April 1, 2009

Ordinary Joes, Part 10 - Thaddeus, "Mamma's Boy"

Among the list of Jesus’ apostles, there were two men named James, two men named Simon, and two men named Judas – Judas Iscariot (of course), and “Judas, son of James” (Luke 6.16, Acts 1.13). Little wonder that some early Christians stopped calling the son of James “Judas” … and began referring to him, primarily, by his nickname, “Thaddeus” (Matthew 10.3, Mark 3.18). But the name “Thaddeus” was probably only slightly less embarrassing. It means, literally, “breast boy”. And John MacArthur is probably right when he suggests that, in modern parlance, Judas, the son of James’s nickname was something akin to “mamma’s boy.”

Was it his mother who called him that? Maybe his older siblings? Or was it a fairly new nickname, coined by his fellow disciples? We can’t be sure. But in any case, there had to have been a reason for it. Perhaps it was just that Thaddeus was the youngest of his sibling set (or maybe of the apostles) – the baby brother. But probably the nickname “mamma’s boy” had to do, not only with his age, but his demeanor. Maybe he had a soft manner about him. Maybe he had trouble with homesickness. Maybe the disciples had seen him doted on by a mushy and overbearing mother! Who knows? But one thing is almost certain – Thaddeus was no “son of thunder” like his friends James and John; he was no dynamic, boisterous character like Peter. He was just himself – Thaddeus, “mamma’s boy”.

And yet this “mamma’s boy” ended up as a missionary! Even in John 14.22 we see his growing interest in and desire for the salvation of “the world.” ‘Why just reveal Yourself to us, Jesus?’ he said. ‘Why not make Yourself known to the whole world?’ And that is just what Thaddeus would spend his life doing – making Jesus known to “the world.” Tradition says he took the good news as far as modern Turkey, and was eventually clubbed to death for his faith*! No small feat of bravery for a supposed softy!

Application? God uses all kinds. He can take a Peter, humble him, and smooth his forceful personality into something useful in the kingdom of God. And he can take a Thaddeus, embolden him, and send the homebody onto the mission field. And He can work with anyone in between!

So where are you on the spectrum? A little too outspoken, prideful, and self-assertive? God can humble and use you. Or are you like gentle Thaddeus – maybe afraid that you’ll never have the courage to speak to that person, or go on that trip, or make that stand? Remember Thaddeus. If Jesus can use the New Testament’s “mamma’s boy” … he can certainly use you, too!

*See John MacArthur's Twelve Ordinary Men, 180.


Jeremiah Mattingly said...


This is an encouraging series. I probably tend more toward this "Thaddeus" type and this type of example (as well as someone like Timothy) presses me on in my walk with the Lord.


Kurt Strassner said...


Knowing that you are encouraged encourages me! Thanks!