Well, it’s a good thing I’m not on a deadline for finishing my personal study thru Mark! But I am getting back to this now, finally. Thanks to anyone who’s been waiting, patiently, for me to keep up with this. Here we go, getting back on track now…
“Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.”
Simon – to whom He gave the name Peter. I love when Jesus changes a person’s name – Abram to Abraham, Jacob to Israel, Saul to Paul. It’s like a way of saying that God has transformed the person so much they need a new name. we know Peter means ‘little rock’ – did you know that Simon means ‘he has heard.’ Simon Peter, the man who heard about Jesus, then was so completely changed by Jesus – from an ashamed sinner to a man schooling the Pharisees on God’s Word. This Peter in the end died on a cross as well, but he didn’t count himself as worthy to die the same way as his Lord. So he asked to be hung upside down. The fisherman, the man who spoke out of turn a lot, later the bold yet humble witness to who Jesus was and is.
James – one of the Sons of Thunder. He and his brother had passion for Jesus – remember when the two of them were willing to call down fire from heaven on a village for not receiving Jesus? Of course, Jesus did set them straight. In the end, this James who didn’t understand God’s love and compassion at first also was transformed: from fiery zealot to willing martyr (Acts 12:1-2). He was not leading a revolt against the Roman empire, he was laying down his life.
John the brother of James – who also refers to himself as ‘the disciple whom Jesus loved.’ John and Peter had a great friendship that makes me remember how important it is to have a fellow Christian friend to challenge me, encourage me, and walk with me. They might have had a little ‘healthy’ competition going on, but they also lifted each other up. John I admire because he really understood God’s love, and described it so well in his letters. Even though he was the only disciple who wasn’t killed for Christ, he still gave his whole life to serving Jesus.
Andrew – this is Peter’s brother. In Matthew, he mentions the connection. Andrew had been following John the Baptist, and when he went to see Jesus, he had gone first to get his brother (John 1:40). Andrew’s faith was growing in leaps and bounds when Jesus walked with them. He’s the one who pointed out the boy with the loaves and fish. One interesting (sometimes overlooked) mention of Andrew with Philip is in John 12:20-33. He had a heart early on for the Greeks. And from histories, we know that he died on a cross in Greece.
Philip – he was also responsible for bringing a friend to Jesus right away, like Andrew. He brought Nathaniel (also known as Bartholomew). He was the one crunching numbers instead of looking for the supernatural. He, like Peter, didn’t fully get it while Jesus was with them (but I’d have to say that’s is probably true on different levels for each of these men). And like Peter, we get to see the transformation by the Holy spirit as we see him take leadership in the church (Acts 6:5-6), preached in Samaria (Acts 8:4-8), spoke to the Ethiopian on the road (Acts 8:26-39), and preached in many other cities (Acts 8:40). Philip went from lacking a complete understanding of Jesus to powerful evangelist (Acts 21:8). And in the end, this man also gave his life for Jesus in martyrdom.
Bartholomew (or Nathaniel) – His introduction to Jesus was one of skepticism but quickly changed to belief. We don’t get a clear portrait of this disciple however. Just that he came to Jesus, was called among the 12, and continued with the disciples after Jesus was raised (Acts 1:13). We do know that he was martyred in Armenia. My thought on this is that even if our lives aren’t written about or make the Christian news, they can still be making a great impact in others for God’s kingdom. There are people in heaven because Bartholomew spoke, even though we have no idea where he went and who he shared the gospel with.
Now we’re half-way through the men who chose to give all. Remember, before Jesus called these men – they were nobodies! Every day men from small town places: but when God calls, He transforms. And the same is true for the other six: Matthew, who I spoke of in Mark 2:13, and the other James, Thaddaeus (who is also called Jude), Thomas, and Simon the Cananite. These men are all known to have gone out preaching the gospel and were killed for doing so. (by the way my resource on their deaths is HERE). This is the testimony of our very first leaders. They truly lived what Jesus said in Mark 8:34-35:
“Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
But there’s one in the mix. A betrayer.
Judas Iscariot – I could ask pointless questions here about him: at what time did he become the ‘son of perdition?’ Was he always this or was there a turning point? But these questions are completely missing the most valuable lesson about him. You see, no matter how Judas started out or where he turned against the Lord, his final decisions defined him. Each of the disciples except him ended well: their final hours were given in complete dedication and sacrifice to God. But Judas’ final hour was in denial, betrayal, and finally in taking his own life. Because no matter how we live our lives (although a life lived to glorify God has much rewards, both now and later) the real boiling point, the final say, the pivotal moment is always that last one. Look at the thief on the cross for contrast: was he a follower of Jesus? Not at all. His life was spent selfishly pursuing his own pleasure. And yet: at the end of his life, he repented. And Jesus said to him ‘Today you will be with me in paradise.’
12 men. Lives lived to serve Jesus while he was here. 11 men who continued to the end. I pray that those kinds of examples can encourage you to keep on and to finish well.