Who Were Jesus' Disciples?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, July 27, 2020 2 comments

by Katie Erickson

If you’ve been around the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John in the Bible at all, you’ve likely read about Jesus’ 12 disciples. We’re all familiar with some of them: Peter, John, or Matthew for example. But what do you know about, say, Thaddeus? Probably not too much. Are you even able to name all 12 of the disciples? I know I can’t, at least not from memory.

In light of that, I’m writing this blog post series to give more insight into who each of the 12 disciples was. We don’t have a lot of information on some of them, but I hope to educate you as well as myself on some aspects of these men’s lives that perhaps we didn’t know before.

So to start, who were all 12 of the disciples? Let’s start with a list, in no particular order:

  1. Simon Peter
  2. James
  3. John
  4. Andrew
  5. Bartholomew aka Nathanael
  6. James the Lesser
  7. Judas
  8. Jude aka Thaddeus
  9. Matthew aka Levi
  10. Philip
  11. Simon the Zealot
  12. Thomas

You’ll notice that some of them have two names, which is one aspect we’ll get into in the individual posts about each of these men. But why is it important for us today to know who these men were, who lived some 2000 years ago? It’s actually very important for our Christian faith, for a few reasons. First of all, these men are one of the main reasons that you and I can even know who Jesus is today. Right before Jesus left the earth and ascended into heaven, He gave them these instructions:

“Then Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In the passage from Matthew 28, known as the Great Commission, Jesus commands His disciples to make more disciples. Many generations later, that legacy is how you and I have had the opportunity to become disciples of Jesus. If His gospel message had died with those 12 men, then Christianity would have died and none of us would have the opportunity to know Jesus today. But instead, these twelve literally risked their lives to carry on that gospel message so that others would get to know Jesus, both their contemporaries and future generations to come. They followed Jesus’ instructions to make disciples and teach them everything that Jesus taught them.

These men weren't trained in what needed to be done, but they were trained to hear and respond to the Father. If they knew what they were getting into, they probably would not have done it. They spent 3 years living and ministering with Jesus, having all of their preconceived notions about religion blown up. Now, they know God will be present with them and they know the goal of making more disciples. Fortunately, they had the power and authority of Jesus behind them in this task, as it could not be accomplished simply by human means.

The original disciples did not just keep the message to themselves and their local area either. They followed Jesus’ command in Acts 1:8 and took the message to the entire known world, even to people with whom they would not usually associate. These courageous men relied on the power of the Holy Spirit that they received to fulfill this mission so that the whole world would have the opportunity to experience God’s grace and salvation as they had.

It is important for us to know where our faith came from and appreciate these twelve men who gave up their “regular” lives in order to follow Jesus, learned His teaching, and bravely shared that message with so many others. Most of them were believed to be martyred, giving up their lives for this faith. If they could literally give their entire lives for the gospel message, the least we can do is to learn about their stories and learn from their examples so that we can follow Jesus better.

I look forward to you joining me on this journey to learn more about Jesus’ original disciples as we yearn to become better disciples ourselves.

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Chad Koons said...

"If His gospel message had died with those 12 men, then Christianity would have died and none of us would have the opportunity to know Jesus today." What weight does this place upon our shoulders today?! Very well written, looking forward to the series!

Katie said...

Thanks for the comment, Chad! That is exactly why it's so comforting that there are SO many more than 12 followers of Jesus today! :)