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The Twelve Disciples-Matthew 10_1-4

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The Twelve Disciples

Matthew 10:1-4

Ask the audience to name the 12 Disciples- give a prize.

When I was younger I could not name the twelve disciples, well that has been true as well into my adult life.  While I have had trouble naming them; that does not mean I did not have an opinion on who they were.

I have always seen the disciples as hero’s of the faith.  They were the first to follow Christ and the first to spread the Gospel throughout their known world.  They were courageous, unselfish, caring, gracious, loving, adventurous, and determined.

This view based in the New Testament especially the Epistles and Acts portrays a group of followers of Christ who had been transformed into leaders molded by Christ and strengthened by the Holy Spirit.  It is easy to see how anyone trying to put together a team of ministers would choose these men.

The reality is that they did not start out this way, in fact some of them were very different people when Christ first called them.  Some would even say that Jesus’ choices did not make much sense.  If we had recruited the team that would spread Christianity throughout the world it would not be this bunch.

Today we want to examine who the disciples were that Jesus picked and see how this has application for us today.

1.  Peter the Impetuous


-Peter was a fisherman by trade (Mk. 1:16)

As he went along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew, Simon’s brother, casting a net into the sea (for they were fishermen).

-He was married (Lk. 4:38)

-As a disciple he became the spokesman for the group (Mt. 15:15)

But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”

-He had the nerve to rebuke Jesus (Mt. 16:22)

From that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 16:22 So Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him: “God forbid, Lord! This must not happen to you!”

-He would deny Christ three times even when he said he never would.

-Later he would be restored to ministry (Jn. 21:15-17)

-He would show prejudice towards the Gentiles (Gal. 2) and later repent for it.

-He would preach with boldness at Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) and see 3000 people come to Christ.

-He would go on to write two Epistles bearing his name.

-Peter was eager, aggressive, bold, outspoken, impetuous and confident.  Through his interactions with Christ and the molding that Jesus did in his life he became a person who learned submission, restraint, humility, love, compassion and courage.

-He would write in 2 Peter 3:18:

But grow in the grace and knowledge  of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the honor both now and on that eternal day.

-Clement states that Peter was forced to watch his wife being crucified and he then was crucified, but he insisted that he not die in the same manner as Jesus and so he was crucified upside down.

  1. Andrew the Disciple of Little Things

-Andrew is the brother of Peter.  In fact he is the one that introduced Peter to Jesus (Jn. 1:41-42).

-He was more than likely a follower of John the Baptist.

-Of the disciples we know more about he seems to be the least contentious.  Whenever he is mentioned alone he is always doing what is right.

-Andrew saw the value of individual people.

            -After meeting Jesus he brings Peter to meet Christ.

            -He brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Christ (Jn. 6)

            -He brought the Greeks to Jesus in Jn. 12.

-He saw the value of small gifts.

-He did not dismiss entirely the value of the fish and loaves even though they would not feed 5000 people.

-Andrew saw the value of inconspicuous service.

            -He never preached to multitudes.

            -He did not found a single church

            -He did not write any books

            -He is not mentioned in Acts or a single Epistle.

-Tradition says that he went to Russia and Scotland, Asia Minor and Greece as a missionary.  It is said that he was crucified in Achaia in Greece as a result of leading a Roman governor’s wife to Christ.  On the cross he hung for two days and witnessed to passers by.

-Andrew shows us that God uses the quiet individuals, laboring faithfully, giving insignificant gifts, accomplishing much for Christ.

  1. James the Passionate.

-He worked for his Father Zebedee in his fishing business (Mk. 1:20)

-He along with his brother John would be called sons of Thunder for they were passionate, fervent, having a fiery temperament and a judgmental spirit (Lk. 9:51-54).

Now when the days drew near for him to be taken up, Jesus set out resolutely to go to Jerusalem. 9:52 He sent messengers on ahead of him. As they went along, they entered a Samaritan village to make things ready in advance for him, 9:53 but the villagers refused to welcome him, because he was determined to go to Jerusalem. 9:54 Now when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”

-In Mt. 20:20-24 we see that he along with his brother is ambitious, overconfident and causes conflict with others when he requests special privilege in Christ’s kingdom.

-His passion was not a liability in the end as he used it to serve Christ.  This characteristic in his missionary brought about the wrath who had him beheaded.  James in Acts 12:1-3 is the first of the disciples to be martyred.

-Tradition says that he preached in Samaria (the very place he wanted to call up God’s judgement), Judea and Spain.

-In the end it seems his passion, fervor and thunderous temperament were used by God-he became a person who was tempered by sensitivity and grace.

  1. John the Disciple of Love

-We know much of his character because of his relationship with his brother James.

