LIFE OF CHRIST
In our last lesson on the life of Christ, we looked at how Jesus defended His disciples for plucking heads of grain on the Sabbath by teaching the opposing Jews that it was lawful for them do so. On another Sabbath, He heals a man with a withered hand and teaches the opposing Jews that it is acceptable to good on the Sabbath. The opposing Jews become angry at Jesus, so He leaves that place. Everywhere Jesus went, people came to Him from all over to be healed as we read in:
Matthew 4:24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.† 25 Great multitudes followed Him -- from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.
Markís account gives us additional information:
Mark 3:7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea† 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him.† 9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him.† 10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him.† 11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, "You are the Son of God."† 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.
Just for a minute, I want you to pretend that you are Jesus. You have the amazing ability to heal people and to cast out demons. While your message is far more important, I think we all know more people would be interested in your ability to heal. Lets change roles for just a second and pretend that you have a loved one that is dear to you that has some horrid disease that causes him pain day in and day out. You hear that Jesus is within walking distance from you. What would you do? Well, most people would do whatever they could to get their loved ones to the man that could heal. So, from that perspective, we should be able to understand why people were coming from everywhere just to touch Him because who knows how long this man might be able to heal.
No doubt, some came just to see the mighty works being done and others came to see if the stories were true about Him possibly being the Messiah.
Again, image you are Jesus. These desperate people are coming after you. They are reaching out to touch constantly. It was a good thing that Jesus was not claustrophobic because He would be surrounded by people a lot. In fact, our text says He made preparation to be able to go on a boat to escape the crowd so they would not crush Him. Under the right circumstance, these people could kill Jesus by so many trying to touch Him. I think about black Friday and how people have been killed by the crowds trampling over people just so that can save a few bucks, imagine how intense a crowd would be who wanted to be healed.
Jesus was full of compassion and He would heal people and cast out demons because He loved us all. In verse 12, we see Jesus rebuking the demons and telling them not to make Him known. Jesus did not need these demons revealing who He was because His miracles and His Word would prove He was the Son of God.
Next Jesus will choose His 12 apostles, which is recorded in Mark 3:13-19 and Luke 6:12-16.
Luke 6:12 Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.† 13 And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles:† 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew;† 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot;† 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
Markís account gives more information about the purpose of choosing these 12:
Mark 3:14 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach,† 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:
These 12 men He would choose would be with Him. He would send these 12 out to preach and would give them the power to heal and cast out demons. Before this decision was made, we find Jesus praying all night. One thing we can learn from this example is that God does not mind if you speak to Him all night. Also, before you get ready to make a big decision, pray about it.
We see the 12 Jesus chose to be His apostles including Judas who would betray Him. So, letís get to know a little bit more about these 12 men.
1. Simon, also called Peter or Cephas is always the first one named when the apostles are listed. The name Simon is from the Hebrew and the name Peter is from the Greek. Peterís brother was Andrew, who introduced him to Jesus in the first place as we read in:
John 1:40 †One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother.† 41 He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which is translated, the Christ).† 42 And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, "You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas" (which is translated, A Stone).
Peter was a married man as can be seen in:
Matthew 8:14 Now when Jesus had come into Peter's house, He saw his wife's mother lying sick with a fever.
Peter and His brother were fishermen and lived around the Sea of Galilee. Peter was very zealous and had a tendency to jump without looking. For example, he was the only one that tried to walk out on the water with Jesus, and when Jesusí was being arrested, he pulled out his sword and cut a manís ear off.†
Peter, James, and John made up an inner circle of sorts because these three were together with Jesus at times when the other apostles were not and they were able to see some miracles and other amazing things the others did not get to see such as the transfiguration.
Peter was the one to make the great confession about Jesus that we read about in:
Matthew 16:13 When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?"† 14 So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets."† 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"† 16 Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."† 17 Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.† 18 "And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.† 19 "And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."
Those in the Catholic Church think Peter was the first Pope, but nothing in the New Testament teaches this nor does it talk about a Pope or a succession of Popes. So, this means that the Papacy and everything that goes with it is man made because nothing in the Bible supports it.
Peter is the main apostle we read about in the first 12 chapters of the Book of Acts. He penned two letters of the New Testament, first and second Peter. In addition to being an apostle, he also served as an elder according 1 Pet. 5:1. Historical tradition teaches that Peter requested to be crucified upside down because he did not feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Jesus was. Much more could be said about Peter, but letís move on to his brother Andrew.
