Twelve Disciples or Apostles of Jesus who died for us

A List of the 12 Disciples or Apostles of Jesus with Scriptures


Who was Doctor Luke????


Luke—the author of the third Gospel and the book of Acts—is of special interest for several reasons. He was the only Gentile who wrote any of the books of the Bible. Furthermore, he was the only scientist among the writers.

He is also recognized as a great historian, with his excellent accounts of the key events of the most important era in the history of the world. He also was undoubtedly a devoted Christian, a truth especially demonstrated by his unselfish service and companionship to the apostle Paul. Finally, he was probably the first Christian apologist, zealously concerned to defend and establish the absolute truth of the gospel of Christ.

Luke As Scientist and Medical Doctor

We know nothing for certain about Luke's background or his medical training. He was called "the beloved physician" by Paul (Colossians 4:14), and undoubtedly one reason for his ongoing association with Paul was the latter's need for frequent medical care.

Paul spoke of his "thorn in the flesh," (II Corinthians 12:7), for example, and his "infirmities" (II Corinthians 12:9). We don't know what these were, although they affected him "in the flesh," and thus presumably needed a doctor's care from time to time. Paul had also suffered much actual physical persecution during his
ministry (see II Corinthians 11:23-27), and undoubtedly needed Luke's medical help on many occasions. We can assume that Dr. Luke could have built up a comfortable practice in such a city as Antioch (where he probably met Paul), but he chose instead to serve the Lord in this sacrificial and much-needed capacity of helping Paul. As a scientist, it is interesting to me that the only one of Paul's followers who stayed with him to the end was also a scientist (II Timothy 4:11).

Our Institute for Creation Research is happy to have many medical doctors as part of our own ICR team. The Impact article for April 2002, "The ICR Scientists" lists seventy-four scientists associated with the ICR ministries, of whom no less than five have M.D. degrees and are professional physicians. In addition, five M.D.'s are serving on our ICR Board of Trustees. All of these men are solid Christian creationists and have strong scientific and medical credentials.

As far as Luke's two Bible books are concerned, there is little in either book that utilizes scientific or medical facts or principles. He does refer to the infant Jesus being circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21), and he is the only one of the four Gospel writers who does.

Luke alone of the Gospel writers noted the reliability of the created kinds ("every tree is known by his own fruit" Luke 6:44). Some commentators have noted the ironical relation between Mark 5:26 and Luke 8:43. Mark had said that a certain woman needing healing "had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse." Luke, perhaps trying to defend his professional colleagues, merely said that this same woman "had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any.That is, they had done their best, but it was an incurable disease.

As an historian Luke was highly scientific in the way he compiled the data for his Gospel and his book of Acts for many sections of Acts, of course, he was simply recording carefully what he saw and heard, as a scientist should. He had not been present at the events described in his Gospel, so had not acquired the data directly as had Matthew and John (Mark also, partly through Peter). But as he said in his opening passage, he somehow "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first" (Luke 1:3).

This understanding was acquired in various ways. He evidently had devoted much time to interviewing those who "from the beginning were eyewitnesses" (Luke 1:2). Thus, for example, he was able to give the most thorough account of the events surrounding the human birth of the Lord Jesus, as well as the preceding birth of John the Baptist. He alone reported the beautiful account of the two disciples who met Jesus after His resurrection as they traveled home to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35), as well as a number of other events recorded nowhere else.

At least twenty of Christ's parables are recorded in Luke—a number of which (e.g., the Good Samaritan, the prodigal son) are found only in Luke's gospel.

As far as his own eyewitness accounts in the book of Acts are concerned, he has
achieved the reputation of utmost accuracy. One of the most distinguished of all New Testament archaeologists, Sir William Ramsay, is said to have been converted partially through his surprised realization of the precise accuracy of Luke's depiction of conditions in the first century. In his epochal work,The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament (1915), Ramsay said: "Luke's history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness" (p. 81). He added later: ". . . this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians" (p. 222).

In addition to Luke's scientific devotion to accuracy in reporting, not only of the events of which he was an eyewitness, but also of what he learned from others about the life of Christ, there is one other vital factor. When he claimed to have "had perfect understanding of all things from the very first" (Luke 1:3), he may well have been thinking of God's inspiration of his writings. The phrase "from the very first" could also be translated "from above." It is so translated in John 3:31, for example: "He that cometh from above is above all."

If this phrase is so rendered, it would explain where Luke got his information regarding some events. Of course, all Scripture is divinely inspired (II Timothy 3:16), even when the basic information was acquired by research.

Luke and Apologetics

Luke's writings are of special interest to me, not only because of his scientific accuracy in reporting but also because of his desire to defend the gospel and give evidence for its truth. In fact, most commentators on Luke's Gospel and especially his book of Acts agree that one important purpose was, indeed, that of apologetics. However, their main reason for understanding Acts this way is usually because of Luke's repeated emphasis on the legitimacy of Christianity as far as Rome was concerned, noting that practically all the initial opposition and persecution had been fomented by the Jewish leaders. The attempted defenses of Christ by Pilate and of Paul by Felix, Festus, Agrippa, etc., are recounted.

However, Luke's interest in apo-logetics is broader than that. For example, he begins his two-book narrative with the most in-depth account of Christ's incarnation and birth to be found anywhere. Then he begins his book of Acts by noting that there had been "many infallible proofs" (Acts 1:3) of Christ's resurrection. This is followed by the supernatural events on the day of Pentecost, and then many miracles performed by the apostles as they began preaching the gospel, continually stressing the great truth of His resurrection. There was also much rehearsing of the evidence of fulfilled Messianic prophecy. The presence and power of the Holy Spirit is also evident through much of Luke's record in Acts. Although the book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome, he is still free to preach the gospel to anyone who will listen, especially to the Gentiles.

Finally, the book of Acts closes with the testimony that, despite his nominal status as a Roman prisoner, Paul spent "two whole years" free to preach to all who came to hear, "teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him" (Acts 28:30-31).

Luke and Creation

In concluding this very brief survey of the writings of Dr. Luke, it is good to remember that he was a creationist and delighted in reporting Paul's references to God as Creator. When the chief priests and elders first commanded the apostles "not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus" (Acts 4:18) they simply prayed, beginning their prayers by saying: "Lord,
thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is"
 (Acts 4:24). Then they prayed to God "that with all boldness they may speak thy word" (Acts 4:29), and great numbers were won to Christ.

Soon came the conversion of Paul and the beginning of his missionary journeys. As he went to different cities, he normally preached first to the Jews there, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was their Messiah, that He had died for their sins and been raised from the dead.

When he preached to pagan Gentiles, however, they knew nothing of the Scriptures or the promised Messiah, so Luke tells how Paul began with the creation, then proceeded to the resurrection, then to the gospel. At Lystra, for example, he urged the pagans there to turn from their idols "unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein" (Acts 14:15).

Eventually Paul came to Athens, the very center of pagan culture, particularly encountering Epicurean and Stoic philosophers there, both systems espousing a form of evolution. Here is the gist of what he preached to them, according to Luke: "God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of heaven and earth . . . giveth to all life, and breath, and all things; And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth. . . . He hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead" (Acts 17:24-26,31).

Doctor Luke was surely a great man specially called of God—a scientist, physician, historian, brilliant writer, inspired writer, Christian apologist, and Biblical creationist! Thank God for his unique ministry.

Cite this article: Henry M. Morris, Ph.D. 2004. Doctor LukeActs & Facts. 33 (9).






Doctor Luke






This discovery BLEW MY MIND - Part 4


Who were the 12 disciples or apostles that were with Jesus?  Is Paul to be included in this list since he was called an apostle?


Charting the New Testament - BYU Studies - Four Lists of the Original Twelve Apostles:


What the Word Apostle Means

The word apostle is from the Greek “apostlos” which means “a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders” and so the apostles, formerly disciples, were sent out by God and specifically by Jesus to proclaim the gospel to the known world and told to make disciples of all nations (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 1:8).  The Greek word for disciples is “mathetes” and means “a learner, a pupil.”  It could be said that they are disciplined to learn what is taught because the root of the word “disciple” is discipline.  Anyone that claims to be an apostle today must provide evidence for this as stated in Acts 1:21-22;

“So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”

Notice the qualifications for being an apostle as laid out in Scripture and not as set by the will or beliefs of men.  It is that they must have been “men who have accompanied [the disciples] during all the time that the Lord went in and out among [them]” but there is more, they must have been with Him from the beginning of “the baptism of John until the day when he (Jesus) was taken up from us – one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.”  You see the word “must” is a conditional statement.  Any apostle must have been with the Lord from the day that Jesus was baptized until the time he was taken up (in the Ascension)  and they must have also been with the disciples and had been “a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:22).  That leaves out 100% of everyone today because no one is over 2,000 years old on this earth and so anyone that claims to be an apostle is lying and biblically speaking, cannot even qualify as one.


Why are the lists of disciples different?

There are four lists of the disciples found in Scripture. They sometimes differ in order, but this is not a problem since listing people in a different order still demonstrates that the people were the same. Matthew, Mark, and Luke each contain a list of 12 disciples. However, Acts contains only 11. This is because Judas Iscariot, who had betrayed Christ, had died and was not listed. Acts 1:21-26 tells how they replaced Judas with Matthias thus retaining 12 disciples.