            -He was willing to call judgement on Samaria.

            -Asked for special privilege

            -Over stepped his boundaries (Mk. 9:38)

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him because he was not following us.”

                -He was narrow minded, unbending, reckless, volatile, brash and aggressive.

-We find that John learned through his time with Christ.

            -He learned to balance love and truth (2 Jn. 1:1-3)

From the elder, to an elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth (and not I alone, but also all those who know the truth), 1:2 because of the truth that resides in us and will be with us forever. 1:3 Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

-He learned to balance ambition and humility (1 Jn. 3:1-2)

(See what sort of love the Father has given to us: that we should be called God’s children – and indeed we are! For this reason the world does not know us: because it did not know him. 3:2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.

-He balanced suffering and Glory (12:24-26)

I tell you the solemn truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains by itself alone. But if it dies, it produces much grain. 12:25 The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life. 12:26 If anyone wants to serve me, he must follow me, and where I am, my servant will be too. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

-         John was the first disciple to enter the tomb, the only disciple recorded at the cross.

-         He was commended by Jesus to care for his mother.

-         He wrote one Gospel, 3 epistles and Revelation.

-Tradition says he became the pastor of the church in Ephesus, was imprisoned on Patmos under unbelievable conditions.

-He was willing to suffer without complaining and died of old age.

  1. Philip the Accountant

-Philip was a disciple of John the Baptist (Jn. 1:43-44)

-Showed a deep understanding of the Old Testament (Jn. 1:43-46)

-Displayed a missionary heart (Jn. 12:21-22)

So these approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested, “Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” 12:22 Philip went and told Andrew, and they both went and told Jesus.

-He demonstrated a seeking heart (Jn. 1:43-44)

On the next day Jesus wanted to set out for Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 1:44 (Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter.) 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 1:46 Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip replied, “Come and see.”

-He also had a defective spiritual insight (Jn. 14:7-9)

-He was low on vision and faith (Jn. 6:7)

-He was not very decisive (Jn. 12:22)

-Tradition states that he preached and brought many to Christ and was stoned to death in Asia Minor eight years after the death of James.

  1. Nathanael (Bartholomew) the Prejudiced.

-He was a very close friend of Philip (Jn. 1:45)

-Came from Cana in Galilee (Jn. 21:2)

-We see that he understood and appreciated Scripture because when Philip invited him to see Jesus he appealed to Nathanael with Scripture (Jn. 1:45)

-He seemed sincere of Heart (Jn.1:470

-He takes the words of Christ and expresses eager faith (Jn. 1:49)

Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel!”

-We also find that he was prejudiced when he said that nothing good could have come out of Nazareth in Jn. 1:46.

-Tradition says he ministered in Persia, India and Armenia.  It is said that he was martyred by crucifixion or tied up in a sack an cast into the sea.

-We find that Nathanael was faithful to the end because he was faithful from the start.

  1. Matthew the Reviled

-We know according to Mt. 9:9 that he was tax collector.

-We find that he knew the Scriptures as we find that he quotes the O.T. 99 times in his Gospel.

-We find that he had the desire to share Jesus (Lk. 5:29-32)

Then Levi gave a great banquet in his house for Jesus, and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others sitting at the table with them.

-It is evident in Mt. 9:9 that he responded to Christ immediately.

-We know as a tax collector for the Romans that he was considered on the same level as prostitutes (Mt. 21:32)

-Matthew as one reviled seemed to be a man of humility, concerned for the outcast, willing to follow immediately and willing to give up a successful career.

-Tradition says that he ministered in Israel and abroad.  It is said that he was burned at the stake.

  1. Thomas the Pessimist

-In Jn. 11:16 we find that he was a twin.

-He was a pessimist and saw only bad ahead but was still willing to sacrifice everything (Jn. 11:8-16)

 So when he heard that Lazarus was sick, he remained in the place where he was for two more days. 11:7 Then after this, he said to his disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 11:8 The disciples replied, “Rabbi, the Jewish leaders were just now trying to stone you to death! Are you going there again?” 11:9 Jesus replied, “Are there not twelve hours in a day? If anyone walks around in the daytime, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 11:10 But if anyone walks around at night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.”

11:11 After he said this, he added, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But I am going there to awaken him.” 11:12 Then the disciples replied, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 11:13 (Now Jesus had been talking about his death, but they thought he had been talking about real sleep.)

11:14 Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 11:15 and I am glad for your sake that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 11:16 So Thomas (called Didymus) said to his fellow disciples, “Let us go too, so that we may die with him.”

-He was spiritually shortsighted (Jn. 14:5)

-Doubted Jesus’ resurrection (Jn. 20:24)

-Calling him doubting is not very fair because as we can see in Mk. 16:13, the other disciples doubted as much as Thomas.

