The more I read the Bible, the more I love the people in it–they’re so normal.
Some of the most prominent figures in the New Testament are Jesus’ 12 disciples. The disciples were just regular people whose lives were changed when they encountered Jesus Christ. Let’s take a peek at who these men were.
- Simon Peter was one of Jesus’ first four disciples (Luke 5:1-11). Peter was a fisherman with a big mouth, but he loved Jesus and Jesus called him the rock on which He would build His church. Peter also wrote two books of the Bible. It was Peter who, filled with the Holy Spirit, identifies Jesus as the Christ in Mark 8:29. Peter walked on water and nearly sank when his fear and doubt crept in. He denied Jesus, cut off a guy’s ear and yet he was the one who gave a spontaneous and passionate sermon on the Day of Pentecost when 3000 people were saved (Acts 2:41).
- Andrew was the brother of Peter, also a fisherman, and disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:25-42). Andrew was the first to meet Jesus; he then found his brother Peter and brought him to Jesus (John 1:40). They returned home until Jesus calls them as disciples. Andrew seems like a sweet guy. The Bible doesn’t talk about him much, but when it does, Andrew’s usually bringing people to meet Jesus, just like he did with Peter. Andrew brought the boy with the loaves and fishes to Jesus when they needed to feed the 5000 (John 6:9).
- James and John, sons of Zebedee, were fishermen. James, sometimes called “James the Greater,” was the older brother of John. Mark 3:17 says that Jesus gave James and his brother John the name Boanerges, which means, “Sons of Thunder.” This nickname seems to show that the brothers had a fiery and destructive zeal as part of their nature. Once, when turned away from a Samaritan village, they asked Jesus if they should command fire to come down from heaven and consume them (Luke 9:51-56). Overreacting much?
- Philip really struggled with faith. Everything we know about Philip comes from the book of John. When Jesus asked him, as a test, where they could buy enough bread to feed the 5000, Philip failed the test by relying on money instead of trusting the Son of God to provide. Later, Philip fails in faith again when He tells Jesus Lord show us the Father and that will be enough for us–the Lord’s word should have been good enough for him.
- Nathaniel (Bartholomew) is introduced to Jesus by Philip. When told about the Messiah, Nathaniel responds, Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? When Jesus sees Nathaniel coming, He declares that there’s no deceit in Nathaniel and prophesies that He saw Nathaniel while he was still under a fig tree–Nathaniel becomes a believer on the spot (John 1:44-50).
- Matthew (Levi) was a Jewish tax collector working for the Roman government (Matthew 9:9). He wasn’t very popular. Matthew wrote the first gospel in our Bible. Matthew threw a dinner party attended by Jesus that made the Pharisees angry, prompting them to ask, Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners? (Matthew 9:11)
- James, son of Alphaeus (James the Lesser) is mentioned in the lists of disciples in all four gospels. His mother, Mary, was at Jesus’ crucifixion and was one of the women who discovered the empty tomb. Not much else about James the Lesser is known.
- Judas, son of James (Thaddaeus). The only reference to this disciple is a question he asked at the Last Supper: Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world? (John 14:22).
- Thomas (Didymus). Upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, Thomas had to put his fingers in the nail holes in Jesus’ wrists to satisfy his doubt that Jesus was risen from the dead. Thomas was brave and spoke up when the disciples didn’t want to go to Judea with Jesus (John 11:16).
- Simon the Zealot was a Jewish nationalist, meaning he was extremely political on behalf of his nation. We only know this information because of his description “the zealot;” nothing else about Simon the Zealot is known.
- Judas Iscariot was the treasurer for the disciples. John 12:6 identifies Judas as a thief and it was Judas who betrayed Christ (Matthew 26:48). Later, Judas was filled with remorse and committed suicide.
These are the heroes of our faith. Some well-known, some hardly known. Regular men, sinners, who hung out with Jesus and had their lives transformed.
Who’s your favorite disciple?
‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19).