Jesus' disciples were a unique bunch of individuals who gave us great examples of how to follow Jesus Christ. Some of the 12 disciples even gave us an example on how NOT to follow Jesus! Sad, but true.
Please read Luke 5:1-11 before starting GraspingGod.com's free Bible study lessons, #2.07.
Previous lesson: Jesus' Baptism #2.06.
Preliminary Bible Study Questions:
1) Did Jesus' disciples immediately obey Jesus?
2) Are Jesus' disciples all incredibly intelligent and talented?
3) Can I become Jesus' disciple?
Did you know that YOU can become one of Jesus' disciples? It's true! YOU, yes, YOU can follow Jesus Christ in much the same way as his disciples did.
With that reality in mind let's start our online Bible study lesson for the day.
According to the New Testament teachings, Jesus' disciples were called confidently and suddenly. Matthew 4:18-21 confirms, "One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers — Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew — throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living.
Jesus called out to them, 'Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!'They left their nets at once and followed him.
A little farther up the shore he saw two other brothers, James and John, sitting in a boat with their father, Zebedee, repairing their nets. Jesus called them to come, too. They immediately followed him, leaving the boat and their father behind."
In about 10 minutes of time we already see the first four of Jesus' disciples in place, and some think the best four. Why did Jesus choose disciples? Jesus Christ chose disciples so he could intimately teach a manageable group of future leaders the heavenly secrets of the Kingdom of God. Jesus expected the 12 disciples to fully commit themselves to him and to the work of growing the church on earth.
Jesus' disciples, although committed to following Jesus, didn't truly understand him and his teachings for quite some time (Mark 6:50-52). They definitely didn't put the whole Kingdom idea together until after the Holy Spirit possessed them at Pentecost (see the Book of Acts, chapters 1 and 2).
But, note what each of these men did when Jesus called them - they obeyed his command to follow him.
Jesus' disciples weren't asked to follow Jesus, they were told to follow Jesus. They obeyed him, even without knowing details, or what the discipleship position entailed.
Here is a list of Jesus' disciples (aka the apostles of Jesus Christ) and some key notes about each of them, including their manner of deaths:
1) Simon Peter (aka Cephas): The boldest of Jesus' disciples, Peter had a huge personality and was a born leader. He was intelligent, brash, decisive and always ready to spring to action. He was the first to recognize and confess Jesus as the Messiah (Matthew 16:13-17). Peter walked on water (Matthew 14:28-29). Peter infamously denied Jesus Christ at his trial, but was the first disciple to see the resurrected Christ (Luke 24:34).
He became a leader of Christianity based in Jerusalem and an apostle to the Jews. He was a great preacher and Christian leader (see the Book of Acts 1-12). Peter was a great writer because he inspired the writing of the gospels, also penning two books of the Bible that bear his name. Peter died in Rome over 30 years after Christ's death. Jesus' disciple Peter asked to be crucified upside down because he wasn't worthy to die exactly like Jesus Christ. Many consider him the greatest of Jesus' Disciples.
2) Andrew: Originally met Jesus when John the Baptist introduced him and a friend. After listening to Jesus for most of a day, he excitedly tells his brother, Peter, to come and listen. Andrew was prominent in at least a couple gospel accounts: once, when Jesus feeds 5000 people (John 6:5-9) and another time when he questions Jesus about end times (Mark 13:3-4).
Andrew, after Jesus' resurrection, was an apostle at Scythia, a region north of the Black Sea, which is why he is considered the patron saint of Russia. Andrew reveals the distance that the original group of Jesus' disciples reached. Tradition says Jesus' disciple Andrew was martyred at Patrae in Achaia by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross.
3) James, son of Zebedee: The older brother of John and never mentioned in Scriptures apart from his brother. Together, Jesus lovingly nicknamed the two "The Sons of Thunder" because of their lively belief in God's power (Luke 9:51-56) and seeking a prominent place in future glory (Matthew 20:20-28).
James, John, and Peter were often sought for private revelations of Jesus: 1) Christ's healing of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37); 2) Jesus' Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1); and finally, 3) Jesus' anguished prayer in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37). James was the only apostle whose death was recorded in Scripture: Jesus' disciple James was martyred by King Herod Agrippa I around the year A.D.43.