-The uniqueness of Thomas is that Jesus’ death caused him to loose hope.

-Thomas seemed to be a negative person, always seeing the worst.

-After being confronted by Christ after the resurrection he recognized him and was transformed by Christ (Jn. 20:28)

-Tradition states that he carried the gospel as far as India.  There are churches in India today that claim their heritage back to the ministry of Thomas. 

-It is said that he was martyred by being run through with a spear.

  1. James the Son of Alphaeus the Insignificant.

-All we know besides the fact that his mother was at the crucifixion, the preparation of Christ’s body and the discovery of the empty tomb (Mk. 15:40-41) is that James was nicknamed the lesser (Mk. 15:40)

            -small in physical stature

            -younger than James of Zebedee

            -Of lower status than James of Zebedee

-His notoriety is his insignificance, but Christ still chose him, trained him and set him towards ministry.

-Tradition states he preached in Palestine and Egypt where he was eventually martyred by crucifixion.

  1. Simon the Zealot the Consistent

-Simon was called a Zealot (Lk. 6:15)

            -It could mean that he had a zealous, fiery temperament

-He would be part of the feared political outlaw sect that wanted to overthrow the Romans.  They were terrorists and assassins.

-Probably first followed Christ in the hope of seeing a political kingdom.

-It is interesting that Matthew was at the opposite spectrum politically than Simon.  Matthew worked for the Romans and Simon wanted to overthrow them.  At one time Simon would have tried to kill Matthew.  We see the transforming power of Christ.

-Tradition indicates that Simon remained zealous but for Christ.  He took the gospel to the British Isles. Other say he went with Thaddaeus to Persia and Egypt.  He was martyred by crucifixion or was hacked to death.

  1. Judas (Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus) the Gentle.

-Thaddaeus means breast child reffering to his position in the family.

-Lebbaeus has the meaning of heart child.

-both nicknames refer to him being gentle and tender.

-In his only incident recorded he displays humility.  He is not able to understand why Jesus would reveal himself to them (Jn. 14:21-23)

“I will not abandon you as orphans, I will come to you. 14:19 In a little whilethe world will not see me any longer, but you will see me; because I live, you will live too. 14:20 You will know at that time that I am in my Father and you are in me and I am in you. 14:21 The person who has my commandments and obeys them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and will reveal myself to him.”

14:22 “Lord,” Judas (not Judas Iscariot) said, “what has happened that you are going to reveal yourself to us and not to the world?”

-Tradition says he took the gospel to Turkey.  It is told that he healed the king of Edessa (Abgar).  It is said that he was clubbed to death.

  1. Judas the Traitor.

-Judas was designated the treasurer probably because he demonstrated honesty and competence (Jn. 12:4-6).

-We see in Jn. 12:6 that he began to steal for the treasury.

-Christ choose him to fulfill his role in Jesus’ betrayal (Jn. 13:18)

“What I am saying does not refer to all of you. I know the ones I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture, ‘The one who eats my bread has turned against me.’

-Christ gave him opportunities to turn away from his sin by warning him but he continued (Mt. 26:24).

-We find that Judas became disillusioned.

            -He expected earthy rewards (Lk. 18:29-30).

            -Expected Christ to bring a physical Kingdom.


-We find Judas becoming hypocritical

-pretended to care for the poor when Mary anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Jn. 12:4-6)

-This seems to be the final straw for Judas because in Mt. 26 we see that he immediately went to the Pharisees and offered to betray Jesus.

He continued to maintain the act of being a believer even up to the Passover (Mt. 26:25).

-         After the betrayal we do discover (Mt. 27:3-5) that he did regret his actions to point that he decided to end his life.

-We see that Judas lost opportunities to follow Jesus, he wasted his unique privilege as a disciple, demonstrated the lure of money, and displayed the damage of hypocrisy.

-Jesus showed that he continued to care for Judas

-We see that God cannot be stopped.



Over all we see that God uses all kinds of people.  He asks for our willingness and open hearts.  He asks for us to be open to change and willing to learn.

God can use…

-The bold, brash and impetuous just like Peter

-Those who do only little things just like Andrew

-Hard headed, judgmental and ambitious people just like James

-People who see only things as black and white and show little grace just like John

-the short sighted, indecisive and low in faith just like Philip

-the prejudiced just like Nathanael

-the hated outcast just like Matthew

-those who are pessimistic and negative like Thomas

-people who are low in position or young such as James son of Alphaeus

-Zealous, activist, militants such as Simon the Zealot

-the gentle, meek, shy and tender just like Judas/Thaddaeus

-he even uses the hypocritical, thieving, and disillusioned such as Judas Iscariot

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