Last time, we looked at Jesus’ compassion on mankind – lost in our sin, and wandering aimlessly like sheep without a shepherd. We saw that Jesus not only felt compassion in His heart for us, but took action to come to our aid – not only by the miraculous healings he performed during His earthly ministry, but so much more by His sacrifice of Himself on the cross in our place so that we might be healed from the deeper malady that afflicts us – separation from God in our sins.
Matthew continues now with a listing of the twelve apostles.
1And 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. 2The 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; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.Matthew 10:1-4 [ESV] (Mark 3:13–19; Luke 6:12–16 )
In verse 1 Matthew uses the word μαθητής mathētēs – meaning learners, pupils, or disciples – to refer to these twelve men. Then in verse 2, he calls them ἀπόστολος apostolos – meaning delegates, messengers, ones sent forth with orders. If we look solely at Matthew’s list of “the twelve” we might assume that Jesus only had twelve disciples. The other gospel writers make it clear this wasn’t the case.
12In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:Luke 6:12-13 [ESV]
Two important aspects of Luke’s account stand out. First, Jesus chose twelve apostles from among His disciples – who likely numbered in the hundreds after all the miracles Jesus had already performed among them. Second, note that Jesus prayed all night before He chose the twelve. Neither of the eyewitness gospel writers – Matthew and John – were present for this prayer, so we have no record of its specifics. We can safely assume that Jesus’ prayer concerned the ones whom He would choose out of all His disciples to send forth as apostles of His Gospel message. This is a great mystery. Jesus was and is fully God. Hence in His true glory He is both omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all powerful). Yet here in Luke’s narrative we find the man Jesus of Nazareth praying for guidance from God – His Father (and ours).
In the upper room on the night He was betrayed, Jesus Himself confirmed His choosing of these specific twelve apostles from among His disciples.
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 [ESV]
NOTE – When Jesus spoke these words, Judas Iscariot had already departed from the room to betray Jesus. Thus Jesus did not include His betrayer in this promise.
Take a look at the Apostles of Jesus handout.
All three synoptic gospels list twelve apostles. John’s gospel does not list them, but mentions nine of them by name. Luke’s account of the history of the first-century Church gives another listing that excludes Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus to the authorities who had Him crucified, and includes instead Matthias – whom the remaining eleven chose by lot to replace Judas Iscariot after he died (Acts 1:26). The handout lists the twelve apostles named in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts along with the verses where the listings are given, and the verses that first mention each of the apostles in those four books. Since the four lists don’t match, let’s take a little time to analyze them.
Simon (Peter) – In the three gospel listings Simon is called by his given name. Recall that Jesus had renamed him Peter at Caesarea Philippi after Peter declared, “You are the Christ – the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16) The listing of the apostles in Acts refers to him as Peter. From Jesus at Caesarea Philippi, we also learn that Peter (along with his brother Andrew) were the sons of Jonah (Matthew 16:17). Simon Peter was a fisherman by trade. Peter, Andrew, John, and James were called by Jesus to become “…fishers of men.“
James (son of Zebedee) – the brother of John, and son of Zebedee. James is found in all four lists of Jesus’ apostles. We might call James, his brother John, and Peter Jesus’ “inner circle.” These three were witnesses to Jesus’ full glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, & Luke 9). They were also witnesses of Jesus raising Jairus’ daughter back to life out of death (Mark 5 & Luke 8). This “inner circle” were also closest to Jesus as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal. Mark reports that James and his brother John were called Βοανηργές boanērges – sons of thunder – by Jesus. John never refers to either himself or his brother James by name. From Acts 12:2 we learn that James was ordered killed by King Herod Agrippa sometime between 41-44 AD. Don’t confuse James Zebedee with either James the half-brother of Jesus who wrote the book of James, or James the son of Alphaeus who is sometimes called James the Less.
John – writer of the gospel and the book of Revelation. John is listed in all four lists of Jesus’ apostles. He never refers to himself in his gospel, but often writes of “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Presumably, this is John’s euphemistic way of writing about himself. In his gospel, John refers to “the twelve” several times, but surprisingly mentions only two names as being among “the twelve” – Thomas and Judas Iscariot. Church tradition holds that John was boiled in oil, but not killed. John himself tells us that he received and wrote down the vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ while exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the Gospel. John’s death is not recorded in the New Testament. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs declares that among the twelve, John alone avoided violent death for the sake of the Gospel.