4) John, son of Zebedee: The younger brother of James and the self-proclaimed "beloved disciple." Jesus' apostle John is a great man who understood the gospel as well as anyone, with the possible exception of Paul. John emphasized the love of God in his gospel and epistles.
John was also the one given the Revelation of Christ on the Island of Patmos. John is my favorite disciple. Who is yours? Tradition has recorded many miracles worked by John and also several accounts of John's death, but none can necessarily be believed over the others. I tend to believe he died on the Island of Patmos somewhere between A.D.88-110.
Special Bonus: Visit this site for an amazing story about John the Apostle.
5) Philip: Jesus' disciple Philip immediately led another person to follow Christ, who was Nathanael, better known as Bartholomew (John 1:43-51). Philip later flunked Christ's test of faith when Jesus asked him how many people could possibly be fed. Philip started counting the people and the cost of feeding so many. Jesus had something else in mind for the occasion (John 6:1-15).
Philip is mentioned several times in the book of Acts, especially Acts 8, where it is revealed the Holy Spirit gave him incredible powers. One interesting story is that of him and the Ethiopian eunuch. It was a God-ordained meeting which ended in a conversion and baptism for Jesus Christ. I sense that Philip was one of the most effective of Jesus' disciples. Philip's death remains a mystery, but Philip's tomb was reportedly discovered in Hierapolis in modern day Turkey.
6) Bartholomew, or Nathanael: Interesting introduction and discussion between Jesus and Nathanael can be read in John 1:45-49. Nathanael became an instant believer in Christ when Jesus told him he saw him under the fig tree. Nathanael knew that no one on earth could have known this information. He later spoke face-to-face with the resurrected Jesus (John 21:1-14). There are no biblical accounts or traditions of the death of Jesus' disciple Bartholomew. Several of Jesus' disciples slipped into obscurity after their departure from Jerusalem's Pentecost event.
7) Matthew: Jesus' disciple Matthew received very little mention after his calling to follow Christ. He was a despised tax collector, so there is a possibility he preferred a low-key profile. Many of Jesus' disciples today are likewise called to seemingly quiet ministries. Matthew wrote the gospel that bears his name, and its intent was for the Messianic Jews. It was written at least 20 years after Jesus' death and possibly as late as A.D.70. Tradition suggests that Matthew died as a martyr in Ethiopia.
8) Thomas: Oh yes, Doubting Thomas (aka Didymus). This disciple is best known for his reluctance to believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, until he was able to touch Jesus' wounds (John 20:25). Jesus gladly gave him that opportunity and Thomas exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" I love St. Augustine's saying about Thomas, "He doubted so that we might believe."
Christ knew it is perfectly logical for a person to want hard evidence of something miraculous, so he allowed the challenge by Thomas.
Thomas' faith was noted earlier in the gospel of John where he expressed his desire to follow Jesus, "Let us also go, that we may die with Him" (John 11:16). Jesus' disciple Thomas, tradition says, spread the gospel in Parthia and Persia, where he later died. Another tradition places Thomas' martyrdom in India. Almost all of Jesus' disciples were killed for their faith.
9) James, son of Alphaeus: The ninth apostle is only listed in the accounts of his calling. Jesus' disciple James of Alphaeus died a martyr at the hands of the scribes and Pharisees. Church tradition says he was tossed from a tower and then stoned and beaten to death.
10) Simon the Zealot (aka Simon the Canaanite): This is one of Jesus' disciples who was rarely mentioned after his call. He was apparently a member of the Zealots, who were radically opposed to Roman rule. Neither the Bible or tradition has anything to say about Simon the Zealot's death.
11) Judas, the son of James (aka Thaddaeus): This apostle was also involved with the Zealots prior to answering his call to follow Jesus. Church tradition says that he preached in Assyria and Persia after the resurrection and that he died a martyr's death in Persia.
12) Judas Iscariot: This disgusting traitor sold Jesus to the chief priests who wanted to murder the Messiah (Matthew 26:14-16; Mark 14:10-11). Judas was the treasurer for Jesus' disciples, so he had some early promise. Evidently, the only disciple who wasn't from Galilee didn't perform well in that task, either (John 12:6).