As you can see from the chart below, the disciples are listed according to each section of Scripture. The difference in content occurs with Thaddaeus and Judas the son of James. The most logical explanation is that both names describe the same person. After all, Judas, the son of James, would have been sharing the name of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ. It's highly probable that he preferred to be called Thaddeus.

It is common in Scripture to demonstrate people's alternate names. Take for example Acts 1:23 where we see that someone named Joseph is also called Barsabbas and Justus.

Matthew 10:2-4Mark 3:13-19Luke 6:12-16Acts 1:13-14
Simon (Peter)Simon (Peter)Simon (Peter)Peter
James, son of ZebedeeJames, son of ZebedeeJamesJames
John, the brother of JamesJohn, the brother of JamesJohnJohn
AndrewAndrewAndrewAndrew
PhilipPhilipPhilipPhilip
BartholomewBartholomewBartholomewBartholomew
MatthewMatthewMatthewMatthew
ThomasThomasThomasThomas
James, son of AlphaeusJames, son of AlphaeusJames, son of AlphaeusJames, son of Alphaeus
ThaddaeusThaddaeus----------
Simon the ZealotSimon the ZealotSimon the ZealotSimon the Zealot
Judas IscariotJudas IscariotJudas Iscariot-----
----------Judas the son of JamesJudas the son of James
   (Matthias who was later chosen in Acts 1:21-26)

Jesus Picks His Disciples

It seems likely that Jesus picked 12 followers during his lifetime. The gospels don't explain why Jesus picked these particular guys, and they don't agree about how early in the movement's history they became the core group. But nevertheless, the gospels of Mark and John, which are independent witnesses to the historical Jesus, refer frequently to "the Twelve" (Mark 9:35; 10:32; 11:11; John 6:67–71; 20:24). The author of Luke's gospel usually relies on Mark for his information, but one of Luke's names in his list of the Twelve is different, which may mean that the author had a different and independent list.

Here's a list of the disciples who are usually considered "the Twelve," arranged in order of the earliest noted in the gospel of Mark:

  • Peter: He was a fisherman from Capernaum (John says Bethsaida). He's also often called Simon, Simon Peter, or Cephas. (Cephas comes from the Aramaic for "rock," and Peter comes from the Greek equivalent for the same.)
  • Andrew: He was Peter's brother and fishing partner; John's gospel says that Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist.
  • James: He was son of Zebedee and a fisherman from Capernaum. He's called "James the Great" in later tradition.
  • John: He was James's brother and partner in the family fishing business. And maybe because they're so brazen, in Mark, Jesus gives the two brothers the name Boanerges, which is a Greek form of the Aramaic "sons of thunder" (Mark 10:35–45).
  • Philip: He was from Bethsaida, another town on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
  • Bartholomew: This member of the Twelve doesn't get a lot of press. There simply aren't any stories about him apart from the list of the Twelve. Since the ninth century CE, some people have wondered if he's the Nathanael mentioned in John 1:45–51 and 21:2. Why? Because Nathanael is a normal first name and Bartholomew was more likely a surname (the Greek is based on the Aramaic Bar-Talmai, which means "son of Talmai").
  • Matthew: He's called a toll collector in Matthew's gospel. This reference solves the problem in Mark that the toll collector Levi is called (Mark 2:13–17), but never listed among the Twelve (Mark 3:13–19).
  • Thomas: Thomas, or "twin" in Aramaic, is called "doubting Thomas" because he doubted Jesus's resurrection until he could touch Jesus's wounds himself (John 20:24–29). He's also called Didymus Thomas (which is like saying "twin" twice in both Greek and Aramaic).
  • James: This man, who was the son of Alphaeus, was called in later tradition "James the Less" — not to be confused with James the Great or James brother of Jesus (James was obviously a popular name at the time!).
  • Simon: He was called "the Cananean" (which means "zealous" or "jealous" in Aramaic) in Matthew and Mark and "the Zealot" (the Greek equivalent of the same) in Luke.
  • Thaddeus: There's a bit of controversy when it comes to this 11th disciple. In Mark and Matthew, he's called Thaddeus. Luke, on the other hand, calls this man Jude, son of James.
  • Judas Iscariot: He's the one who betrayed Jesus to the authorities (so he's always put last on lists of the Twelve!).

The differences in the various lists suggest that, by the time the gospels were written, the importance of the Twelve had begun to wane. After all, if they or the communities they founded were still potent, their names would be firmly entrenched and well-known to the gospel authors.

The Twelve disciples' importance may have been dwindling because of their deaths, because of changing leadership patterns in the church, or simply because traditions about the lesser-known ones had been lost. Another reason the Twelve as a group may not have loomed so large at the end of the first century CE has to do with their role. The gospels report that their job was to preach to Israel (Matthew 10:5–6) and to judge the 12 tribes of Israel at the end of time (Q 22:30). But by the late first century, when the gospels are composed, the message is no longer being preached just to Israel, and the end of time seems indefinitely delayed.


The Twelve Apostles

Like almost everything else in the gospel accounts of Jesus' life, we find problems with the accounts regarding the apostles of Jesus:

All these show that by the time the gospels were written very little was known about most of the apostles except their names and even of these there were already divergent traditions. Our suspicion about the historicity of there being twelve apostles is further heightened by the fact that the number twelve itself is a number pregnant with Old Testament symbolism. In short, Christianity which claims itself an historical religion spread by eyewitnesses to the miraculous events of Jesus life, has a problem with this: the eyewitnesses themselves may well be fictitious!

Back to the top

The Apostles: Fifteen Names for Twelve Slots

According to all the four gospels and the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus selected a band, twelve in number, of disciples to help him to preach his message. Each of the synoptic supplied a list of the twelve apostles while Acts listed the eleven left after Judas committed suicide. In all other respects, the list in Acts is identical to that in Luke, which is to be expected, since they were both penned by the same author. In the gospel of John the names of nine apostles can be found interspersed in the narrative. The table below gives a summary of the four lists.

Matthew 10:2-4Mark 3:14-19Luke 6:13-16/Acts 1:13John(various)
Simon PeterSimon PeterSimon PeterSimon Peter (1:42)
AndrewAndrewAndrewAndrew (1:40)
James s/o ZebedeeJames s/o ZebedeeJames s/o ZebedeeThe sons of Zebedee (21:2)
John s/o ZebedeeJohn s/o ZebedeeJohn s/o Zebedee
PhilipPhilipPhilipPhilip (1:43)
BartholomewBartholomewBartholomew
ThomasThomasThomasThomas (20:24)
MatthewMatthewMatthew
James s/o AlphaeusJames s/o AlphaeusJames s/o Alphaeus
ThaddaeusThaddaeus
Simon the CananeanSimon the CananeanSimon the Cananean
Judas IscariotJudas IscariotJudas IscariotJudas Iscariot (6:71)
Judas s/o JamesJudas (14:22)
Nathanael (1:45)
The Apostles of Jesus

A glance at the table above will show that the four lists (I count the lists in Luke-Acts as one) are by no means harmonious. The only two lists that tally each other are those of Mark and Matthew. Luke's list differ from these by including a second Judas (son of James) among the twelve. His list excluded the name Thaddaeus found in Mark and Matthew. John's list agrees with Luke in including a second Judas but compounds the problem by including yet another apostle not found in any of the three earlier lists: Nathanael.

The apologists had tried to reconcile these discrepancies. First they claimed that Bartholomew is actually bar Talmai (son of Talmai) and that his name is Nathanael. (It is amazing that this explanation, if true, was first mentioned only in the ninth century CE) And then they claimed that Thaddaeus is the surname of Judas son of James. These reconstructions, of course (the avid will reader would have already gotten used to the method of the apologists by now), have no support whatsoever for it. In other words we do not know if Bartholomew is Bar Talmai, and we definitely do not know that Nathanael was the son of one Talmai. We definitely have no reason whatsoever to even believe that Thaddaeus was the surname of Judas son of James. These reconstructions are proposed solely to reconcile the four lists to one another and save the precious doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. [1]

This is not all. In ancient manuscripts of Mark and Matthew the name of the tenth apostle are rendered in two different ways: Lebbaeus and Thaddaeus. These names are not interchangeable and represent two distinct names. The balance of evidence from these manuscripts point to Lebbaeus being the original reading in Matthew and Thaddaeus in Mark. [2] [a]

Back to the top

Is Levi the same as the apostle Matthew ?

Another difficulty arises with the apostle Matthew. The gospel named after him gave an account of his calling:

Matthew 9:9-10 
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, "Follow me," he told him. And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at the table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.

The problem with that account is that Mark (copied by Luke) gave exactly the same story but supplied a different name for the tax collector:

Mark 2:14-15 (Luke 5:27-29)
And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he rose and followed him. And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.

