Many can name the cast of their favorite TV show or the full roster of their favorite team. But few Christians know the names of all twelve of Jesus’s disciples. These are the twelve: 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 (Matthew 10:2-4).
These were the twelve men Jesus chose to become his closest companions and ministers during his three-year ministry. And these are the twelve men whose lives we will be studying throughout the next six weeks.
As we learn from the twelve disciples, it is important to recognize what a disciple actually is. Generally, a disciple is someone who follows the teaching and example of their mentor. But the disciples of Jesus are more than mere devotees. These twelve were called to leave family, friends, job, home, and comfort in order to become His students. Jesus’s disciples listened to Him, believed in Him, and followed His example, even to the point of giving their lives for the sake of proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ. A true disciple sees Jesus not only as a mentor, but as the Messiah; more than a spiritual guru, but as the Son of God.
As we look at the twelve, we need to understand who they really were. Many of us are tempted to view certain biblical characters as super spiritual. Men like Abraham, Moses, Joseph, and David look to have faith beyond anything that of normal people. While the twelve disciples may have had a rocky start, all but one seem to end up with faith that moved mountains. But we need to remember that all of the people in Scripture – including the twelve disciples – were ordinary men. They were people who, like you and me, were far from perfect. They struggled with faith, understanding, selfishness, rashness, misplaced zeal, and fear. They sinned and were sinned against and desperately needed the blood sacrifice of the One they followed.
In this study we will look at all twelve of these men; flaws and all. What is interesting is that while we may know a lot about some like Peter and John, we know next to nothing about others like Bartholomew and Thaddeus. When it comes to some of these lesser known disciples, we will take a look at the character traits that they have come to be known for.
As it became clear to the disciples who Jesus really was, and as the Holy Spirit came upon them, their faith grew and their passion for their Savior was ignited. They became men who were not only willing to give up family and home, but men who were willing to give up their very lives for the glory of Jesus.
This did not happen because they were more special than any of us. This is the result of the power of God in them. Men who were fearful became bold. Men who were ignorant because wise. Men who were confused as to where they were to go or what they were to do became clear about their calling.
A real encounter with Jesus changes people.
He gives new life and new meaning to life. He gives passion and a clear direction for where our life is headed. He gives value to what we do and wisdom for the decisions that we need to make.
As you study these twelve men, look not only at the various experiences these men had and how this close encounter with Jesus changed them, but how you can be changed as well.
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