One day soon afterward Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and He prayed to God all night. At daybreak He called together all of His disciples and chose twelve of them to be apostles. Here are their names: Simon (whom He named Peter), Andrew (Peter’s brother), James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (who was called the zealot), Judas (son of James), Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed Him).Luke 6:12-16
- Who were these disciples?
- What was their background?
It is really necessary for you to a thorough background check as a good detective but suffice to say this band of disciples were a very mixed group.
Peter and Andrew were brothers and both Galilean fishermen, along with James and John who were also brothers and fishermen, actually in partnership with Peter and Andrew in Galilee. They were the sons of Zebedee or also known as the “sons of thunder” because of their tendency to want to hand out justice to everyone.
Philip was a townie from Bethsaida in Galilee. Barthlomew was from Naphtali but not much is known about him except that he was the son of Tolmais. Matthew, also known as Levi, was from Capernaum but was assigned as a tax collector for the Romans in Galilee. Thomas was a twin and one of the fishermen Jesus manifested Himself to on the Sea of Tiberius. He is well know for his doubting. James son of Alphaeus is supposed by some to have been the brother of James, the Lord’s brother. I don’t hold with this thought but not much more is known about him. We don’t know what he did before becoming an apostle. Simon the zealot or revolutionary from Cana of Galilee who opposed the Roman rulers and sought for freedom from Roman oppression. Simon the zealot may well have belonged to a band of nationalists who went about perpetrating acts of aggression against the Roman rulers.
Not much is known about Judas, son or brother of James. Is this James the brother of Jesus, the son of a carpenter or is it James and John, son of Zebedee, a fisherman? Whichever the case he seems to have been a manual worker. Pains are taken to distinguish him from the other Judas, inferring that he was not a traitor. Then of course there is Judas Iscariot. Iscariot likely refers to Kerioth in Judah, I.e. a man from Kerioth. Or it has been suggested to be derived from ‘sikarius’ which means assassin. Another likely derivation is from Aramaic ‘shear’ which means “false”.
Five backwoods Galilean fishermen and a townie. Two of whom are prone toward “thunder”, one of whom is headstrong and impetuous. A tax collector working for the Romans and a revolutionary working against them along with a number of nobodies who were mainly manual workers. Would one not think that to accomplish a complete turn around in the mindset of the nation much less the world one would need some educated people? Should there not be some scholars among them? A Pharisee like Nicodemus who was already sympathetic would have been good. To have an inside connection to the pharisees would have given some lobbying power among those in power. What about a representative of royalty or a high official or two. Men who dropped out of the training for being a rabbi and went back to the manual trades were not considered good leadership potential; especially for Your goal of winning the world Jesus. How do You expect to use a rabble bunch of nobodies to win the world? And surely You could see the folly of combining Matthew and Simon the zealot together on the same team? I mean, it’s asking for trouble.
Furthermore if You don’t need anyone to tell you what is within a man because You know already know all about the man in question (a là John 2:25) how could You miss the problem with Thomas and Judas? Fascinating isn’t it! That Jesus who knows all about us and can read the thoughts of the Pharisees and knew what they were thinking, still includes among his followers the likes of these. Wow there is hope for us too. Just like Paul wrote He uses the foolish things to confound the wise, He uses the weak to confound the strong. Oh how true, and aren’t you glad? With human intelligence comes arrogance. Multi-gifted people come with a certain amount of pride and self interest. Isn’t it amazing that He can know exactly what Thomas and Judas were like and yet would still choose them? Even more amazing that he would wash ALL the disciples feet including the one whom He knows will betray Him. There is something about what has been accomplished to date through this motley crew that is awe inspiring. Oh lead me on Jesus. Pick me to be in Your motley crew.
There is still more to come while we are on the question of the choosing of the disciples. I told you there are lots of potential questions here. I also told you I won’t be answering them all. Although I comment lots on the biblical text of the books we look at together there are many things I miss out. There is just too much detail to handle everything. Those in Deeper Bible are realizing there is always more. Many times our study turns up more questions than answers. But would you not expect that when digging into the Awesome Book of our Awesome God? He is way more unfathomable than ever our minds can comprehend and it follows that His book is also deep; deeper than ever we can imagine.
I am not sure how much longer I will continue “gemming” on the selection of the disciples, but sometime soon I will move on and leave the rest of the questions for you to find the answers. Allow me to add another 2 more questions: why so many fishermen? What is it about fishermen that makes for good disciples let alone Apostles?
Had God consulted me in the matter I would have advised him to continue the generation of the species by fashioning them out of clay.Martin Luther
Had God consulted me on the matter of who to choose as disciples I would have advised Him to choose another group. Ah but who?Ian Vail
If you love Jesus with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, we’re on the SAME TEAM regardless of what we may disagree about.Rick Warren
I hire staff who’ve been deeply hurt. It softens you to others’ hurts. Unhurt leaders are often arrogant know-it-alls.Rick Warren
Whatever holds your awe holds your faith!Judah Smith
When Christ is great, our fears are not. As awe of Jesus expands, fears of life diminish.Max Lucado