Luke's account also gave Levi as the name of the tax collector. In all the synoptic lists however, it was Matthew and not Levi who was placed in them. Christian apologists simply assumed that Matthew and Levi are one and the same person. Some had suggested that Matthew was the Christian name taken on by Levi after he followed Christ. This, however, does not resolve the problem. There is no evidence that Matthew was the Greek name for Levi. [4]In fact Matthew is as authentically a Hebrew name as Levi. [5] Note that Mark, by calling Levi the son of Alphaeus makes him very probably the brother of the apostle James son of Alphaeus. Nowhere in the gospel of Matthew do we find any hint of a family tie between Matthew and James. Mark in his list of the twelve apostles, gave the name of Matthew and not Levi. He surely would have stated that this Matthew was Levi, whose calling he narrated earlier, had that been the case. [6]

Back to the top

The Lacuna in the New Testament

Coupled with this uncertainty as to who exactly constituted the original twelve apostles, we are even more uncertain about what their subsequent histories were. In the New Testament, our knowledge of the apostles are mainly limited to Peter and the sons of Zebedee (John and James). According to the gospels Peter, John and James formed the inner circle of Jesus disciples. They were the only ones present to witness the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51), the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2; Luke 9:28) and the prayers in the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:37; Mark 14:33). [7]

Outside the gospel and Acts we have the genuine epistles of Paul attesting to Peter and John as the "Jerusalem Pillars" (Galatians 2:9). We also know from Paul that Peter was married (I Corinthians 9:5), he was the first to see the risen Jesus (I Corinthians 15:5) and that he traveled outside Jerusalem (Galatians 2:11).

Matthew, surprisingly, is mentioned only once outside the list of apostles given above, in the short passage in the gospel of Matthew 9:9-10. This passage narrates his calling as an apostle followed by Jesus having dinner at his house.

Two apostolic deaths are narrated in the New Testament. Judas Iscariot was the first apostle to have died (Matthew 27:9; Acts 1:18) by committing suicide after the crucifixion of Jesus around 30 CE. The next disciple to have suffered martyrdom was James son of Zebedee (Acts 12:2); he was beheaded by Herod Antipas around 44 CE. [8]

With no exaggeration, the above represents the sum total of (somewhat) reliable information about the apostles in the New Testament. The information about the rest of the apostles are either nonexistent or unreliable.

The apostles Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananean, James son of Alphaeus [b] and Bartholomew appear only in the list of apostles given above. Nothing else is written about them in all of the New Testament! [10]

Added to these there are two other apostles that appear only as names in the Synoptic gospels and Acts: Thomas and Philip [c]. Thus as far as the synoptic gospels and Acts are concerned, these two are merely names, just like the other four above. Indeed the case with Thomas is even worse: it was not even a name! "Thomas" comes from the Hebrew T'hom, which means "twin". The seemingly additional surname in John 11:16 translated in the King James as "Thomas who is called Didymus" adds nothing new, for "didymus" is simply Greek for "the Twin"! Modern translations now give this passage as "Thomas who is called 'the Twin'". There is no evidence in contemporary literature that either Thomas or Didymus was ever used as names during that period. [12]

Andrew is mentioned, in the synoptics, only a little bit more than the other six we have seen above. We are told of his calling (Mark 1:16; Matthew 4:18) and his questioning Jesus at the Mount of Olives (Mark 13:3). [d]

Thus in the New Testament, except in the gospel of John which we will examine immediately below, we are told nothing more about six of the apostles - Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananean, James son of Alphaeus, Bartholomew, Thomas, Philip - except their names! Even Matthew and Andrew barely get any mention beyond their names in the list of the twelve apostles. Indeed these eight apostles are shadowy characters-we know nothing much beyond their names.

Back to the top

John's Treatment of the "Shadowy" Apostles

Three of the shadowy apostles mentioned in the section above, Thomas, Philip and Andrew, are given more prominent roles in the gospel of John. The passages concerning these apostles in John are as follows:

  • Thomas
    • John 11:16 The Raising Of Lazarus
      Then Thomas who was called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us go, so that we may die with him."
    • John 14:5 Jesus' Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper
      Thomas says to him, "Lord, we do not know where we are going; how can we know the way?"
    • John 20:24-29 Story of Doubting Thomas
  • Andrew
    • John 1:35-42 The Call of Andrew and Peter
    • John 6:8-9 The Feeding of the Multitudes
      One of the disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, says to him, "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fishes. But what are these among so many?"
    • John 12:21-22 Greek Believers in Jesus
      Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew amd Philip went and told Jesus.
  • Philip
    • John 1:29-51 The Call of Philip and Nathanael
    • John 6:5-8 The Feeding of the Multitudes
      Jesus said to Philip "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"...Philip answered him, "200 denarii would not be enough bread for each of them to get a little."
    • John 12:21-22 Greek Believers in Jesus
    • John 14:8 Jesus' Farewell Discourse at the Last Supper
      Philip says to him, "Lord, show us the father, and that suffices us"

Many of these incidents given in the gospel of John in which the names of these apostles are included are demonstrably unhistorical.

For instance the presence of Andrew (John 6:8-9) and Philip (John 6:5-8) in the miracle of the feeding of multitudes is merely the addition of names to an incident which never happened. The Jesus Seminar called this event "a narrative ritualization of a common practice" of Jesus sharing a common meal of fish and bread with his friends. [13]

Similarly the appearance of Thomas in the Raising of Lazarus (John 11:16) and his major role in the Doubting Thomas episode of the resurrection narratives are merely addition of his name to fictitious accounts. [14]

On other occasions the names of the disciples are merely added with questions for Jesus to break the monotony of his long discourses. This is the judgment of the Jesus Seminar on the questions of Thomas (John 14:5) and Philip (John 14:9) in the farewell discourse of Jesus during the last supper:

In the "farewell speeches", the fourth evangelist attributes to Jesus, he occasionally inserts dialogue in order to relieve the monotony of long, uninterrupted monologues. In this segment Thomas is the foil for the question about the way to the place Jesus is going in v.5. Philip functions as the dolt in v.8. These questions and Jesus' answers are completely alien to the historical Jesus, the crafter of parables, aphorisms, and witticisms. Both the words and the contrived narrative framework deserve a black rating. [i.e. "largely or wholly unhistorical" according to the rating system of the Jesus Seminar-PT] [15]

The appearance of the pair, Andrew and Philip, in the episode of the Greeks who were seeking Jesus (John 12:20-22) faces similar problems. The whole story seems to serve as justification for the existence of Gentiles in the second century church when there was no story of Jesus preaching to them. The obviously unhistorical element of a voice speaking out from the sky (John 12:28-29 - akin to the episode of Jesus' baptism in Mark 1:10-11) simply confirms the whole unhistorical nature of the story. The Jesus Seminar rated this episode as unhistorical (i.e. black). [16]

We are left only with the calling of Andrew/Peter (John 1:35-42)and Philip/Nathanael (John 1:43-51).

Let us look at the call of Andrew and Peter first. We have John the Baptist calling Jesus "the lamb of God" and "son of God" (John 1:29-36). The narrative mentioned that Andrew "heard this" and followed Jesus and later convinced Peter to do the same. Yet this is totally implausible. We know from the old sayings source Q (Luke 7:18-20/Matthew 11:2-3) that when John the Baptist was imprisoned, he actually sent out his disciples to ask Jesus "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" . Thus even after his arrest, the Baptist is still not clear who exactly Jesus was. To him pronounced Jesus as "son of God" and "lamb of God" the moment he laid his eyes of Jesus is being a little, to quote Winston Churchill, "economical with the truth". [17]

For the calling of Philip and Nathanael, there are several difficulties which suggest the story as it stands is unhistorical. Firstly we note that the pair of call stories (Andrew/Peter and Philip/Nathanael) parallels that found in Mark (1:16-20) where we have the pairs of Peter/Andrew and James/John. These strongly suggest that the early oral tradition felt that two stories of the calling of pairs are sufficient for purposes. The oral tradition went through a natural evolution and diverged into two strands where the names of the second pair become Philip/Nathanael in John and James/John in Mark. Secondly, we note that the name , Nathanael, is in itself suspect. As we have seen above, the name is not found in the list of the twelve apostles in the synoptics. The name Nathanael, which means "God gives", is very rarely found in Rabbinic writings. According to John March, these factors strongly suggest that John chose this name "more for theological meaning than historical exactitude". So apart from the namePhilip, which is confirmed by the other sources, very little in the story as narrated by John can be confidently said to be historical. [18]

We can safely conclude that the gospel of John adds no new information to the shadowy apostles of the synoptics.

Back to the top

Later Tradition of Apostles

Outside the New Testament, there is even less reliable information about the twelve apostles. In the words of the historian of early Christianity, Professor Henry Chadwick, in the immediate aftermath of the death and "resurrection" of Jesus:

Most of the twelve disciples disappear from history. Only Peter, John, and James the Lord's brother are more than names. [19]
[Italics mine-PT]

Another historian who has also written on early Christianity, Paul Johnson, concurs.