2. We do not know a lot about Andrew other than him being Peterís brother and being the one that introduced Peter to Jesus, but we do that he was a disciple of John the Baptist according to John 1. But after John pointed out Jesus as being the Lamb of God, he and his unnamed companion listened to Jesus and became His disciples. At the feeding of the 5000, Andrew was the one who brought Jesusí attention to the lad who had the loaves and fish (Jn. 6:5-9), and he was involved in bringing a request from some Greeks who wanted to speak with Jesus (Jn. 12:20). Finally, he was there with the inner circle when they were asking Jesus about the destruction of Jerusalem (Mk.13:3-4).
Tradition says that Andrew did most of his work in Jerusalem but also traveled to Scythia, Greece, and Asia Minor. Tradition also says that he was martyred by crucifixion on an X-shaped cross.
3. There were two apostles named James. The James I am talking about right now was the son of Zebedee. He is called James the greater and the other James is called James the less. James and his brother are always mentioned together even at his death (Acts 12:2). However, James is always mentioned first, which may mean he was the oldest. James and his brother †were also fishermen, and they were fishing partners with Peter and Andrew. (Lk. 5:10). These two brothers along with Peter were part of Jesusí inner circle. Notice what Jesus called the two brothers:
Mark 3:17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, "Sons of Thunder";
According to Thayer Boanerges: ďdenote fiery and destructive zeal that may be likened to a thunderstorm.Ē Some believe that their personality earned them this name. For example, notice their fiery zeal in:
Luke 9:51 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem,† 52 and sent messengers before His face. And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.† 53 But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.† 54 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"† 55 But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.† 56 "For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them." And they went to another village.
They wanted to destroy these people, but Jesus rebuked them and they moved on to another city. James is the first recorded apostle put to death in Acts 12. King Herod Agrippa I killed him with a sword around A.D. 44.
4. Our fourth apostle is John. We have already covered some background information about him while talking about his brother James. John wrote the Book of John, 1, 2, 3 John, and Revelation. In Acts 8, John goes with Peter to lay hands on the Christians at Samaria so they could receive the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. After his brother was killed in Acts 12, we do not read anything more about John in the Book of Acts. There are a lot things said about John in tradition, but one thing I want to share with you is that it is believed that he is the only apostles that was not killed and died a natural death. Of course, we know that at some point in his life, he was exiled on Patmos for a while (Rev. 1:9).
5. Philip is the next apostle listed. He was from Bethsaida, which was the city of Andrew and Peter (Jn. 1:44). Jesus personally called him to be a disciple (Jn. 1:43), but like Andrew, we read:
John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."
Early on, these disciples were being evangelistic and were bringing people to Jesus, and we should be doing our best to do the same. We do not have a lot of information about this apostle, but we do read about Jesus testing him in:
John 6:5 †Then Jesus lifted up His eyes, and seeing a great multitude coming toward Him, He said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?"† 6 But this He said to test him, for He Himself knew what He would do.† 7 Philip answered Him, "Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may have a little."
Philip did not pass the test because he started counting the money instead of realizing that Jesus would take care this situation money or no money. History tells us that Philip preached in Asia Minor and Phrygia and was executed in Hierapolis.
6. Our sixth apostle is Bartholomew, who is also believed to be Nathanael. We know very little about this apostle other than what the Bible says about Nathanael.
John 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote -- Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."† 46 And Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."† 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!"† 48 Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."† 49 Nathanael answered and said to Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
He was an honest man and it did not take him long to say that Jesus was the Son of God. The only other thing the Bible says about him is that he was from Cana in Galilee (Jn. 21:2). Tradition says that he proclaimed the gospel to many countries and may have done this with Philip and Thomas. Tradition also says he had a painful death because he was flayed and then crucified upside down.
7. Mathew is our seventh apostle listed who was also called Levi. He lived in Capernaum and was a tax collector or publican for the Roman government. The Jews hated tax collectors and considered them to be traitors to their nation. They ranked them up there with murders and thieves. These tax collectors made their prophet by getting the people to pay more that they owed. Zacchaeus is a great example of this, which you can read about in Lk. 19:1-10, but nothing is our text explicitly says that Matthew was dishonest in what he was doing, but it's possible that he was. We know that Matthew was called by Jesus and that he gave Jesus a big feast (Lk. 5:29). We also know that he wrote the Book of Matthew, but we donít know much of anything else.
Tradition is scarce on Matthew. Some say he died a Martyr other say he died a natural death. There is just too much conflicting information to really know much about the life of Matthew beyond what we read in the New Testament. In fact, none of these traditions I am sharing with you should carry much weight. I am only sharing them with you because they are somewhat interesting.
8. Our eighth listed apostle is Thomas. He will be forever remembered as doubting Thomas because of what we read in:
John 20:24 †Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.† 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, "We have seen the Lord." So he said to them, "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe."
