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JESUS CHOOSES THE TWELVE
March 9, 2014
Last week: The Mission And Work Of John The Baptist
Early in His ministry, Jesus chose twelve men to be His special messengers and to whom to delegate authority for certain tasks1. The word translated from the Greek, apostle, means, "a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders" (Thayer). For example, in Matthew 10:8-16, He sent them to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," commanding them, "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give" (Matthew 10:7-8). They were with Him throughout most of His earthly ministry, learning from the Great Teacher, and helping to preach the Word. His final words to them (except Judas, His betrayer) before He ascended back into heaven contained the Great Commission to preach the Gospel to every creature (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).
The first two apostles chosen by our Lord were Peter and Andrew. In John 1:35-37, two of John the Baptist's disciples heard him say of Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God!" (John 1:36). Hearing this, they followed Jesus. One of the two was Andrew. After spending the day at Jesus' home, Andrew went and found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ." He took him to Jesus, who immediately upon seeing him, gave him a new name, Cephas. John writes, "And when Jesus beheld him, he said, Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone." Cephas is of Aramaic (Chaldee) origin, and means, "the rock," or "a rock" (Strong and Thayer). Stone is a Greek word, petras, meaning, "a rock or stone" (Thayer). It is the word from which the name, Peter, comes. Jesus knew that, after the Lord's ascension, Simon would have a rock-like character (Barnes).
This word, petras, Peter, must not be confused with the word, petra, rock, upon which Jesus said He would build His church (Matthew 16:15-19). Thayer defines this word, "A rock, cliff or ledge." Strong defines it, "A (mass of) rock." The church was not built upon Peter, a stone that can be picked up and thrown, but upon a mass of rock, a firm foundation, "The Christ, the son of the Living God" (Matthew 16:16)! Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 3:11, "For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ."
The next day, Jesus went into Galilee and called Philip, who was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter, to follow Him (John 1:43-44). Philip found Nathanael, and said, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathaniel was skeptical that any good thing could come from Nazareth, (John 1:46). He could have been referring to the fact that Nazareth as a town had no place in prophecy, nor anywhere in the Old Testament. Or, he could have been referring to the fact that Nazareth was a place of ill repute2. Philip answered the question by bidding Nathanael to, "Come and see" (John 1:46). Jesus, upon seeing Nathaniel, said, "Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" (John 1:47). Please read John 1:47-51. Nathanael, not knowing the divinity of Christ, who knows all things, wondered how Jesus knew his character when they had never met. Jesus said that He had seen him "under the fig tree." We do not know which fig tree he was under, or what he was doing there, but Jesus, probably had seen him by his all-seeing eye, and knew of his character. That convinced Nathanael that Jesus was "the son of God, the King of Israel" (John 1:49). Jesus pointed out that this was but little evidence of His divinity in comparison to the many other miracles he would see in time to come. Nathanael is generally assumed to be the same as Bartholomew, as Bartholomew is not mentioned in John, and Nathanael is not mentioned in the other four Gospel accounts (Easton).
Not as much detail is given to the calling of the remaining eight apostles. Four complete lists of them are found in the first three Gospel accounts (Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:16-19, and Luke 6:14-16). Please read Matthew 10:2-4. The Twelve are Simon Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, Philip, and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, James the son of Alphaeus, Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Canaanite (zealot), and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
Peter is known for perhaps his weakest and strongest moments. John 18:16-17 and John 18:25-27 record Peter's denial of Jesus on the night of His arrest and trial (See also John 13:36-38). Acts 2 describes his sermon in Jerusalem on Pentecost. This sermon resulted in the baptisms of 3,000 souls (Acts 2:42), marking the establishment of the church of Christ (See Acts 2:47). He wrote the epistles of First and Second Peter.
Judas Iscariot is known for his betrayal of our Lord (John 6:70-71; John 12:4; John 13:2; John 13:21-30; Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:47-48), and his subsequent hanging (Matthew 27:3-10).
Thomas is known as something of a skeptic. When Jesus promised the apostles that "in my Father's house are many mansions," and "where I am there ye may be also," Thomas asked, "Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?" This gave occasion for the Lord's famous statement, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me." (See John 14:1-6). Later, Thomas expressed skepticism when he heard that Jesus was risen from the dead. This earned him the moniker, "Doubting Thomas." Later, when he saw Jesus, and the wounds in his hands and side, he declared, "My Lord and my God." Jesus' response is important: "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." (See John 20:19-28).
Matthew wrote the Gospel account that bears his name. Jesus surnamed the brothers, James and John, "Boanerges which is The sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17), probably because of their fervid and impetuous temper (Easton). John wrote the Gospel account that bears his name, the epistles of First, Second, and Third John, and the book of Revelation. James, the son of Alphaeus, had a separate meeting with Jesus after the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), and presided over the conference at Jerusalem (Acts 15:13). Lebbaeus, or, Judas (Jude), is called also Thaddaeus, not to be confounded with the Judas who was the betrayer of our Lord (Easton).
This is a brief description of the Twelve Apostles. It is hoped that the reader will turn to his Bible and study these great servants of Jesus in greater detail.
1Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary, © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
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