Only with Peter can we trace any activity; with John it is barely possible, though we can assume it since he was martyred. And it is quite impossible with the rest. James, Jesus’ brother, is an identifiable personality, indeed an important one. But he is not an "apostle", nor one of the "twelve". [20]
[Italics mine-PT]

To fill this lacuna of stories regarding the apostles, during the period spanning roughly 150-250 CE, five apocryphal acts were written. These were The Acts of PeterThe Acts of JohnThe Acts of AndrewThe Acts of Thomas and The Acts of Paul. These are all works written chiefly to entertain, to instruct and to spread Christian propaganda. Very little in these works can be considered historical. [21]

  • The Acts of Peter is preserved today only in scattered fragments in various languages. That the work is largely a fictional invention can be seen from its obsession with virginity and morbid hatred of sex-a trend that was developing during the time it was written. However it does seem to preserve some authentic tradition of Peter's martyrdom in Rome. According to this work, Peter was crucified on an upside down cross during the persecution of Nero. [22]
  • The Acts of John is of little historical value since it confused the John the seer of Revelation with the apostle John. [23] John the son of Zebedee is some sort of an enigma. Tradition from late second century (Ireneaus [c130-c200] and Clement of Alexandria [c150-c215]) asserted that John died in Ephesus during the reign of Trajan which would put his death around the year 98 to 117. [24] There is an alternate tradition however, that placed his death very early; stating that he was martyred, together with his brother James, in 44 CE. [25]
  • The Acts of Andrew is another work of Christian fiction. It story of Andrew's martyrdom in Patras Greece is generally considered unhistorical. The tradition that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross (St. Andrew's Cross) is based on an even later tradition; around the thirteenth century. [26]
  • The Acts of Thomas narrates the story of Thomas' mission to India. Some scholars, about a century ago, argued for this historicity of this Acts due to mention of an actual Indian King, Gundaphorus in the work. [27]However this view is no longer held today. The presence of the reference to actual historical personae is due to the fact that during the time the Acts of Thomas was written, there was a lively commercial and cultural exchange between Edessa, where the Acts was composed, and India. Thus there was ample opportunity for the author to pick up historical details to weave into his narrative. [28] One of the main reason why the Acts of Thomas is considered unhistorical is due to the presence of late Gnostic, Mandean and Manichean influence in the work. [29] [e]

The fact that there was little information available on the twelve apostles can be seen from the excerpt below from Eusebius' History of the Church:

History of the Church 3:1
Meanwhile the holy apostles and disciples of our Savior were dispersed throughout the world. Parthia, according to tradition, was allotted to Thomas as his field of labor, Scythia to Andrew, and Asia to John, who, after he had lived some time there, died at Ephesus.Peter appears to have preached in Pontus, Galatia, Bithynia, Cappadocia, and Asia to the Jews of the dispersion. And at last, having come to Rome, he was crucified head-downwards; for he had requested that he might suffer in this way.

It should be recalled that Eusebius (c260-c340) was the ecclesiastical historian of early Christianity. He had access to the vast library of early Christian works at Caesarea which he cited and quoted extensively in this book. Yet when it comes to the subsequent career of the apostles, all he could muster was the same four names as the apocryphal Acts: Thomas, Andrew, John and Peter! Furthermore he gave no indication that his list was incomplete or that it was merely an excerpt. [30]

After the publication of these five apocryphal Acts, the next generations of Christian hagiographers concocted even more grotesque and less believable Acts. There were Acts of PhilipActs of Peter and AndrewThe Martyrdom of MatthewThe Acts of Andrew and Bartholomew and so on. Schneelmacher's New Testament Apocrypha Volume II listed forty of such works. These works were mainly expansions of the original five apocryphal Acts with no historical value. [31]

Needless to say, the traditions regarding the later ministries of the "shadowy" apostles are late and extremely unreliable. For instance, the apostle Matthew was supposed to have been martyred (according to different traditions) in Ethiopia, Persia and Pontus! [32] Like Matthew, Bartholomew also managed to die multiple deaths of martyrdom. He was supposed to have been martyred in India and in Armenia. Contradictory, late and unreliable traditions exist about all the apostles. [33] History knows nothing about them.

Back to the top

Conclusions

We thus know nothing about the subsequent careers of the apostles except for Peter, James and John. Even as early as the end of the first century, when the gospels and Acts were first composed, we have clear evidence that information regarding the apostles was already hard to come buy. We find fifteen names for the list of twelveapostles. Even if we confined ourselves to the twelve names given in Mark and Matthew the problem is not resolved. For at least six of these names are nothing more than names; we know nothing about Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananean, James son of Alphaeus, Bartholomew, Thomas and Philip. With Matthew and Andrew we know only slightly more: that Matthew was a tax collector when he was called and that Andrew was Peter's brother. With Judas, there are problems with the whole story of his betrayal. [Which we examine elsewhere.]

Subsequent traditions have no more to add to these. The early apocryphal acts of Peter, John, Andrew and Thomas, contain very little that is historically reliable. The later ones were even worse and are merely fanciful expansions of these earlier works. Even the ecclesiastical historian Eusebius, could do no more than repeat the four names of the apocryphal acts when recounting what he knows about the subsequent careers of the apostles.

Two possibilities present themselves. The number twelve, as we have noted has rich symbolic value in Judaism being equal to the tribes of Israel. This means that the number twelve could be one that tradition assumed the number of disciples to be. [f] The other possibility, more damning, I think, to Christian belief, is that the mission of the twelve was a failure. We know today that a large part of Christian theology has its roots in the epistles of Paul who was not one of the original twelve apostles. The original apostles, the ones actually hand-picked by Jesus,made no impact on Christian history whatsoever[34]

Back to the top

Notes

a.The editors of the UBS Greek New Testament decided to leave Thaddaeus as the reading for both Mark 3:18 and Matthew 10:3. However as one of the editors explained the issue was not that simple. While they rated the Thaddeus reading in Mark as "A", meaning they are certain that this was the original reading here, the issue was "more difficult" with the reading in Matthew. There were four different types of reading here: "Thaddaeus", "Lebbaeus", and "Lebbaeus who was called Thaddaeus" and "Thaddaeus who was called Lebbaeus". Finally the editors opted for "Thaddaeus" but rated the reading a "B". [3]
b.The identification of James the son of Alphaeus with James the Less (Mark 15:40) or with James the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3) is pure conjecture[9]
c.Not to be confused with Philip, one of the seven Hellenist deacons in Acts (6:5; 8-4-50; 21:8).
d.Even this meager information is considered suspect by scholars. The Jesus Seminar called the whole backdrop of the thirteen chapter of Mark (at the Temple and then at the Mount of Olives) a "fictive setting" and the verses containing the question of Andrew of Peter (Mark 13:3-4) as a continuation of the fictitious narrative framework. [11]
e.We will not be discussing the Acts of Paul here as he was not one of the twelve apostles.
f.Sources hostile to Christianity preserved different numbers of apostles. The second century critic of Christianity, Celsus, mentioned that there were ten (or eleven) apostles. (see Origen Against Heresies 2:46 & 1:62) The Babylonian Talmud listed only five apostles: Matthai, Nagai, Nezer, Buni and Thoda (Sanhedrin 43a). [35]

Back to the top

References

1.Cadoux, The Life of Jesus: p105
Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p150-151
Nineham, Saint Mark: p117
Riedel et.al., The Book of the Bible: p437
2.Fenton, Saint Matthew: p152
Nineham, Saint Mark: p117
3.Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament: p26, 81
4.Fenton, op. cit: p136
5.Craveri, op. cit: p153
6.Nineham, op. cit: p99
7.Riedel et.al., op. cit: p428
8.Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p267
Riedel et.al., The Book of the Bible: p435
9.Brownrigg, Who's Who in the Bible: The New Testament: p146
10.Goodspeed, The Twelve: p19, 41-44 
Riedel et.al., op. cit: p437-438
11.Funk, et.al., The Acts of Jesus: p133-134
12.Goodspeed, op. cit: P 25, 43
13.Funk, et.al., op. cit: p387
14.Funk, et.al., op. cit: p409-411, 422
Ludemann, Jesus After 2000 Years: p510, 582
15.ibid: p422
16.ibid: p415
17.ibid: p368-369
18.ibid: p370-371 
Ludeman, op. cit: p429-433
Marsh, Saint John: p135-136
19.Chadwick, The Early Church: p17
20.Johnson, History of Christianity: p33
21.Goodspeed, op. cit: p146, 163
Scneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha Vol II: p78-83
22.Goodspeed, op. cit.: p157
Perkins, Peter, Apostle for the Whole Church: p141-144
Riedel et.al., The Book of the Bible: p431
23.Goodspeed, op. cit.: p152
24.Eusebius: History of the Church: 3:23 & notes p380
25.Craveri, The Life of Jesus: p152
26.Eusebius: History of the Church: notes p344
Livingstone, Dictionary of the Christian Church: p20
Riedel et.al., The Book of the Bible: p433
27.Streeter, The Primitive Church: p29-30
28.Scneemelcher, op. cit: p325
29.Goodspeed, op. cit.: p158
30.Scneemelcher, op. cit.: p19
31.Goodspeed, op. cit.: p163-164
Scneemelcher, New Testament Apocrypha Vol II: p426 
32.Riedel, op. cit.: p437
33.Brownrigg op. cit: 42
Ferguson, Encyclopedia of Early Christianity: p168
34.Guignebert, Jesus: p221
Nineham, Saint Mark: p115
35.Scneemelcher, op. cit.: p17

Jesus Chooses the Twelve

Matthew 10:1-4 “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.  The names of the twelve apostles are these: 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 tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.”

Notice that it was Jesus that choose the twelve apostles and not the apostles that chose to be one of His; therefore it is Jesus that chooses apostles and not apostles (or men) who choose to be one.  Ironically Jesus even chose one that He knew would betray Him so that “the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 13:18).

Peter, James and John

Matt 17:1-2 “Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”

These men were in the inner circle of Jesus because He often took them aside as He did in the Transfiguration and let them see things that the others did not and told them things that He didn’t tell the others as he did in the Transfiguration.

Andrew Brings Peter

John 1:40-42 “One of the two who heard John (the Baptist) speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother.  He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ).  He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter).”

