“It was at that time that He went off to the mountain to pray, and He spent the entire night in prayer to God. When the day came, He called His disciples to Him and chose twelve of them, and He named them apostles. ” (Luke 6:12-13)
When Jesus called, twelve men responded to His call. They were all Jews, uneducated commoners, and simple men who had faith and who gave up everything just to follow Christ. Jesus spent three years training these twelve men to be leaders. His plan was to eventually have the disciples take over and carry on the work He had started for us.
These men were very common. They came from rural areas, farmers, and fishermen. Christ passed over the elites on purpose, and he only chose the men that came from the dregs of society. That has always been God’s economy. He focuses on the humble and lays low those who are proud. Let’s find out more about each one of these apostles:
Peter was also known as Simon, Simon Peter, or Cephas. He was a gregarious, natural leader, and very good as a spokesperson for the apostles. His name was mentioned far more in the New Testament than any other of the twelve disciples.
He was the older of two brothers and the only one that was married. When he was on a mission, his wife came along with him. His mission was to bring the Gospel to the ones who were circumcised.
After Christ was arrested, Peter was one of the apostles who denied Him three times. After he was arrested, he didn’t believe that he was worthy to be crucified in the same manner as His Lord. He died as a martyr in Rome when Nero was the emperor.
Andrew was an early disciple of John the Baptist. In fact, he was there and John the Baptist said “Behold, the Lamb of God!” (John 1:35). Andrew was the first one that would follow Jesus, and so his enthusiasm was extremely evident, just as his desire to introduce his older brother to Him.
All these actions showed how devoted Andrew was to Jesus from the very beginning. Next to his outspoken brother, he wasn’t a dominant person. He was a passionate preacher and he greatly contributed to the church. Just like his brother, Andrew had the death of a martyr. He faced crucifixion with a lot of courage and boldness.
James is the elder brother of John. Given the fact that we don’t read so much about him in the scripture, he is a quiet part of this team of apostles. He was part of Jesus’s “inner three”, so he was allowed to be there alongside Peter and John when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37).
He also witnessed Jesus’ transfiguration on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 17:1), and he was also there with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33). James was the very first disciple that was martyred, and his martyrdom was the only one recorded in Scripture.
John was also known as the “disciple Jesus loved the most”, and he was a part of the inner three (John 3:23). He wrote a great portion of the New Testament: The book of John, 1, 2, and 3 John, but also the book of Revelation.
Even more, he wrote more about love than any other New Testament author. He learned so much about love because he was very close to Jesus. He was exiled on the island of Patmos under Domitian, but after he died, John was able to return to Ephesus. There, he governed all the churches in Asia until his death.
“The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He found Philip. And Jesus said to him, Follow Me.” (John 1:43)
What is there to know about Philip? There are many things, but they aren’t written in the scripture. Although he was a jew, we only know him by his Greek name, Philip. He had a heart for evangelism, and he was a bit anxious to tell Nathanael that the one foretold by Moses and the other prophets had been found.
They were very close companions and possibly studied the Old Testament together. He was stoned and crucified in Hierapolis, Phrygia.
Nathanael is also known as Bartholomew, and he came from Cana in Galilee. At some point, he expressed some local prejudice about Nazareth. But Jesus saw how sincerely his love for God was, and the fact that it was there from the very beginning.
He said: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47). Nathanael might have also preached in India and translated the book of Matthew into their native language. He died as a martyr, after being beaten, crucified, and then beheaded.
Matthew was a tax collecter, which made him one of the most despised people in all of Israel. He was known to ask for extra money from the people of Israel, in order to pay off the Romans and pad their own pockets.
As it happened, Jesus was at a table having dinner, and He was sitting with his disciples and with many tax collectors and sinners. Then, someone asked why Jesus was sitting with tax collectors and sinners, He answered: “I didn’t come to call on the righteous, but sinners.”
As He went from there, Jesus pointed to Matthew and said: “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him.
Thomas was also known as “Doubting Thomas”, or “Didymus”, which means The Twin (even though it was never mentioned in the Bible that he might have a twin). He was extremely skeptical, and outspoken about it, to the point where he was even considered a pessimist.
The first time he was mentioned was in John 11:16 when Lazarus had died and the disciples were afraid for the life of Jesus, as well as for themselves if they were to return to Bethany. Then, Thomas spoke up: “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” Here, Thomas proved to be extremely courageous and loyal to Christ.
James the Less
James is the son of Alphaeus (Luke 6:15). His mother’s name is Mary (Mark 15:40) and he also had a brother named Joseph (Matthew 27:56). There is almost nothing mentioned about him in the Scripture, except for some minor details about his family.
Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why he is called “James the Less” in Mark 15:40. Even so, it is worth remembering that James was one of the chosen ones to be around Jesus, even though we don’t know much about him. He was trained and used by Christ to further the Kingdom of God.
Simon the Zealot
When he was younger, Simon the Zealot was probably a political activist. Now you might wonder…why would Jesus choose someone with this background? If you think about it, it’s simply amazing that Jesus chose a man like Simon to be an apostle, because he was a man of fierce loyalties, amazing passion, true courage, and zeal. Simon believed the truth and embraced Jesus as his Lord.
The strong enthusiasm he once had for Israel was now expressed in his devotion to Jesus Christ. There are some theories about what happened to him. According to tradition, Simon went on the west coast of Africa to preach, and then to England where he was crucified in 74 AD.
Judas, son of James
The eleventh apostle on the list is Judas. He was also known as Jude, Thaddeus, and Lebbaeus. He lived in obscurity as one of the Twelve. At some point, he asked Jesus a question in John 14:22: “Lord, why are you revealing yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
Judas seemed to be extremely concerned with this question. Christ responded to him by saying that He would eventually reveal Himself to anyone who loved Him. There are many early traditions that recalled how Judas, son of James, took the gospel north to Edessa. There, he healed Abgar, the King of Edessa.
“Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, twelve apostles, and yet one of you is a devil? Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was about to betray Him.” (John 6:70-71)
He was the Traitor. We don’t know anything about Judas’ background. His encounter and the way he was called by Jesus aren’t recorded in the Scripture. He didn’t come from Galilee, that’s the only thing we know.
While he gave Christ three years of his life, he didn’t give his heart to Jesus, and Jesus knew that. Judas betrayed Jesus for only thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:15) Even though he enjoyed all the privileges Christ had ever given to the apostles, he remained in unbelief and went straight into a hopeless eternity.