Psalm 109:8 predicted this situation with Jesus' disciple Judas, calling for another to take his place, who I will introduce in 12b. Judas Iscariot regretted his eternally ignorant decision and attempted to return the silver coins. Repentance was not granted by God. He appropriately ran out and hung himself in the aftermath. Read more about (click) Judas Kiss.
12b) Matthias: This disciple replaced Judas (Acts 1:23,26) after Jesus' disciples drew straws. Matthias wasn't a recent convert to Christ, by any means. He followed him from the beginning of his ministry until the ascension. He was undoubtedly one of the 70 disciples who were sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1,17). There are no more records of him in Acts after his appointment to apostleship. One tradition states that he was stoned to death by the Jewish leaders; and another says he preached in Ethiopia, martyred there by crucifixion.
Why were certain men chosen over others to be Jesus' disciples? For instance, he called Philip. Why Philip? I have no earthly idea. There is no indication why he was chosen. What I’m saying is that Philip was very ordinary, not one naturally given to anything spectacular. But he was chosen to be one of the disciples. God's power was revealed greatly in him, though, after Pentecost. The calling was quick, it was decisive – “Follow Me.”
Philip agreed and obeyed. He then immediately found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” Most of Jesus' disciples were simple, hard-working men. God's power is made visible in the weaknesses of men (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Once again, look and see how God uses ordinary people. Philip already brought someone to Christ the first day. That reminds me of an old saying, “One lighted torch lights another.” Notice the different ways in which people are led to Christ by others.
First, the prophet John the Baptist brought a couple of young men to Jesus. One of these young men went to get his brother. Then, with no explanation, Jesus sought and found Philip. And then Philip, after only knowing Jesus for hours, went to get Nathanael. I wish we could work that quickly! Notice that if you learn about Christ, then agree to follow him, you can bring others to meet him, too.
God's Kingdom grows through the multiplication of Jesus' disciples. It works in fairly simple terms: A person meets God and gets excited about the things of God. He or she tells many friends and family. Occasionally, one of those people also meet God and they share with more people. On and on the process of evangelism continues and the Kingdom enlarges.
God desires that all people be saved and follow his Son, Jesus Christ (1 Timothy 2:3-4). Here is the basic call that goes out to the entire world (1 John 5:6-10), "Look, People, at the baptism of my Son! Look at the cross of love on Calvary! Come and see the empty tomb in the garden! My Son is ruling from his heavenly throne and will be returning to earth soon!"
God's word is God's witness to the world. He shows us how to witness and gives us the means, which are his Spirit and his Word.
Jesus calls his disciples one-by-one, my dear friend. You're being called today. Give up the useless and meaningless things of this world, which rot and burn anyway (Matthew 6:19-21). Choose Jesus and pray that God will grant you eternal life.
By faith, obey the call like Jesus' disciples and reap the rewards for an eternity. You will never ever regret devoting your entire life to Jesus Christ.
Join our next lesson: Jesus and Satan #2.08
Bible Study Questions:
1) Compare and contrast the Rich Young Ruler's response to Jesus' call (Mark 10:17-31), with the response of the 12 disciples.
2) Why do you think there is a heavy cost to become one of Jesus' disciples?
3) Understanding there is no gray area in Jesus' request for a response, if he asked you right this moment to forsake all things on this earth to follow him, what would you say?
Inspirational Bible Verses:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matthew 28:18-20
If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it. Matthew 10:37-39
There are no crown wearers in heaven who were no cross bearers on earth. Charles Spurgeon Quotes
The cross is laid on every Christian. It begins with the call to abandon the attachments of this world. It is that dying of the old man which is the result of his encounter with Christ. Deitrich Bonhoeffer
We pray that if any, anywhere, are fearing that the cost of discipleship is too great, that they may be given to glimpse that treasure in heaven promised to all who forsake. Elizabeth Elliot
Prayers of Thanksgiving:
Oh, Heavenly Father, You are calling us, one-by-one, to follow your Son. He led the way through the narrow door, and you desire that each of us follow him. The way is straight, the cost is great, and the time is getting late. I pray my heart is right with you, and I pray for those I love, that they hear and obey your plea to follow Jesus. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen
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