willing to compromise for political reasons), the Zealots were violent outlaws. They believed only God Himself had the right to rule over the Jews. Therefore, they believed they were doing God’s work by assassinating Roman soldiers, political leaders, and anyone else who opposed them.
The Zealots were hoping for a Messiah who would lead them in overthrowing the Romans and restoring the kingdom to Israel with its Solomonic glory. Simon was one of them. As one of the Twelve, Simon also had to associate with Matthew, who was at the opposite end of the political spectrum, collecting taxes for the Roman government. At one point in his life, Simon would probably have gladly killed Matthew. In the end, they became spiritual brethren, working side by side for the same cause—the spread of the gospel—and worshiping the same Lord.