12 Disciples

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The 12 Disciples – Chosen by Jesus
The New Testament is the only extensive source of information about the lives of the 12 disciples. Throughout the Bible there have been men, as well as women, whom God has chosen to accomplish His divine plans. Yet there were twelve men, specifically selected by Jesus, to travel with Him. The responsibility of the very words of the Master weighed like a heavy mantle upon them. The Twelve would continue representing Jesus long after He ascended into Heaven. Their dedication would impact the church long after their deaths.

The 12 Disciples – Why Twelve?
In the Bible, twelve, like seven, frequently suggested completeness and perfection. In the Old Testament, twelve represented “all Israel” (Genesis 49:28; Joshua 13-19). The Book of Revelation provides numerous references to twelve.

  • 12 tribes of Israel, which are sealed and protected (Revelation 7:5-8; Revelation 21:12)
  • 12 stars in the woman’s (Israel) crown, symbolizing the 12 sons of Jacob (Revelation 12:1; Genesis 37:9)
  • 12 gates of the great high wall of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 12:12)
  • 12 angels guarding the heavenly gates (Revelation 12:12)
  • 12 apostles of the Lamb, part of the church and body of Christ (Revelation 12:14)
  • 12 pearls or precious stones of different colors, adorning the 12 foundations (Revelation 21:14, Revelation 19-21)
  • 12 crops of fruit, continually producing wholesome and pleasant fruit (Revelation 22:2)
The mention of “twelve” appears in other areas of the New Testament as well.
  • Jesus first spoke in the Temple at 12 years of age (Luke 2:42, 49-52).
  • Jesus raised Jarius’ 12-year-old daughter from a death-like state (Mark 5:42).
  • The miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, providing 12 baskets of leftovers (Matthew 14:19–20; John 6:13).
As Jesus’ immediate followers, the Twelve’s faithful obedience would be challenged repeatedly. A promise of eternal honor was extended to these chosen men. “Jesus said to them [disciples], ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Matthew 19:28). This promise shows the glory and status reserved for these saints who had suffered persecution on earth for the cause of Christ. “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14).

The 12 Disciples – Why These Men?
After Jesus had endured the temptation in the wilderness, He “returned to Galilee in the power of the Holy Spirit.” He tried to speak in His hometown of Nazareth, but was rejected. So spiritually blinded were the people of the synagogue that they tried to kill Jesus by attempting to throw Him off a cliff. Jesus chose to establish His base and a new team in Capernaum, a beautiful town nearby, on the edge of the Sea of Galilee. The prophet, Isaiah, had prophesied that Jesus would live in Capernaum. “In the future he [Jesus] will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by the way of the sea, along the Jordan” (Isaiah 9:1).

The selection of the Twelve demanded the utmost deliberation as well as sacrifice. Prior to Jesus choosing these men, He fervently sought to fulfill the will of God, the Father. “. . . Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). These men would not only be His followers, but individuals who would be closest to Him. In every way, the Son of God chose to be vulnerable to these individuals. They would witness His fury against the moneychangers, His grief at a dear friend’s death, and His misery as they abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 2:13-16; 11:35; Mark 14:32-42). Still these men were the sort of people God has always desired—the humble. Despite their faults, the Twelve were teachable. Jesus wanted men who could understand the struggles of the broken-hearted, the poor, and the afflicted.

The 12 Disciples – Before and After
Jesus could not have picked a more diverse group of men to accomplish His divine purpose. By human standards, the Twelve had very little in common with one another—one unpredictable fisherman, possibly one with a bias against Nazareth, a fanatic Jewish nationalist, a despised tax-collector, a skeptic/pessimist, two “Sons of Thunder” with explosive tempers, and a covetous betrayer. They argued among themselves about which disciple would be the greatest (Luke 9:46; 22:24). He showed displeasure when they contradicted Him (Matthew 16:23). Repeatedly, Jesus spoke of His betrayal, death, and resurrection (Matthew 16:21-22; Mark 9:30; Luke 18:31-34), yet the disciples faltered.

  • “All the disciples deserted [Jesus] and fled” (Matthew 26:56)
  • “Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believer those who had seen him after he had risen” (Mark 16:20).
  • “Jesus himself stood among [the disciples] and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ They were startled and frightened . . . He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds’” (Luke 24:36-38).
The Twelve would witness miracles of healing, power over nature, and of raising the dead. Yet it wasn’t until “after” Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension that the disciples’ were transformed. Prior to His Ascension, Jesus “opened the disciples’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” Upon returning to His Father, Jesus would fulfill God’s promise—clothing them with the Holy Spirit’s power (Luke 24:45-49). The Holy Spirit supplied the driving force, enabling the disciples to accomplish the mandate Jesus had entrusted to them. The Twelve testified of who they knew Jesus Christ to be: Lord of all creation, Redeemer of all who trust in His death for their deliverance from sin, and the Source of eternal life for all who accept Him as their Savior.

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