No matter what these other disciples claimed, he was not going to believe Jesus was raised from dead unless he could see physical evidence of it. His eyes were opened to the truth as we read in:
John 20:26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, "Peace to you!"† 27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing."† 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!"† 29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."
Though Thomas doubted here in the end, so did the other apostles until they saw the evidence that Jesus had been raised from the dead. We learn that Thomas was committed to following Jesus because earlier when Jesus was going to go raise Lazarus from the dead and his disciples were concerned that the Jews would put Jesus to death, Thomas said,
John 11:16 †"Let us also go, that we may die with Him."
In John 14, Jesus was telling His apostles about how He would go to heaven and prepare a place for them. Thomas asks Jesus:
John 14:5 †"Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?"† 6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
Tradition says that he preached in Syria, Parthia, Persia and India and then was martyred. Again, the tradition about him is pretty weak.
9. Our ninth apostle is James. This James is referred to as the son of Alphaeus (Mt. 10:3; Mk 3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13) and as the son of Mary (Mt. 27:56; Mk. 15:40; Mk. 16:1; Lk. 24:10). He was called James the less (Mk. 15:40).† The word ďlessĒ comes from the Greek word mikros which can mean one who is small or it can simply mean one who is younger.† Either one of these meanings could apply to this James.
Some sources say that this James preached in Palestine and Egypt. According to tradition, he was thrown down from the temple by the opposing Jews, stoned, and then beat with a club. Whether this is true, we will never know for sure.
10. Coming in at number ten is Simon the Zealot or as Markís account says, ďthe Canaanite.Ē Those who were Zealots were very zealous about giving the Jewish nation their independence. They were willing to do anything to make their point no matter how violent it might be. One amazing thing about Jesus is that He chose a Zealot and a tax collector to be two of His apostles.
Normally, these two would be enemies because a tax collector worked for the Romans, so a Zealot would have no problem with killing a tax collector. Yet, Jesus was able to bring these two men together and have them work side by side for the cause of Christ. Jesus and His message have a way of bringing people together from all walks of life. You cannot hate your brother or sister in Christ, so all Christians must learn to drop all prejudice and hate of their fellow brethren.
Tradition has Simon dying in many different ways from crucifixion to being sawed in half. We just donít know much about this apostle at all.†
11. Our eleventh man listed is Thaddaeus who is also called Judas and Labbaeus. Very little is known about this apostle, but we do have Him asking Jesus the following question:
John 14:22 †Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?"
Tradition has him being killed in many different ways as well. All we know for sure is that he was an apostle and no doubt did many things to further the cause of Christ.
12. Finally, the last apostle listed is Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor. Since all the gospels were written after Judas did his dirty deed of betraying Jesus for 30 silver coins you see him called the betrayer or traitor many times throughout the gospel account. To distinguish him for the other Judas, he was also called Iscariot.
Friberg says the following about the word Iscariot:
surname of the Judas who became Jesus' betrayer; usually understood as his place of origin from Kerioth, a town in southern Judea
Judas was the only apostle that was not from Galilee. He was a Judean. I do not believe he started out as a bad man, but became one over time. He was put in charge of the money box, but John tells us this about Judas:
John 12:6 This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
He had a problem when it came to money, which is† exactly what lead him to betray Jesus.
Matthew 26:14 Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priests† 15 and said, "What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?" And they counted out to him thirty pieces of silver.† 16 So from that time he sought opportunity to betray Him.
The night Jesus instituted the Lordís Supper was the night Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas realized what a horrible thing he had done and tried to give the money back, but it was too late. His guilt caused him to hang himself. As Jesus said:
Matthew 26:24 "The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born."
We learn that Judasí position as an apostle is filled by Matthias in Acts 1. Another man we know very little about.
While there are some more things we could examine about these original 12 apostles, I think what I have shared with you is good enough for you see some of their characteristics and background. However, we also learned that there is a lot we do not about most of them. Of course, Paul was also an apostle, but our focus was the original 12. Though we are not giving all the details about these various men, we can know that they were busy for the Lord as long as they lived. Just because their works were not recorded it does not make them any less important.
The same thing is true today. There are many men and women who labor in the Lordís kingdom that do many great works for the Lord, but their names are never known, but God knows them and that is all that is important. As Christians, we should not care if we are known or unknown because we do it for the Lord. We can know that labor will never be in vain as Paul said:
1 Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
I hope you found this lesson informative and that you were able to see how compassion Jesus was when it came to healing people and casting out demons. I hope you learned a few things about the 12 original apostles and how we should not give much weight to the traditions about their lives. Finally, I hope you learned that it does not matter if others know who are because of your deeds because we labor for the Lord to glorify Him. We can know that He sees all and knows everything we are doing. So, donít ever let yourself become discouraged just because no one praises you or acknowledges the work you are doing.