Lesson 32: Jesus Appointed Twelve Apostles
Matthew 10:1-4, Mark 3:13-19, Luke 6:12-16
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A Blending of The Four Gospel Records.
Welcome again! This is lesson #32. The reading for this lesson begins in Luke 6:12-16. If you'll find that we'll read it together. Are you ready, beginning in v.12. "And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. 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 Alpheus, and Simon called Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor."
Alright, first off, what is an apostle? What is the difference in a disciple and an apostle? A disciple simply means ANY learner or ANY follower. But, an apostle was a special disciple, called (or appointed) to a special task or mission. Thus, an apostle was very simply AN APPOINTED ONE. One chosen for a special assignment. Some places THE SAME word is translated: messengers. You and I would probably use the word "ambassadors." Keep in mind, that Jesus had MANY disciples at that time. We have no idea of how many. You will recall, we learned already, about five men had became full-time disciples. Now, there may have been more than five who fell in that category; but these five are all that we have been introduced to through the text of the four gospels. And you will note that all five of those men are on the list of apostles in v.14-15-16, where we just read. Plus, we've met two more of the men on that list, Philip and Bartholomew. We have assumed that Bartholomew and Nathanael was the same disciple. Thus, we have met seven of the twelve apostles on this list. That leaves five men that we have not encountered to this point. Two out of that five we have NOT met were named Judas. There is another James and another Simon, plus Thomas. A question that usually comes up is: why did Jesus select twelve? Well, that's a good question and I don't know the answer to that question. Possibly, because the Jews were made up of twelve tribes and originally there were twelve patriarchs. But, I can't prove that. The idea seems to fit into the book of Revelation. But, we won't get into that here. However, I believe THERE IS significance in that number. Can you imagine how that number twelve influenced the mind of the common people of Israel? It implied a NEW Israel. And that is exactly the association Jesus wanted them to make. You see, it's the same idea as the kingdom when you toy with it a little. Jesus and John the Baptist had both taught about the coming kingdom. Thus, the church is God's NEW ISRAEL, you see.
Jesus did not take the appointing of apostles lightly. Did you notice in v.12 that Jesus prayed all night, the night before he appointed the twelve? Matthew and Mark both give similar lists to the list here in Luke ch. 6. Let's take a look at Mark's list first. We're going to start in Mark 3:13. Have you got that? Let's read. "And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: and Simon he surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alpheus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him."
When you have taken a minute to look over this list real good let's move on to Matthew's list in ch. 10:1-4. Are you ready to read? Beginning in v.1 of Matthew ch. 10. "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. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; The first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother,- Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James the son of Alpheus, and Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him."
You might want to take a look at Acts 1:13 where Luke repeats his list again. Mark came the closest to giving a job description for the apostles; although, Mark did not use the word "apostle" in his entire book. Mark said simply, "he ordained twelve." Mark did used the plural form once (6:30). Matthew called them the "twelve disciples" in 10:1. Then in v.2, Matthew said, "the names of the twelve APOSTLES are these;" and that's the only time Matthew used the word "apostle(s)" in his entire book. John did not use the word "apostle" (singular or plural) even once in his entire book. But, Luke used the term many times. I started to say earlier that Mark said (in 3:14) that Jesus ordained twelve. And then Mark gave the reason why, (#1) that they should be with him. (#2) That he might send them forth to preach. And we've said before "to preach" simply meant to proclaim publicly. (#3) Mark said Jesus ordained twelve "to have power to heal sicknesses, and [(#4)] to cast out devils." Matthew added the words "all manner of disease" to his list in v.1. And although Matthew does NOT say "preaching", Matthew shows later in ch. 10 that Jesus did send them to preach. And, I trust you noticed, Jesus gave the twelve apostles limited powers to do miracles. But, the miraculous powers that Jesus gave the twelve, described here, would cover 90 percent or more of the cases that Jesus had been doing. Possible exceptions might be turning water to wine and the big catch of fishes in Peter's boat. The powers described here would NOT include miraculous memory or the ability to speak foreign languages, sometimes called tongues. So, as I said, these were limited powers; limited to healing sickness and all manner of disease and dealing with unclean spirits. But, such powers were quite sufficient for confirming the word; i.e. their teaching and showing Jesus' credentials; which was their real purpose. At a later time the apostles were inspired in a miraculous way (John 16:13) and were given broader powers in keeping with their needs as apostles after Jesus left them.
Now, before we get away from these lists; let's do a little profile on each apostle. We know Peter and Andrew were brothers and had been fishermen on the sea of Galilee. They were from the city of Bethsaida (John 1:44). We know that Peter was a married man and possibly Andrew was married, but we are not sure on Andrew. These two men apparently owned a home together in Capernaum (Mark 1:29). Jesus gave Simon Peter his nickname Peter or Cephas which John said simply meant "A stone." (John 1:42).
James and John were partners in the family fishing business and partners with Peter and Andrew. Their father's name was Zebedee (Luke 5:10). Mark tells us (3:17) that Jesus surnamed James and John "Bo-aner'-ges" which meant: the sons of thunder. And it might be noted that John was most likely the youngest of all the apostles.
The name "Matthew" occurs on all four lists. Although, Mark and Luke discuss the call of Levi, they include the word "Matthew" in their list of apostles. This causes some scholars to doubt that Matthew and Levi are the same person. The only comment about Matthew is found in his own list where he identifies himself as a "publican." And of course, if Matthew and Levi are the same; we know that he was a tax collector, possibly at Capernaum. In Mark 2:14 we learned that Matthew (or Levi) was the son of Alpheus.
