Discover the 12

October 23, 2011

Discover the 12
What a group.  In another time and another place they would have killed one another or at least inflicted grave injury on each other.    We know some of their stories and others we only know by name.  But we do know who they were and even if we can’t name them all we can name some of them.  
If you’ve been around Cornerstone for a while you know that sometimes Denn preaches to inspire and sometimes Denn teaches to educate and sometime you can get both in the same message.  This one started off as geared toward inspiration but changed more into the education model.   Mainly because as I started delving into the lives of the 12 I realized that most of us really aren’t familiar with the twelve men who Jesus picked to change the world.
This is a really, really important group of people.  Remember when Jesus was crucified there were only a handful of people who were even brave enough to be seen with him at his death.  That after Jesus’ death and resurrection and his return to the Father there were only 120 gathered in the upper room.  That’s about half of the number of people who will worship at Cornerstone on any given Sunday.  And through the efforts of the eleven remaining disciples the world was literally changed. 
No I understand that God was working, and the Holy Spirit was moving but it ultimately happened because of these men.  This was the group that God had chosen to accomplish his plan through.   And they literally changed the world that they lived in, without television or radio or the internet, without force or violence they reshaped humanity in a matter of half a century.
So who were they?  Where did they come from and what were they like?  Well let’s start by saying they were people, they weren’t statues or stained glass they were people, living breathing people.  With all of the faults and foibles, passion and vision that make us people. 
The twelve are listed in three of the four Gospels, Matthew Mark and Luke, and then eleven of them are listed in the book of Acts, by that time they were missing Judas because he was hanging out by himself.  Here is how the various accounts list the group.
Matthew 10                            Mark 3                       Luke 6                        Acts 1
Simon (Peter)                          Simon (Peter)              Simon (Peter)              Peter
Andrew                                   James                           Andrew                       John
James (son of Zebedee)          John                             James                           James
John                                         Andrew                       John                             Andrew
Philip                                       Philip                           Philip                           Philip  
Bartholomew                          Bartholomew              Bartholomew              Thomas
Thomas                                    Matthew                      Matthew                      Bartholomew
Matthew                                  Thomas                        Thomas                        Matthew
James (son of Alphaeus)         James (son of A)         James (son of A)         James (son of A)
Thaddeus                                Thaddeus                    Simon the Zealot         Simon the Zealot
Simon the Zealot                     Simon the Zealot         Judas (son of James)   Judas (son of James)
Judas Iscariot                          Judas Iscariot              Judas Iscariot              Judas Iscariot             
It’s interesting that some have made much ado about the fact that they aren’t listed in the same order in all four accounts.  Really, I think some people have way too much time on their hands and spend that time over analyzing things.
Presbyterian Preacher J. Vernon McGee writes “I have a book called ‘Marching Through Mark’ in which I compare the lists of apostles as they are given in the four Gospels and in the Book of Acts. It is interesting to make this comparison of how they are listed and the different names that are used.”
And Dr. David Smith  notes in the Wesleyan Bible Commentary “Reconciling this specific list of the disciples in Mark 3 with the others in the New Testament remains a hermeneutical puzzle.”
My advice to those who are seeking deeper meaning in the order of the lists would be; Stop it!  I have two children not 12 children and sometimes I refer to them as Deborah and Stephen and sometimes I refer to them as Stephen and Deborah.  It’s not rocket surgery people it’s just the way they were mentioned, stop overthinking things.
Obviously there is significance to the fact that Peter who became the ad hoc leader of the group is always mentioned at the top of the list and that Judas who is always identified as Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him) winds up at the bottom.  And that makes sense.   In all the lists the first five remain in the top five although in slight different orders, twice Andrew is mentioned second, and John and James each make the second spot once and Philip is always mentioned fifth.  And along with Matthew and Nathanael these are the only ones whose individual’s calls are listed in the bible. 
But regardless of where they are on the list these men are known as the Twelve Apostles and they were Jesus closest followers.   By the way don’t know if you’ve seen this or not. . . . (Pic of Jesus and Twitter)   Now the twelve weren’t the only ones to follow Christ during the three years he taught but they were the closest ones to follow him. 
It goes back to the fact that all of the Apostles were disciples but not all of the disciples were apostles. 
So What do we know about the twelve?  That’s a good question, the answer for most of us is not much.  So maybe it’s time to get to know the twelve a little better.
Mark 3:16 Here are their names: Simon (whom he named Peter) 
Simon  was the leader of the twelve, we know him better as Peter.  Mark tells us that it was shortly after Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness that he walking along the shores of the sea of Galilee and came across two brothers, Peter and Andrew who were fishing and we read this  Mark 1:17-18 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” And they left their nets at once and followed him.   We kind of get the impression from this solitary account that this was the first time that Jesus had met the brothers but the other Gospels fill in the blanks on this and we see there was a little bit of history. 