I love Andrew because he was always bringing people to Christ.  Andrew brought Peter to meet Jesus and Jesus proclaim him to be called “Cephas” or Peter which meant “the (little) rock” or stone. Many churches are called Saint Andrews because of this very fact.

Philip and Nathaniel

John 1:43-47 “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”  Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  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.”  Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”  Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”

Once more we see that Jesus “found Philip and said to him ‘follow me.’”  Jesus calls us just as He did the disciples or apostles and Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus just as Andrew brought Peter.  Philip understood the Scriptures that spoke of Jesus saying “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law (Duet 18:18) and also the prophets (Isaiah 52-53; Psalm 21-23) wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”  Philip saw what the religious leaders could not see, that the Scriptures clearly testified about Jesus and even though they had studied them diligently, they refused to see that it was Jesus Who fulfilled them (John 5:39).

Doubting Thomas

John 20:24-25, 28 “Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe [but when Thomas saw Jesus] ”Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”  

I think we are too hard on Thomas because Thomas was ready to go up to Jerusalem and die with Christ (John 11:16) while the others tried to talk Jesus out of going back to Judea (John 11:8).

Matthew the Tax Collector

Matthew 9:9-10a “As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house.”

Once more we see Jesus tells one of the twelve “Follow me” which again testifies to the fact that Jesus chose the disciples or apostles and not the other way around.  Jesus told the disciples that “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you” (John 15:16).  Anyone that is a believer or follower of Christ is one that Christ Himself has chosen (Eph 1, 2) for it is not we who choose Him but He has chosen us.

James, Son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot

Acts 1:12-14 “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.  And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.  All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection in His glorified body, the disciples went into “the upper room” which by Luke, the author of Acts, giving the name specifically as “the upper room,” may have been the same upper room where the Lord’s last Passover Meal was taken with the disciples.  Here we see the remaining two disciples, James the son of Alphaeus, so designated so that he may be differentiated from James the son of Zebedee, and Simon the Zealot all meeting together and “devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his four brothers (James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas).

Paul an Apostle

Mathias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus and hanged himself (Acts 1:28) “and he numbered with the eleven.”  But wasn’t Paul an apostle too?  That is what the Bible says and since we know that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16), if the Bible says that Paul was an apostle then he surely must have been.  Listen to the statements of Paul where he declares himself to be one, but not of his own accord but as chosen by Jesus Christ.

Galatians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle—not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.”

Colossians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.”

First Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus.”

There are several other verses where Paul is designated or called to be an apostle in his own letters and by others and he is called by Jesus Who alone calls anyone that is an apostle.

Conclusion

If God has called you then you can know you are called if you have repented and trusted in Christ.  If not, then you are not a disciple or follower of Christ and you only think you are.  You may not be an apostle but all who follow Christ are His disciples and we are commanded to make disciples of all people everywhere (Matt 28:18-20) and we are given the power and authority of Christ to do so (Acts 1:8).  This was not just for those in the first century but for all believers today.  I hope you will be a disciple of His and if you know of anyone else that is not saved, why haven’t you proclaimed the good news to them?


the disciples of Jesus, the earliest of whom were brought to Him by a friend or relative.

The disciples of our Lord play a very significant role in the New Testament. Each of the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)66 has two “callings.” The first “calling”67 is preliminary, which comes very early in our Lord’s ministry and does not seem to be permanent. At this time only two sets of brothers are called: James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and Simon and Andrew. In Matthew and Mark, the calling of the four fishermen is more briefly described.

A more expanded account of the first calling is found in Luke chapter 5, which goes a long way in explaining the terse accounts of Matthew and Mark. Jesus came to the Lake of Gennesaret,68 where He began to teach the multitude gathered to hear Him. Two boats were nearby, one belonging to James and John, and the other to Peter and Andrew. Jesus got into Peter’s boat and asked him to push off from shore so that He could teach those on the shore more easily. After Jesus finished teaching, He instructed Peter to set out into deeper water and let down the net for a catch. He didn’t suggest that they try to catch fish, but spoke of it as a certainty. Peter and his partners had been up all night fishing, with no success. If there was one thing in which Peter felt he was an expert, it was fishing. He let Jesus know this was not his idea of a great plan, but he did as Jesus instructed. When they reached deep water and drew the net in, it was filled. Peter had to call to James and John for help. They brought their boat alongside, and both boats were so full of fish they began to sink. Peter suddenly realized that Jesus was far greater than he had supposed, and he fell before Him. Peter told Him to depart from him because he was a sinful man. Immediately following this, Jesus challenges these men to follow Him, because from now on they “will be catching people” (Luke 5:10). Luke then tells us that they beached their boats and left everything to follow Jesus. John does not even mention this first “calling.”

We know that it was not until the second “calling” that Jesus appointed the twelve to be His disciples. This later calling is recorded in the Synoptic Gospels,69 but it is not found in the Gospel of John. In fact, there is no “calling” of disciples in John except for the “calling” of Philip70 found in our text. There is not even a listing of the names of the twelve disciples in John’s Gospel. There are only four references to “the twelve,” three found in the same chapter (John 6:67, 70, 71), and the final one found in chapter 20, verse 24. In John, the most extensive listing of our Lord’s disciples is found in the final chapter: “After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. Now this is how he revealed himself. Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael (who was from Cana in Galilee), the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples of his were together” (John 21:1-2).

Here, three disciples are named: Simon Peter, Thomas, and Nathanael. James and John are referred to indirectly as the “sons of Zebedee,” and two other disciples are mentioned as present but not identified. There is no mention of James by name in John’s Gospel, no mention of the inner three (Peter, James, and John). The closing verses of chapter 1 are the only description of how Jesus obtained any of His disciples. From chapter 2 on, we read of “Jesus and His disciples” (2:2), or just “His disciples.” Let us look, then, at these verses which describe how Jesus obtained some of His disciples.

Jesus and the Two Disciples of John 
(1:35-39)

35 Again the next day John was standing there with two of his disciples. 36 Looking at Jesus as he walked by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” 37 When his two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned around and saw them following and said to them, “What do you want?” So they said to him, “Rabbi” (which is translated Teacher), “where are you staying?” 39 Jesus said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day. Now it was about four o’clock in the afternoon (John 1:35-39).

One day we find John speaking of Messiah as One who is somewhere in Israel, among His people but not yet recognized (1:26-27, 30-31), and the next day he is proclaiming Jesus as the promised Messiah (1:29-30). The identity of Jesus as the Messiah is revealed to John at the Lord’s baptism (1:31-34). Immediately, John begins to declare that Jesus is the One of whom he has been speaking. Shortly afterward, the Lord walks by John and two of his disciples. As Jesus walks away, John tells his two disciples that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” (verse 35). These disciples leave John’s side and set out after Jesus. As they begin to draw near to Jesus, He turns around, and seeing that they are following Him, asks, “What do you seek?

Jesus does not ask them, “Whom do you seek?” but “What do you seek?” This is not an unfriendly question, intended to put them off. Rather the question seems designed to encourage them to verbalize what they want from Him and to crystallize just what they are doing. These two men may be caught off guard by the question because they respond, “Rabbi, where are You staying?” I must confess I initially was inclined to think this was a rather stupid response, the kind I have given when caught off guard and I cannot think of the right thing to say. Their answer may be more thoughtful than I first suspected. They may be politely asking Jesus to be His disciples.

Our Lord’s answer is encouraging: “Come and see” (verse 39). It is a very different answer than the one Jesus gave to another volunteer: “As they were walking along the road, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’” (Luke 9:57-58).

If being a disciple literally means following one’s master, then one would stay with that master. Jesus telling this “would be” volunteer that there was nowhere to stay may have been a polite way for our Lord to decline the offer to become His disciple. When Jesus encourages John’s two disciples to come and see where He is staying, He seems to be inviting them to follow Him as His disciples. Thus, some students of Scripture understand that these two men, who encounter Jesus at 4:00 p.m., spend the night at His house.71

Andrew Brings Simon to Jesus 
(1:40-42)

40 Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard what John said and followed Jesus. 41 He found first72 his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Christ). 42 Andrew brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, the son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which is translated Peter).

We know from verse 40 that Andrew, Simon’s brother, was one of the two disciples who followed Jesus home. I assume, with many others, that the Apostle John was the other man who left John the Baptist to follow Jesus. Andrew wasted no time finding his brother Simon and telling him, “We have found the Messiah” (verse 41). The term Messiah is a transliteration of the Hebrew term, meaning “anointed.” In each case, this Hebrew term is translated CristoV (“Christos”) in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint). Priests (Exodus 28:41; 40:15; etc.), prophets (1 Kings 19:16) and kings (1 Samuel 9:16; 16:32 Samuel 12:7) were anointed with oil to consecrate them for their office and duties. Among all the “anointed ones” of the Old Testament, one figure stands apart and above the rest: “You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (Psalm 45:7; see also 2:2, NKJV).

In the Old Testament, this (“Christos,” “the Christ”) term became one of the names by which the promised Savior (Daniel 9:25-26) was known. Only twice is the term “Messiah” found in the New Testament, and both times it is in the Gospel of John:

He found first his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated Christ) (John 1:41).

The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (the one called Christ). Whenever he comes, he will tell us everything” (John 4:25).