Then you might notice ANOTHER apostle named James who is identified on all four lists as James the son of Alpheus. But, whether this James was a brother to Matthew or not, we cannot be sure. The most obvious reason he is called James the son of Alpheus is to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee. IfJames the son of Alpheus was a brother to Matthew; then there are at least three sets of brothers in these lists.
Then another apostle was called Simon. Matthew and Mark call him "Simon the Canaanite." This is obviously to distinguish him from Simon Peter. But, Luke in both of his lists calls him Simon Zelotes. Now, there was a patriotic party or sect of the Jews whose stated purpose was to resist Roman aggression. They called themselves Zealots, meaning "the zealous ones" and were thus the antithesis of the Herodians that we talked about in another lesson. The sect of the Zealots were the most active element in starting a war with the Romans almost 40 years after the time of Jesus. But, we have no evidence that this apostle name Simon derived his name from that sect. He may have been —a zealous one— in some other respect.
Each list has Philip, Bartholomew, and Thomas without comment. But, we know that Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Peter and Andrew (John 1:44). If Bartholomew is the same as Nathanael, then we know he was from Cana of Galilee. In the book of John, that writer refers to Thomas three times as Didymus, which is the Greek word for twin. But, this tells us very little, of course.
That leaves two more apostles who were both named Judas. Judas Iscariot is listed by this same name in three of those lists. He is not listed in Luke's Acts list, of course, because he was dead at that time. But, in all three lists (where he is listed), he is described as the one who betrayed Jesus.
The other Judas is designated as Judas the brother of James in both of Luke's lists. But that doesn't help much for we are not told which James. Mark in his list called him Thaddeus instead of Judas. Matthew said, "Lebbeus, whose surname was Thaddeus." So, we might call him Judas Lebbeus Thaddeus, who had a brother James and that would tell all we know.
Someone has observed that if you study Matthew's list close; it seems that he broke his list into three sets of four apostles each. Somewhat, like the 14 generation bit back in Matthew 1:17. This may be a memory aid too. The first quartet in Matthew is Peter, Andrew, James and John which might be called the fisherman quartet. Then Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew make up the second quartet. At the bottom of the list is James the son of Alpheus, Simon the Canaanite, Judas Lebbeus Thaddeus, and Judas Iscariot which make up the third quartet.
Now, undoubtedly you are aware that some teach Peter was given supremacy over the other eleven apostles. As one of their arguments; they appeal to the fact that Peter's name is listed first in all four lists. But, the obvious reason for this has to do with Peter's early association with Jesus. BECAUSE, Peter was NOT given an exalted position in the kingdom. Jesus NEVER (on any occasion) made such a statement. And, Peter NEVER (on any occasion) claimed for himself a position higher than any other apostle. So, to put it bluntly, that is NOT a Bible doctrine. And, contrary to what some teach; apostles did not have successors. Also, it might be said in this connection that Judas Iscariot did commit suicide and fall from his apostleship at about the time Jesus was crucified. But another apostle named Matthias was selected to take Judas' place (we learn this in Acts 1:15-26). So there were 12 apostles that went forth after the death of Jesus and after Judas committed suicide. But, that 12 did NOT have successors. The apostle Paul came AFTER the time the twelve were sent out. Paul was a SPECIAL apostle to the Gentiles. He and Barnabas were "Separated" and sent forth by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:2); thus Paul did not make the 13th apostle as some contend, i.e. not in the sense of the 12 apostles.
With the possible exception of Judas Iscariot; all of the apostles were from Galilee. We learn this in Acts 1:11. But, it is reasonable to suppose that Judas Iscariot was originally a man of high character. Also we discussed a little about Peter's character when we covered the incident of the great catch of fish in Peter's fishing boat; when Peter became emotional and fell at Jesus' feet, impressed with the great power of Jesus and recognizing who Jesus really was. And Jesus knew what was in man we learned in John 2:25. Thus, Jesus was the best at judging character. So, it's only reasonable to suppose that Jesus chose the best men available and the best men possible for the task of establishing the kingdom. However, built into this is. a lesson for us that people change. Perfectly good men can be led astray, and can fall from the right way; just as men of base and questionable character can be taught, led into the light and changed to honest and upright men who develop a love for the light that their deeds may be approved as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:20. As was said earlier, Jesus did not take the appointing of apostles lightly. Jesus apparently took many disciples up into that mountain someplace in Galilee where they spent the night in a retreat fashion. Jesus prayed all night. Then the next morning Jesus (from that group), "called unto him whom he would...and he ordained twelve." (Mark. 3:13). At least some of these men selected, and possibly all of these men had been disciples of John the Baptist. We know that some of those men had left their secular jobs and businesses and had accepted Jesus' invitation to follow and assist Jesus on a full-time basis. It's easy to see these men were diverse in character, education and background. All twelve came from the lower ranks of life. Some may even have been related to Jesus according to the flesh. But, you should keep in mind that even though Jesus gave these twelve men certain spiritual powers to heal diseases and to deal with unclean spirits, they really were not changed in character, educational level, human judgment and all these things. Because immediately, we shall learn, Jesus began a training program by which these twelve men were further prepared, taught, cultivated, disciplined, coached, and seasoned for the job they were ultimately destined to do. But, they were not pampered in the sense of experiencing luxury and exclusive treatment. And, it's obvious they were all treated as EQUALS; although, they had passions, pride, ambitions, and were just as human as any man who ever walked upon this old planet we call Earth. Actually in some ways they seemed to make very slow progress in that training program. The intensity of that program must have been equivalent to what we know as a college education; although, the time period was considerably shorter than a standard college education. We'll look at this in more detail as we continue our future study. Try to visualize a personality for each of the twelve as we continue our study? But, until our next lesson; keep your chin up and have a good day.