These are the twelve he appointed: … Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot … Mark 3:16-19
When Jesus appointed the disciples, he actually chose two people called James. There was James, the brother of John and son of Zebedee and James, the son of Alphaeus. (There is also a third James mentioned in the New Testament who was the brother of Jesus.)
We are not told anything about the second James except he was the son of Alphaeus. In Mark 2:14 we discover that Matthew, the tax collector, is also the son of Alphaeus. It’s likely that James and Matthew were brothers or step-brothers. However, they are never mentioned together perhaps because they were diametrically opposed to each other.
Bible historians feel that James like Simon was a Zealot. Zealots were a political group who believed the best way to be free of Roman oppression was through armed revolt. Zealots hated the very presence of Romans in their land and hated those who cooperated with them … like tax collectors. Not only did Jesus have Zealots and tax collectors as disciples but also a couple of fishermen in need of anger management (Luke 9:54) and one who spoke without thinking (Mark 9:6). The group Jesus chose had every reason to disintegrate into factions.
Jesus managed to galvanize this group by focusing on what they had in common. They all wanted to see God’s kingdom come and were prepared to put aside their prejudices and agendas in order for that to happen.
God continues to choose people as leaders who don’t naturally work well together. The challenge for us as God’s people is to put aside our prejudices and agendas for the bigger purpose of growing God’s kingdom.