6. Jesus’ Twelve Disciples
Matthew 4:18-22: - As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will send you out to fish for people.’ At once they left their nets and followed him.
Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
Who were Jesus’ Disciples?
There are three main lists of disciples (Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16) who were chosen near the start of Jesus ministry. The Gospel of John offers no comprehensive list but does refer to them as “The Twelve” (John 6:67, John 6:70, and John 6:71)
- Andrew: he was a fisherman from Bethsaida (Matthew 4:18). It was he who introduced his brother, Simon Peter, to Jesus (John 1:40-42). He was a disciple of John the Baptist.
- Bartholomew: he was the son of Talemai and possibly was also called Nathaniel (John 1:45-1:51)
- James: he was the son of Alphaeus. He is also know as James the Less (Mark 15:40) or James the Just. He would later be the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts)
- James & John: the sons of Zebedee. Both were fisherman (Matthew 4:21; Luke 5:1-11) and Jesus called them the sons of Boanerges or sons of thunder (Mark 3:17)! John is known as the “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, John 19:26, John 21:7 & 20)
- Judas Iscariot (Luke 6:13, 16): he was the son of Simon (John 6:71 & John 13:26). He was the disciple who betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11) and was replaced after the Resurrection by Matthias (Acts 1:26).
- Matthew: he was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9) and the son of Alphaeus (Mark 2:14. He also authored the gospel by the same name (Matthew 1:1)
- Philip: from Bethsaida (John 1:44; John 12:21). Notably, it was he who introduced Greeks to Jesus (John 12:20-22)
- Simon: also known as Simon the Zealot (Matthew 10:4) and possibly from Jerusalem.
- Simon: brother of Andrew and also an uneducated fisherman from Bethsaida (Matthew 4:18; Acts 4:13). Later, he was renamed Peter by Jesus (John 1:42) and would later lead the disciples (Acts 1:15-26). He wrote 2 of the books of the New Testament known as 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
- Thaddeus: listed as a disciple in Mark 3:18 and also known as Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:3) and Judas brother of James (Luke 6:16)
- Thomas also known as Thomas Didymus. Didymus means ‘twin’ and it is conjectured that he was a twin of Matthew. He is best known however, as doubting Thomas for initially disbelieving the resurrection of Jesus before he saw the Lord and proclaimed Him as such (John 11:16, John 20:24, John 21:2).
How were they chosen?
In the time of the New Testament, it was usual practice for a disciple to take the initiative and choose his master and then voluntarily join that school. However, in reverse of this practice, Jesus Himself chose those who were to follow him by issuing a command to “Come, follow me.” (Matthew 4:18-22; Matthew 16:24; Matthew 19:21; Mark 1:17; Mark 8:34; Mark 10:21; Luke 9:23; Luke 18:22). Jesus chose them after a night of prayer and were given to Him by God (John 17:9). The reason that God gave them to Him as His disciples was so that they would produce fruit for God’s Kingdom (John 15:16). Jesus also placed some demands on those who wanted to follow Him. For some these demands proved too much so they went away, like the rich young ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). Others, who were initially attracted to Jesus, left saying “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it? (John 6:60).
What were they chosen for?
As we read the Gospels, we know that they often got things wrong. Jesus often rebuked them, such as when the storm hit when they were in the boat. He rebuked them for panicking (Mark 4:38) and for fearing and lacking faith (Mark 4:40). This, in spite of having seen Jesus do the things He had done. In Matthew’s Gospel the disciples mistake Him for a ‘ghost’ as He walked to them on the water (Matthew 14:22-36) and Jesus rebukes Peter for lacking faith, as Peter looked at the storm (Matthew 14:30) rather than to Jesus Himself. When Peter tried to dissuade Jesus from going to the cross, Jesus’ subsequent rebuke was meant for all the disciples and not just Peter (Mark 8:33). They did not yet understand the relationship between suffering and glory. By the time Peter had written 1 Peter, he did (1Peter 1:6-8, 1 Peter4:13-5:10).
In calling them to Himself, Jesus called them into a common discipleship of which they are to “love one another” (John 15:17). The reason for this is so that people will know they are His disciples, by their love for one another, (John 13:34, John 15:16) and this will produce the desired fruit for God’s kingdom and an effective prayer life (John 15:16).
- Take up your cross: In Matthew 16:24, Jesus called his disciples to take up their cross, just as he was going to be taking up his cross at Calvary. By this he meant that his disciples must be prepared to sacrifice and be willing to suffer and die.
- Called to a life of repentance: Symbolic of this is Peter who, when first encountered by Jesus in Luke 5:1-11, declared of Jesus "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
- Called to a life of obedience: Jesus called for obedience of God (Matthew 7:21, Luke 6:46). This obedience means to follow him in all areas of life.
- Called to a life of service: When they were sent out in Matthew 10, the disciples were to: tell the Good News’; heal the sick; raise the dead; drive out demons and freely give.
- Called regardless of background: The disciples were from a broad cross-section of society. Some as we have seen were fishermen, another a tax collector (who were thought of as traitors to Israel!), others zealots or sons of zealots.
For more to think about please do read John 15:18-24. Ask yourself the following questions and see how you respond or react to them. Then why not share your answers with your spouse or a close friend, so that you can pray over any issues together.
Q1. Looking back on my life, how did Jesus choose me to be His disciple and why?
Q2. As I continue my life as a Christian Disciple, what things are holding me back from total obedience and service to Him?
Q3. Do I truly show love towards others in my life as a Christian Disciple?