Most of the time the expected Messiah (to use the transliteration of the Hebrew term for “the Anointed One”) is called “the Christ.” This expression occurs 56 times in the New Testament, 17 of which are in John’s Gospel.73 John’s purpose in writing this Gospel is to convince his readers that Jesus of Nazareth is “the Christ”: “But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31, emphasis mine).

Now when Andrew comes to his brother Peter, he informs him that they have found “the Messiah,”
the Christ.” Andrew is certainly right in what he says, but he is saying far more than he realizes at this point in his life. He is right in concluding that Jesus is “the Messiah.” What he and all the other disciples need to learn is what it means to be “the Messiah.” Their understanding of this is limited, and at times distorted. So it is that when Peter makes his “great confession” that Jesus is “the Christ” (Matthew 16:16), he almost immediately thereafter rebukes “the Christ” for talking about His imminent suffering and death on the cross of Calvary (Matthew 16:21-23).

Peter accompanies Andrew and they make their way to Jesus. When our Lord looks upon Peter, He gives him a new name: Cephas, the Aramaic equivalent to Petros (Peter), meaning “rock.” It is interesting that Jesus does not “call” Peter here, nor does Peter volunteer (though John may simply have chosen to omit such details). Instead, Jesus renames Simon, calling him Peter, “the Rock.” Giving a name to someone implies much in the Bible. Adam named the animals God created, reflecting the fact that God had appointed him to “rule” over His creation. God renamed a number of people, including Abram (to Abraham), Sarai (to Sarah), and Jacob (to Israel). In each case, it reflects God’s sovereignty in that He is going to change the destiny of the one whose name He has changed.74 Simon is far from a “rock” when Jesus first meets him. He begins to evidence some rock-like traits at the “great confession” (Matthew 16:15-19), but not until after the resurrection of our Lord and Pentecost does Peter truly become a “rock.” I do not believe our Lord saw “rock” tendencies or potential in Simon; I believe our Lord purposed to make a rock of Simon, and that He did. There is nothing “rockie” in this “rookie”; it is our Lord who makes a rock of this man. His naming of Simon is therefore prophetic.75

In the Synoptic Gospels, we are never told how or when Simon was given the name Peter. We are only told that his name was Peter. Throughout these Gospels, he is either called Simon, or Peter, or Simon Peter. Our text alone supplies us with the story of how Peter got his name. Once again, we see the unique contribution of the Book of John to the canon of Scripture.

The Calling of Philip 
and the Confession of Nathanael 
(1:43-51)

43 On the next day Jesus76 wanted to depart for Galilee. He77 found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida,78 the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”79 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip replied, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” Jesus replied, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus said to him, “Because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 He continued, “I tell you the solemn truth: you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”80

When Jesus reaches Galilee, He first encounters Philip and calls him as a disciple.81 It is interesting that our Lord makes this invitation to Philip alone in this Gospel. In the Synoptic Gospels, there are other callings to discipleship, as we have indicated. But in the Gospel of John, only Philip is invited to “follow” Jesus, and that is here in our text. This is most interesting since Philip does not appear to be the kind of person who would be distinguished in this way by our Lord.

In the Synoptic Gospels, Philip is included once in each Gospel, and this is when the twelve men Jesus appoints as His disciples are named. Nothing else is said of him as an individual in the Synoptics. If asked what kind of person Philip was, based upon the Synoptics, we would not know. Philip’s name appears 12 times in the Gospel of John, and several incidents are depicted which tell us something about him:

4 (Now the Jewish feast of the Passover was near.) 5 Then Jesus, when he looked up and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread so that these people may eat?” 6 (Now Jesus said this to test him, for he knew what he was going to do.) 7 Philip replied, “Two hundred silver coins worth of bread would not be enough for them, for each one to get a little” (John 6:4-7).

20 Now some Greeks were among those who had gone up to worship at the feast. 21 So these approached Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew, and they both went and told Jesus. 23 Jesus replied, “The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified” (John 12:20-23).

6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you have known me, you will know my Father too. And from now on you do know him and have seen him.” 8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be content.” 9 Jesus replied, “Have I been with you for so long, and you have not known me, Philip? The person who has seen me has seen the Father! How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you, I do not speak from my own authority, but the Father residing in me performs his miraculous deeds. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me; but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves” (John 14:6-11).

I find myself chuckling when I read Leon Morris’s tongue-in-cheek comment that in these texts Philip seems “a little out of his depth.”82Philip does not appear to be the one who would have been voted “most likely to succeed” by his graduating class. He may have lacked the confidence and initiative to assert himself in following Christ without invitation. The calling of Philip may well be an illustration of a principle often demonstrated in the Bible, but spelled out most clearly by the Apostle Paul:

26 Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were members of the upper class. 27 But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, 29 so that no one can boast in his presence. 30 He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

When all is said and done, let us remember that Philip is a man who became, at our Lord’s invitation, one of the privileged few to follow Jesus as one of the twelve. He is also a man who, regardless of his limitations, brought others to the Savior, as we are about to see for ourselves.

Next is Nathanael, who is a most interesting character. His name is found only in the Gospel of John, five times in chapter 1 and once in chapter 21. He is never mentioned in the other Gospels or anywhere else in the New Testament. There are good reasons for supposing that Nathanael is “Bartholomew” in the Synoptic Gospels.83 Nathanael comes across quite differently in John than Philip. If Philip is a man who seems “out of his depth,” Nathanael appears to be a man of great spiritual depth, greater than the others.

Philip is the one who introduces Nathanael to Jesus: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (verse 45). Philip portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of all the prophecies pertaining to Messiah, beginning with Moses and concluding with the prophets. He is, of course, absolutely right. I am reminded of these words at the end of Luke’s Gospel:

25 So he said to them, “You foolish people, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures (Luke 24:25-27).

One thing Nathanael hears bothers him a great deal. It is not that Jesus is “the son of Joseph,” but that He is “Jesus of Nazareth.” We know that, in Jesus’ time as in our own, there is prejudice about certain places. In the United States, there are still feelings between those of the North and those of the South. There are certain attitudes toward people who live in the Ozarks or in Appalachia. There is the assumption that great people come from certain areas, while those in other areas are somehow inferior. This may be subtle, but such “geographical” prejudice exists.

Galilee seems to have been “the Ozarks” of Jesus’ day, so that being called a Galilean appears to be no compliment (see Mark 14:69-70). For our Lord to be known as a Nazarene (one from Nazareth, a city of Galilee) does not seem to be a compliment either. For Nathanael, at least, coming from Nazareth is not in Jesus’ favor, so far as any claim to being Messiah is concerned. The Apostle John has included these words for a very good reason, and that is to show that Nathanael is skeptical about Jesus. From what little he knows of Him, Nathanael is not predisposed to accept Him as the Messiah. Thus, the radical change of mind we see in these few verses is further indication of the compelling weight of the evidence that causes Nathanael to confess Jesus as Messiah. John obviously saves the best for last in that Nathanael’s confession is the most thorough and complete: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” (verse 49). Let us now consider just what it is that so quickly and thoroughly changes Nathanael’s mind.

To set the scene, we must go all the way back to the Old Testament Book of Genesis and read the following incident in the life of Jacob, whom God renamed “Israel”:

10 Now Jacob went out from Beersheba and went toward Haran. 11 So he came to a certain place and stayed there all night, because the sun had set. And he took one of the stones of that place and put it at his head, and he lay down in that place to sleep. 12 Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder wasset up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. 13 And behold, the LORD stood above it and said: “I am the LORD God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. 14 Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. 15 Behold, I amwith you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.” 16 Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it.” 17 And he was afraid and said, “How awesomeis this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!” (Genesis 28:10-17, NKJV)

Jacob was a schemer and a deceiver. He managed to take advantage of his older brother and his father, depriving Esau of his birthright (Genesis 25) and Isaac and Esau of a blessing (Genesis 27). He fled from Canaan, and especially from Esau on the (partially true) pretext that he was seeking a wife among his relatives in Paddan-aram. On his way to Paddan-aram, Jacob spent the night under the stars. During the night, he had a dream in which he saw a ladder extending from the earth into heaven. On this ladder, angels were ascending and descending. God then spoke to Jacob, reiterating the covenant He had made with Jacob’s forefathers, Abraham and Isaac. God promised to make a great nation of Jacob and also to bring him safely back to this land which he was leaving.

In the morning when Jacob awoke, he vividly recalled the dream he had during the night. His response is most interesting in terms of what elements of the dream he perceived to be important and impressive. Jacob’s mind fixed upon the place where this dream was given (Genesis 28:16-17). He was awe struck that God was in that place, and yet he did not know it (until after his dream). He fixed upon that place as the place of God’s presence and dwelling, as the place where heaven and earth, God and man meet. In Jacob’s words, it was the gateway to heaven.

This dream had a very direct bearing on Jacob because it was a reiteration of the Abrahamic Covenant, only this time it was Jacob through whom these blessings would be bestowed. Perhaps of more importance to Jacob (at that point in time), it provided a very real incentive for Jacob to return to Israel. How easy it would have been for Jacob to flee to Paddan-aram and never return to the promised land. Jacob now realized not only that God had promised to bless him, but that ultimately He would bless him in this place. The land of Israel was, in some sense, the gateway to heaven, a special place where God and men could meet, where heaven and earth met as well. He may leave this holy place for a time, but he must return. So it was that Jacob vowed that if God protected and prospered him, he would return, and he would give God a tithe.

