The Disciples of Jesus

This week’s scripture reading – Matthew 4:18-22

And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left [their] nets, and followed him. And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James [the son] of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Calling of the Disciples

it is often asked, who were the twelve disciples of Jesus and what were their jobs? Well, the events recorded here mark the calling of the disciples of Jesus, some of whom would become his future apostles. Cross referencing scripture shows this event was also recorded in Mark 1:16-20, again noting the same four individuals, Peter, Andrew, James and John. It is of interest to note that earlier, some of these individuals were disciples of John the Baptist as noted in John 1:35-37, Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples. And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. The text continues on to give reference to Andrew and Simon Peter in John 1:40-41, One of the two which heard John [speak,] and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first findeth his own brother Simon, and saith unto him, We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. This was the beginning of when Jesus calls the twelve disciples. For those interested in a list of the twelve disciples in order of their calling, it is noted in Matt. 10:1-4 for easy reference.

We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ.

John 1:41b

What the Disciples Knew

The early disciples of Jesus would therefore have seen him earlier and would have very likely been familiar with the facts John the Baptist taught about him. They would have probably been aware of the following observations as recorded by the apostle John – John the Baptist was sent to bear witness of the true light (John 1:9), Jesus existed before him (John 1:15), Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29), the Holy Spirit abode on Jesus (John 1:32), Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (John 1:33), and Jesus is the Son of God (John 1:34). Further to this was Andrew’s declaration to his brother Simon that Jesus is the Messiah, or Christ as noted above. By giving some background information on these individuals, it helps to show that Jesus did not just arbitrarily approach them as strangers and say, follow me.  This knowledge and awareness of Jesus should become part of what the disciples of Jesus can teach you about faith.

More Disciples Called

Some of the twelve apostles and their characteristics are noteworthy. Another individual that was called by Jesus in a similar manner was Matthew as recorded in Matthew 9:9, And as Jesus passed forth from thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him. This same event is also recorded in the gospels of Mark and Luke, both of which give further context to the remarkable hospitality Matthew accorded Jesus shortly thereafter in Mark 2:15, And it came to pass, that, as Jesus sat at meat  in his house, many publicans and sinners sat also together with Jesus and his disciples: for there were many, and they followed him. Here Matthew, as noted in previous Bible Studies, was a Jewish man, he was also a tax collector for the despised Roman Empire and yet it was clearly a day of celebration for him upon receiving the call to follow Jesus. (*publican – is a tax collector)

Another one called by Jesus by this short and somewhat direct invitation was Philip as noted in John 1:43, The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. Philip was from the same town as Andrew and Peter and his comments also provide further information of the knowledge these individuals possessed about Jesus as noted in John 1:44-45, Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. The impact Jesus had upon these individuals is illustrated by the reaction of Nathanael. While he scoffed earlier at the notion of anything good coming out of Nazareth, he soon changed his mind after his encounter with Jesus. He exclaimed in John 1:49, Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. People may be asking how many disciples did Jesus have and while Luke (Luke 10:1, 17) notes the Lord appointing seventy in addition to the twelve, scripture does not conclusively give a total number.

Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.

John 1:49b

What the Disciple’s Left

The New Testament disciples of Jesus called took a very dramatic step in their lives by immediately leaving valuable possessions and family members to follow him. This is noted in two key scriptures, Luke 5:11, And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him. Then also in Mark 10:28, Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. After Jesus’ crucifixion however, some of the disciples temporarily returned to their former profession before realizing the call from Jesus would lead to fulfilling an eternal mission as noted in John 21:1-3a, After these things Jesus shewed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise shewed he [himself.] There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the [sons] of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples. Simon Peter saith unto them, I go a fishing. They say unto him, We also go with thee.

they forsook all, and followed him.

Luke 5:11b

Cost of Discipleship

Who are the real disciples of Jesus? Well, little did the disciples know their lives would be forever changed from that point onwards after being eye witnesses to the risen saviour (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Thereafter, they faced persecutions and afflictions (2 Timothy 3:11), encountered tribulations (2 Thessalonians 1:4), performed miraculous signs (Acts 28:7-9), and tragically faced death for their faith (Acts 7:59, 12:1-2). These scripture references illustrate just a small selection as recorded throughout the New Testament. Further to all of this, the divine calling and empowerment of the apostles is noted in Matthew 10:1, And when he had called unto [him] his twelve disciples, he gave them power [against] unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all manner of sickness and all manner of disease. 

The Twelve Apostles

Not everyone called though became one of Jesus’ chosen twelve apostles, as noted in Luke 6:13-16, And when it was day, he called [unto him] his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles; Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the [son] of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas [the brother] of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor. As noted in a previous Bible Study, Paul indicated the uniqueness of Jesus’ disciples in 1 Cor 1:26, For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called. Paul himself though, indeed knew his calling in 1 Corinthians 1:1, Paul, called [to be] an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God.

Some may ask what is the difference between a disciple and an apostle? There were technically only twelve apostles and they all met specific criteria such as being eyewitnesses of all events from John the Baptist to Jesus’ resurrection and being endowed with miraculous powers from Jesus.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

The Whosoever Gospel

This brings us to the last point of the Bible Study from this week’s scripture reading and that is the calling from God upon his people as stated in the initial verse, follow me. The gospel of Jesus could be called the “whosoever” gospel since Jesus himself indicated this in John 3:16, For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. Whosoever, or whoever, is all the people in the world, people from all walks of life, regardless of race, ethnicity, culture, or social status. Jesus used this phrase of “whosoever” another time during a discussion with Martha in John 11:26a, And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

Peter the apostle used this term when quoting the prophet Joel in Acts 2:21, And it shall come to pass, [that] whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved. Peter also used this word on another recorded occasion further affirming the message in Acts 10:43, To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. The apostle Paul additionally confirmed this all inclusive message in Romans 10:13, For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. John the apostle also used this encompassing phrase in 1 John 5:1, Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. Hopefully, readers can see the overwhelming evidence to support the inclusiveness of the gospel message of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To close off this Bible Study on what the disciples of Jesus can teach you about faith, people at times may find God very far away from them during challenges they encounter or experience in life. It should always be remembered though that the gospel of Jesus is indeed for whosoever. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-29, Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Why not take a moment now and come to Jesus in prayer to receive much needed rest in him. This is what the Disciples of Jesus can teach you about faith

Bible Study Questions

  1. Of the disciples Jesus called, some became his proverbial inner circle. Could you name at least three of them?
  2. List at least three things the disciples of Jesus most likely knew about him even before their calling?
  3. Nathanael was a skeptic of Jesus but what changed his mind and convinced him that Jesus was the Son of God?
  4. Why do you think the apostles of Jesus abandoned their previous work and responsibilities upon his calling?
  5. What was the name of the one apostle who proved to be the traitor of Jesus despite hearing so much from him?
  6. From this study on what the Disciples of Jesus can teach you about faith, how would you explain the gospel of Jesus to someone as the “whosoever” gospel?
  7. What is the key word in the phrase from the apostle John, Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God?

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