It was Peter who was the one who vowed that he would never deny Christ and then after Jesus was arrested he denied him not once, not twice but three times.  But it was also the same Peter who grabbed a sword and hacked off a guy’s ear in the garden when they came to arrest Jesus.  Peter was the first one of the twelve to clue in that Jesus was more than just a good man and great teacher.  Matthew 16:16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”   And in response we read Matthew 16:18 Now I say to you that you are Peter (which means ‘rock’), and upon this rock I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer .  What a compliment to be called a rock.    And in a very real way it was on Peter “The Rock” that they church’s foundation was laid. 
Other than James the bible doesn’t record how the various apostles died, we have to go to church history for that,  but there is a hint in the words of Christ how Peter would die.  John 21:18-19 “I tell you the truth, when you were young, you were able to do as you liked; you dressed yourself and went wherever you wanted to go. But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.” Jesus said this to let him know by what kind of death he would glorify God. Then Jesus told him, “Follow me.”   And tradition tells us that Peter was crucified in Rome, and at his request was crucified upside down because he said he wasn’t worthy to be crucified like his Lord.
Next in Marks account we read Mark 3:17 James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”)  It seems that Jesus had an affinity for nicknames.  In this case it is thought the “Sons of Thunder” came from the nature of the brothers.  Maybe you remember the story that was told in the Gospel of Luke, the twelve are returning to Jerusalem and their travels took them through Samaria, apparently one village didn’t roll out the welcome mat to Jesus and his followers so listen to this account.  Luke 9:54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?”   And unfortunately through history that has been some peoples response to those who choose not to follow Jesus, but listen to Christ’s response here.  Luke 9:55-56 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. So they went on to another village.
Or maybe their name came less from their temper and more from their ambition, in Mark 10:35-37 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”   Well you know what they say “If you never ask, the answer is ‘no’”
James and John are most often identified together and along with Peter made up Jesus’ inner circle and probably were friends with Peter before they were apostles.  Their call follows in the verse after Jesus called Peter and his brother.  Mark 1:19-20 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.
James is often referred to as James the Greater and he became the first bishop of Jerusalem, his fate is recorded in Acts 12:1-2 About that time King Herod Agrippa began to persecute some believers in the church. He had the apostle James (John’s brother) killed with a sword.
It is traditionally believed that John outlived all the other apostles and lived to an extreme old age, writing The Gospel of John as well as first, second and third John and the Revelation before dying naturally at Ephesus in about AD 100.  It was John who was referred to as “The disciple whom Jesus loved.”  And John was the only one of the twelve who was at the cross with Jesus.
Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),   Next on the list is Peter’s brother Andrew.  Andrew is the lynchpin that holds this group together, we don’t think about it but he is the common denominator throughout the gospel accounts.
John 1:40-41 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of these men who heard what John said and then followed Jesus. Andrew went to find his brother, Simon, and told him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means “Christ”).
And then there were the Sons of Thunder, we can’t draw a straight line from Andrew to them but you would have to speculate that there was a connection there, and in John 1:44 we read Philip was from Bethsaida, Andrew and Peter’s hometown.    Not Peter and Andrew’s hometown, which with Peter’s position with the twelve, you would think would be the order. 
Remember the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand?  John 6:5 Jesus soon saw a huge crowd of people coming to look for him. Turning to Philip, he asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?”   Who comes up with the answer?  John 6:8-9 Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?”
Andrew was a connector, he was connected with all kinds of people and he used those connections to introduce people to Jesus.
Do you know what the X in the Union Jack is called?  St. Andrew’s cross.  And tradition tells us that Andrew was crucified on the “Crux decussate” or X-shaped cross.
And then there is Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),   Remember we said earlier that Philip was from Andrew’s hometown?  Well that’s where Jesus called him.  John 1:43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.”
And listen to Philip’s response to meeting Jesus: John 1:45 Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him, “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”   
And apparently it wasn’t a fluke, Philip was known as someone who not only knew Jesus but was willing to introduce him to you.  John 12:20-21 Some Greeks who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover celebration paid a visit to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee. They said, “Sir, we want to meet Jesus.”
But this was not the same Philip who introduced the Ethiopian Eunuch to Jesus.  That Philip was one of the seven deacons chosen by the early church in Acts 6. 
Tradition tells us that Philip was crucified with Bartholomew in the city of Hierapolis, but as a result of Philip’s preaching from the cross the crowd released Bartholomew.  
Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),    Those in the know tell us that Bartholomew was also known by another name and that is Nathanael.  Remember Philip went to look for Nathanael and told him , “We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”   And I love the response he gets:  John 1:46 “Nazareth!” exclaimed Nathanael. “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”   But before his encounter is over we read this  John 1:49 Then Nathanael exclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God—the King of Israel!”
The only other time we see Bartholomew, or Nathanael in the gospels in in John 21 when Peter takes a bunch of the guys fishing. 
Tradition tells us that Bartholomew ended up in Armenia, where his preaching led to the conversion of the Polymius, the king.  The Kings brother was so enraged about his brother’s conversion that he ordered the execution of Bartholomew. 
Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),    Matthew is the last person who’s actual personal call is recorded.  And in the day it may have been the most controversial call of them all.  
Matthew 9:9 As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him.   Now tax collectors weren’t anyone’s favorite person and if you do a search of tax collectors in the New Testament you find them mentioned with thieves and prostitutes, drunkards and sinners. 
William Barclay wrote  “Matthew was a tax-collector and, therefore, an outcast; he was a renegade and a traitor to his fellow countrymen.”  And if you know Matthew’s story, right after Jesus calls him he throws this tremendous party and invites all his friends to come and meet Jesus.  And if you can’t imagine what type of friends a tax collector might have it’s spelled out in Matthew 9:10 Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.   Matthew wrote the gospel that carries his name, sometimes he is referred to as Levi.  Tradition tells us that Matthew ventured as far as Ethiopia and although there are no details given regarding Matthew’s death the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that he died a martyr.
There are no records of how the remaining five apostles were called.  They just appear in this account.  And for the most part we don’t see them mentioned much in the gospel accounts. 
Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),    Most of us know Thomas as “Doubting Thomas”  from his reaction to the news of Jesus’ resurrection.  You remember the story, they are all excited about seeing Jesus and Thomas who hadn’t been there said “I won’t believe it unless I see it myself.”  And we are fairly critical of Thomas for that but it probably isn’t far off from how we would react.  But when he finally saw the risen Christ we are told that without hesitation Thomas believed. 
John mentions that Thomas had a nickname and that was Didymus, which meant “The Twin”.  My dad is a twin and he will be 74 tomorrow and some people still refer to him as “One of the twins.”
We are told that Thomas spread the news of Jesus further than any other apostle and was killed with a spear in India in AD 72.
Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),    Is sometimes known as James the Less, in Fairvale just outside of Saint John there is an Anglican church called St. James the Less, but most people just refer to it as Little Jimmy’s. 
We are told that James was beaten to death with a club for preaching the gospel in Egypt. 
Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),   Is referred to as Judas (son of James) in two of the listings of the Apostles and the feeling is that after Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot that this Judas decided to go by a different name and really who could blame him?
Early church tradition tells us that Thaddaeus was killed in Beirut along with his friend Mark 3:18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot),   who is next on our list.  Charles Dudley Warner wrote “True it is, politics makes strange bedfellows.”  Well apparently so did becoming an apostle.  If Matthew was on one end of the spectrum then Simon was on the other side.  Matthew worked for the Romans and Simon was a member of a resistance movement or a terrorist organization, depending on where you were sitting, that was intent on overthrowing the Roman occupiers. 
And that brings us to Mark 3:19 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).   What can we say about Judas?  Even people who don’t know the story now what a Judas is.  But who was he?  Who was this Judas Iscariot?  Well we don’t really know all that much about him, we do know that his father was Simon and that his surname Iscariot was probably a combination of the Hebrew words Ish and Kariot, which would then be translated, Man of Kariot. From the scriptures we discover that he was appointed treasurer of the twelve and that he became a thief, stealing from that very same treasury.  And we know that his betrayal of his closest friend led to one of the most horrible deaths imaginable?
Some people say that Judas never meant for Jesus to die, that he was only trying to force his hand so that Jesus would establish his kingdom and overthrow Rome.  But we will never know, at least not on this side of eternity.  We do know that Judas was so overcome with remorse that he returned the money he had received for his treachery and then hung himself.
So there we are, the twelve, who are displayed for us with all of their faults and foibles.  It’s good because we are reminded that the first twelve who were chosen to be closest to Jesus sometimes blew it and sometimes let him down, but with the exception of Judas went on to live their lives and sometimes gave their lives for the Kingdom.
The lives and the deaths of the Apostles are the greatest evidence there is for the resurrection because these men would have known if Jesus hadn’t actually been raised from the dead, and if he had of remained in the tomb then they would have gone back to being fishermen, and tax collectors and zealots. 
So let me end this morning with yet another quote from William Barclay who said “These twelve had all kinds of faults, but whatever else could be said about them, they loved Jesus and they were not afraid to tell the world that they loved him–and that is being a Christian.”