What does all of this have to do with our text in John, and with Nathanael trusting in Jesus as the promised Messiah? It has a great deal to do with it! I base this upon the words our Lord speaks to Nathanael in verses 47-51, especially in verse 51: “I tell you the solemn truth: you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” These words can be nothing other than an allusion to the story we have just read in Genesis 28. Let me suggest how things may have happened. Although they may very well not have happened exactly this way, they may have happened in a similar fashion.

We do know for certain that when (or just before) Philip found Nathanael, he was “under the fig tree” (verse 48). Some suppose this was the place where Nathanael, like other Israelites, went to meditate and pray:

The fig tree was almost a symbol of home (cf. Isa. 36:16Mic. 4:4Zech. 3:10). Its shade was certainly at a later time used as a place for prayer and meditation and study, and there is no reason for thinking that the practice does not go back as far as this. It seems probable that Nathanael had had some outstanding experience of communion with God in the privacy of his own home, and that it is this to which Jesus refers. Whatever it was, Nathanael was able to recognize the allusion.84

I am inclined to think that Nathanael had been reading and meditating about Jacob, and this text in Genesis in particular, under the fig tree (not unlike the way the Ethiopian eunuch had been reading in Isaiah, just before Philip drew near to him—Acts 8:26-40). Jacob was a man in whom there was much deceit. Most of his life he schemed and manipulated to get ahead at the expense of others. Jacob was also the first “Israelite,” in that God would soon rename him “Israel” (Genesis 32:28). He was the first “Israelite, in whom there was much guile.”

After Philip finds Nathanael and tells him they have found the Messiah, the One who was promised in the Law of Moses and the Prophets, Nathanael makes his way to see this Jesus. As Nathanael approaches, Jesus speaks of him to others, so that he overhears these words: “Look, a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” These words stop Nathanael in his tracks. He has not yet met Jesus, nor even talked with him, and yet Jesus describes his heart and his character accurately. If Jesus had said this of me, I would respond “Who? Me?” But Nathanael accepts our Lord’s words as the truth, and so he responds, “How do You know me?” In other words, “How do you know that I am an Israelite without deceit?”

A couple of things should be said at this point. First, Jesus does not say, “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no sin.” Nathanael is a sinner, like every other man (except our Lord). Second, if our Lord’s words are both true and complimentary with regard to Nathanael, they may not have been complimentary toward the Jews in general. Some races do have certain sinful tendencies (see Titus 1:12-13), and Jesus hints that deceit may be something found too often in Israelites. Third, our Lord’s words somehow accurately appraise the character of Nathanael, as though our Lord could look into his soul and evaluate him without even knowing him personally. This is what seems to impress Nathanael.

There is a fourth factor to be considered here as well. Our Lord’s words not only accurately appraise the character of Nathanael, they also seem to address the very things that Nathanael had been meditating upon under the fig tree, before he even met Jesus. Jesus “saw” Nathanael coming (verse 47), but before this, he “saw” Nathanael under the fig tree when he thought no one could (verse 48). To top it all off, Jesus addresses Nathanael in terms of the very text and subject he has been meditating upon. Was Jacob, the first Israelite, a schemer, a man full of deceit? Nathanael is a true Israelite, without deceit. He is a man who acts in a straightforward manner, without underhanded tactics.

I think John is saying even more here. Nathanael’s first impression of Jesus is wrong. He doubts that anything good can come from Nazareth. Nathanael has questioned Philip’s recommendation of Jesus, solely on the basis of his place of origin. Is it not interesting to note that the “place” was the thing that most impressed Jacob in the dream he had of the ladder? Jacob realized that this “place” was holy, that this was where God met men; it was the gateway to heaven. This, of course, was true, though it was not necessarily all of what God was trying to convey to Jacob.

All it takes to make Nathanael a believer in Jesus is for our Lord to look into his soul, to assess his true character, to tell him He saw him where he knew he had not been seen, and to reveal to him the very subject and text he has been meditating upon. Nathanael enthusiastically responds, “You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” As if this were not enough, Jesus goes on. Is Nathanael impressed by this? This is only the tip of the iceberg, the firstfruits of greater things to come. Nathanael will see much greater things than these.

Jesus introduces His next, climactic statement to Nathanael with the words, “I tell you the solemn truth …” (literally, “truly, truly,” verse 51). These are words of great importance, which need to be heard with care and attention. The term “verily” or “truly” is literally the Greek word that is a transliteration of the Hebrew “amen.” What is fascinating here is that Jesus is going to take this term and give it a unique and specialized meaning. He is going to modify its meaning. Morris says it best:

“Verily” is not a translation of a Greek word, but the transliteration of an Aramaic (or Hebrew) word, namely Amen. It is the participle of a verb meaning ‘to confirm,’ and it was used to give one’s assent. For example, it was (and still is) the response of the congregation to a prayer uttered by him who leads their worship. In this way they make it their own (1 Cor. 14:16). Very occasionally it is the conclusion to one’s own prayer (e.g. Tobit 8:7f.), when it has the nature of a wish. But this use is rare. Characteristically it is one’s assent to words uttered by another. In the Gospels it is used only by Jesus, and always as a prefix to significant statements. Presumably this is to mark them out as solemn and true and important. This use of Amen to introduce one’s own words appears to be Jesus’ own, no real Jewish parallel being adduced.85

Does Nathanael, somewhat like Jacob, have an attachment to a particular place? Does Nathanael think God will only meet with men at a certain place? There is a certain element of truth in this, especially in Israel’s past. But from now on, the issue is not the place, but the person.86 Does Jacob fix his attention on the land upon which the ladder into heaven was placed? That is fine. But Jesus wants Nathanael to know that in time he will see that He is Himself the ladder. It is by means of Jesus Christ, Israel’s Messiah, that there is access to heaven from earth. It is through Jesus Christ, God’s only Mediator, that men may enter into a relationship with God and find their way to heaven. It is as though our Lord is saying, “Don’t look at the ground, on which the ladder is placed; look at the ladder. I am that ladder. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father, but by Me.”

Conclusion

Our text teaches us much about the subject of discipleship. When our Lord came to the earth, He came in human flesh. He came to live among men, and in particular to associate Himself closely with a few men. The Marines would like us to say, “He associated Himself with ‘A few good men.’” This is not really the case; although there were a few men, they were not all what we would call good men. They were not all top caliber men, the kind of men who would succeed at anything to which they set their hand. The first four men Jesus calls in the Synoptics are fishermen, and the Apostle John is one of those men. Simon is destined to become “the rock,” but this is not due to any qualities that lie dormant and untapped within him, which association with our Lord quickens and develops. While Peter becomes a “rock,” it is largely in spite of what is in him. It is the result of what God does in and through him.

Philip does not seem to be such a great “catch,” either, from what we see of him in the Book of John. Maybe he was “out of his depth.” Do you not feel out of your depth when you attempt to witness, when you attempt to carry out the commands of Christ, when you endeavor to love your enemy? Our Lord chose the “weak things” of this world to be His disciples, so that it would be very clear that He is the source of their later success (see Acts 4:131 Corinthians 1:26-31). But there is another sense in which He simply chose men sovereignly, in spite of their weaknesses and flaws, in order to bestow His love and mercy upon them.

This text and others that speak of the “calling” of the twelve should challenge our belief that Jesus chose these men to be His disciples because of what they could and would do for His kingdom. I hear this said all too often: “If so and so were to be saved, just think of what he (or she) could do for the cause of Christ?” Among the twelve Jesus chose, three of these men were Peter, James, and John. These men were all included in the “inner circle” of three of our Lord’s disciples. James and John were brothers. They had the same background, the same experiences in following our Lord. And yet James was the first to die, and John was the last. Did Jesus choose James to be one of the twelve and one of the three because of the contribution he would make? It does not seem so.87 Jesus may have chosen James to be one of the inner three solely to grant him the privilege of intimate fellowship with Himself. If Jesus chose the twelve because of what they would do for the kingdom, why is it that we see so little of most of the twelve in the Book of Acts? Why do men like Stephen and Philip (and others not even named; cf. Acts 11:20-21) play such a prominent role in the expansion of the church? God’s choice of the twelve was His sovereign choice, as He has always chosen those to enter into fellowship with Himself. There is no room for boasting here.

I would have predicted that Nathanael would be the one Jesus chose to become “the rock,” instead of Peter. Nathanael seems to be the “most spiritual” of those who followed Jesus in this chapter of John, and yet in the rest of the New Testament we never hear of any significant ministry or contribution from him (or from Bartholomew, who may be the same man). I think we may be forced to rethink some of our pre-conceived ideas about the twelve disciples of our Lord, and perhaps even the inner three (Peter, James, John). From my experience in church leadership, there has always been the popular misconception that leadership is dealt out on the basis of spirituality—the higher one gets in Christian leadership, the more spiritual he must be.88

If one reads through the Gospels, it seems fairly clear that a number of the women associated with Jesus had much greater spiritual insight into our Lord and His ministry than did the men who followed Him. There are certain spiritual qualifications for elders which should be met by any elder, but I would not wish to say that the elders are (as proven by the fact that they are elders) the most spiritual people in the church. To broaden this discussion to an important area in the church today, one of the errors prevalent in the early church (specifically in the church at Corinth) was the misconception that certain spiritual gifts were proof of greater spirituality on the part of those who possessed them. I do not believe it can be shown that the disciples were chosen because they were more spiritual than others.

Instead of thinking of the qualities these disciples possessed, perhaps we should think of their deficiencies. Maybe a factor in their calling was simply mercy. Have you ever watched a litter of pups when you were trying to choose one of them to be your own? Do you recall seeing the “runt” of the litter, smaller, perhaps bullied by the others, timid, maybe even cowering? Did you desire to grab that little pup and bestow special love and affection on it, because of all it lacked? I think there is an element of this in our Lord’s choice of men, not only to be His disciples, but of those whom He chooses to save.

When our Lord chose to draw these men to Himself, there were no surprises. He knew precisely who He was choosing. If I were Simon Peter, I would have been greatly relieved that Jesus chose to disclose the innermost character of Nathanael, rather than mine. He would not have said of me, “Behold, a man in whom there is no guile.” I don’t think I would want to hear what He would say about what was in me. I am certain that I would not want you to hear what He said about my character and qualities. But then, I don’t think you would want me to hear what He had to say about you, either.

Over the years, I have watched many young couples “fall in love” and marry. Some fail to see their “beloved” as they really are. There are also those who seem to know their beloved well. And for some, when they marry all goes well—at least for a while. I don’t know how many times I have witnessed a radical change in the character of one or both marriage partners, so that they appear to have become an entirely different person. Sometimes this is the result of some stress or tragedy, sometimes not. All of a sudden, the one marriage partner begins to feel as though they are married to a stranger, a person they did not know when they first met and decided to marry. It is tragic, and it happens more than we would like to admit.

Jesus is never surprised about those whom He chooses to save and to follow Him. He knew what He was getting in Simon (Peter), because He knew what Simon was, and because He knew what He was going to accomplish in and through Simon. He knew what was in Philip and Nathanael, James and John. He knows what is in us when He saves us. He also knows what He will do in and through us, by His grace and power. God is never surprised, because He knows all. He knows our character and our weaknesses and strengths. Most of all, He knows what He has purposed to achieve in us, and He will achieve it: “For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

How easily we could convince ourselves that the addition of these disciples as Jesus’ followers in our text has little or nothing to do with us. After all, these were the disciples. Eleven of them were to become the apostles of our Lord, the foundation of the church. So they were. But first and foremost, they were chosen to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, then to follow Him and be with Him. Eventually, some of them would do great things for Him. But most of all, they were to simply follow Him.

It is no different for men today. Jesus calls us first to believe in Him as the Son of God, the Lamb who takes away the sin of the world. But He also calls us to follow Him, to be with Him, to have fellowship and communion with Him. John seems to have most enjoyed this fellowship with our Lord. He seems to be the one “leaning on Jesus breast” at the Last Supper. He seems to be the one who sticks close, even when our Lord is arrested and put on trial, and hung from the cross. This is what our Lord invites each of us to do, to draw near in intimate fellowship with Him. What a privilege is ours to be His disciples! To be His disciple, you must first believe in Him as the Messiah, God’s only means of saving lost sinners. He is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” He is the One who died in the sinner’s place on the cross of Calvary, and the One who was raised from the dead. He bore the penalty for our sins, and He provides the righteousness we lack, which God requires for anyone to enter into His heaven. We must believe in Him to become His sons and to enter into His kingdom. It is not only our privilege to trust in Him, but our privilege to follow Him as His disciples, walking daily with Him in intimate fellowship. I pray that you have believed in Him, and that you are now His disciple, walking in fellowship with Him.


66 The “Synoptic Gospels” tend to view the life of Christ from the same perspective. John, on the other hand, takes a very different approach. This we have pointed out in greater detail in the introduction to this series.

67 Matthew 4:18-21Mark 1:16-20Luke 5:1-10.

68 It is also called the “Sea of Galilee” (Mark 1:16) and the “Sea of Tiberias” (John 5:1).

69 Matthew 10:1-4Mark 3:13-19Luke 6:12-16.

70 In John, it is to Philip alone that our Lord speaks the words, “Follow Me” (John 1:43). The others are certainly encouraged to follow Jesus, but they are not “called” in the technical sense.

71 I see no contradiction between our text in John 1:39 and that found inLuke 9:57-58. Early on in His ministry Jesus did have a place to stay (seeJohn 2:12), but as His ministry grew and became more mobile, He had no permanent place of residence. Incidentally, this also made it more difficult for the enemies of our Lord to arrest or kill Him “before His time,” since they would not know where to find Him from one day to the next. Telling this “would be” disciple of Luke 9 that He had no place to call home was not only true, it was all it took to put this fellow off.

72 Because of a variation of the word rendered “first” here in the Greek manuscripts, there is some discussion as to which word was used and how it should be translated. I refer you to the commentaries to pursue this if you think it worthwhile. Frankly, it does not change the sense of the text much in terms of its meaning.

73 1:20, 25, 41; 3:28; 4:29, 42; 6:69; 7:26, 27, 31, 41 (2x), 42; 10:24; 11:27; 12:34; 20:31.

74 “The giving of a new name when done by men is an assertion of the authority of the giver (e.g. II Kings 23:34; 24:17). When done by God it speaks of a new character in which the man henceforth appears (e.g. Gen. 32:28).” Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), p.160.

75 This was the case in other instances of renaming in the Bible as well. God did not rename an individual after the changes took place, but before they came about. Abram (meaning “exalted father”) was renamed Abraham (“father of a multitude”) before Isaac was born (Genesis 17:5).

76 Literally “he.” Jesus is supplied for clarity by the NET Bible (see translator’s note). There is some question as to whether this “he” actually refers to Jesus. D. A. Carson (The Gospel According to John, pp. 157-158) argues that the “he” (“Jesus” in the NET Bible) refers not to Jesus, but to Andrew. If his view is accepted, it would be Andrew who is now seeking Nathanael.

77 The translator’s note in the NET Bible indicates to us that the text literally reads, “and Jesus said to him, ‘Follow Me.’”

78 There is some scholarly discussion as to whether or not there were two Bethsaida’s. I do not think this is a matter worth pursuing in this lesson, though the commentaries do discuss the matter in greater detail. The translator’s note in the NET Bible suggests that the Greek preposition rendered “from” here should be understood to mean “originally from.”

79 I like Carson’s comment here, when he writes, “Philip provides exactly the kind of information that positively identifies a man in the first-century Palestine: the name of his village, and the name of his (reputed) father.” Carson, p. 159. Some are troubled that Philip would speak of Joseph as the father of Jesus. Two major options are possible. First, Philip may have actually assumed that Joseph was the biological father of our Lord. In such case, he would be wrong, not because he denied the virgin birth of our Lord, but because he had not yet even considered it. He, like all of his fellow-apostles, had many misconceptions about Jesus in the beginning. Second, it may be that he is merely identifying Jesus in the normal way of doing so. He would thus be referring to Joseph as Jesus’ father in terms of common perception. This would set Jesus apart from others by the same name, but not with the same (reputed) father.

80 This is probably not the time or place to go into the subject of angels, but let me simply suggest a thought for further consideration. These are days in which “angels” are a very popular topic. We should consider the fact that angels are not only inferior to our Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1), but that their ministry is closely related to and subordinate to our Lord. They ascend and descend upon Jesus. When we begin to think of angels independently of our Lord, we begin to go astray from the picture our Lord has drawn here and what the Bible teaches elsewhere.

81 Carson (p. 154) points out that “follow” usually refers to more than just “trailing along after” someone; it is our Lord’s way of speaking of being His disciple. This is not always the case, but it is usually so. Here, there may be a little of both senses implied. Jesus invites Philip to “come along” and to “join with Him as a disciple.”

82 Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, p. 162.

83 “Others … suggest that Nathanael is to be identified with Bartholomew, an apostle who is never mentioned in John, just as Nathanael is never mentioned in the Synoptists. Bartholomew is coupled with Philip in all three Synoptists (Matt. 10:3Mark 3:18Luke 6:14), while another link is that he is mentioned immediately after Thomas in Acts 1:13 and Nathanael is in the same position in John 21:2. Moreover Bartholomew is not really a personal name, but a patronymic meaning ‘son of Tolmai’ (cf. Barjona = ‘son of Jona’). The man who bore it almost certainly had another name. The other disciples mentioned in this chapter all became apostles, and it is suggested that Nathanael is, accordingly, likely to have done so too. If he is to be identified with one of the apostles Bartholomew is probably our man.” Morris, p. 164. I should point out that Morris is not entirely persuaded that this is the case. Carson seems more convinced: “The most likely suggestion is that Nathanael is the personal name of ‘Bartholomew,’ which is then understood to be an Aramaic patronymic (i.e. identifying the person as the son of someone: ‘the son of Tholomaeus’ or the like).” Carson, p. 159.

84 Morris, p. 167.

85 Morris, p. 169.

86 This truth will be emphatically taught in John 4.

87 Of course, James made a great contribution by his death.

88 The Pharisees had this same error with regard to wealth. They seemed to think that the richer one was, the more spiritual he must be. Conversely, the poorer one was, the more unspiritual. Jesus’ words about the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 challenged this mindset. See also the Beatitudes, where those who are blessed seem to be those who are “cursed.” Psalm 73 also deals with this same issue.

Comments