Matthew – writer of this gospel. In the passage we are studying, he lists himself as a tax collector. The only other place he mentions himself by name is the occasion of his calling by Jesus in Matthew 9:9. Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27 contain a virtually identical record of Jesus calling a tax collector named Levi. Mark also mentions that Levi was the son of Alphaeus. Mark’s listing of the apostles in Mark 3:16-19 and Luke’s listings in Luke 6:12-16 and Acts 1:13 make no mention of tax collectors, and include Matthew but not Levi. John makes no mention of either Matthew or Levi. Traditionally, it has been assumed that Levi and Matthew are two names for the same man. However, it is also possible that Jesus called two tax collectors in an almost identical fashion, but chose only one of them – Matthew – to be one of His twelve apostles.
Andrew – the brother of Simon Peter – one of the four fishermen whom Jesus called to become fishers of men. Andrew is listed as one of the twelve in all four lists of the apostles. John mentions Andrew on several occasions, also affirming that he was Simon Peter’s brother.
NOTE – John’s report of Andrew’s calling is distinctly different from Matthew’s and Mark’s. John 1:35-42 reports that Andrew had been a disciple of John the Baptist, but when Andrew witnessed John point to Jesus and say, “Behold, the Lamb of God,” Andrew left John and followed Jesus, stayed with Jesus overnight, and brought Jesus to his brother Simon the next day when Jesus went to Galilee. John makes no mention of fishermen. This is extremely strange, since John himself was one of the four fishermen whose calling to become fishers of men is reported in Matthew and Mark. It is difficult to reconcile the differences in these accounts. We need to always remember that Matthew, Mark, and John were Jews – raised in a narrative tradition that emphasized concepts over chronology. We know that each of the gospel writers had a specific and unique perspective, purpose, focus, and target audience. The gospels are not merely accounts of the events of Jesus’ earthly ministry. They are also to some degree exhortations to the Truth of Jesus’ Gospel. Furthermore, the two eyewitnesses – Matthew and John – wrote down their gospel accounts decades after the events took place, so at least some allowance must be made for the fading of their recollection. For many years following Jesus’ ascension, the Gospel was promulgated orally and by letter. Certainly the oral traditions which had already become firmly entrenched by the time the gospel accounts were finally written impacted their writing to some degree. Of course, the seeming disparity between the accounts is unimportant in comparison to the message of the Gospel itself. But I point this disparity out now to ensure the reader is aware of it ahead of time in case the issue is brought up by someone to whom the reader may witness the Gospel. Foreknowledge of the disparity will hopefully thus prevent the reader’s Gospel witness from being derailed.
Philip – Philip’s name is found in all four listings of the apostles. The synoptic gospel accounts are silent regarding Philip apart from listing him among the twelve. Unusually, Philip’s calling to be Jesus’ disciple is found only in John 1:43 who also reports in John 1:45-51 Philip’s witness to Nathanael whom Jesus also called as His disciple. Perhaps the most well known story about Philip during Jesus’ earthly ministry was when Jesus chastised him in the upper room when Jesus told them all that He was going away on the night He was betrayed.
5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”John 14:5-11 [ESV]
8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do 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 on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
Following Jesus’ ascension, Philip became a noted evangelist after the dispersion of the church due to the persecutions carried out by Saul of Tarsus. Philip is perhaps best remembered for his Gospel witness to an Ethiopian eunuch along the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, which we read about in Acts 8:26-40. This same Philip may also have been the evangelist living in Caesarea at the time of Paul’s return to Judea after his final missionary journey mentioned by Luke in Acts 21:8. However Philip was a popular name throughout the Mediterranean basin at the time, having been the name of Alexander the Great’s father for whom the city of Philippi was named. Philip the apostle and evangelist should not be confused with the Philip who was selected by the apostles as a deacon of the church in Jerusalem in Acts 6:5.
Bartholomew – There is no mention whatsoever of Bartholomew in God’s Word apart from his listing among the twelve in all four lists of the Apostles.
Thomas – Thomas is listed as a chosen apostle in all four listings of “the twelve.” Thomas is also named as one of the twelve by John who mentions that Thomas was also called “The Twin.” The Greek word translated as “The Twin” in reference to Thomas is Δίδυμος didymos – meaning twofold. This may have been a nickname for Thomas who may have had a twin brother or sister, or it may have been Thomas’ family surname. It is transliterated into English as “Didymus” in the KJV, NIV, ASV, NET, and NASB.
There is no record in any of the gospel accounts of Jesus calling Thomas to be a disciple prior to sending him forth as an apostle. Of course Thomas is most famous for his refusal to believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he was able to touch the wounds in Jesus’ hands and side. From this story we know that Jesus even in His glory continues to bear the wounds of His sacrifice on the cross in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy.
4Surely he has borne our griefsIsaiah 53:4-5 [ESV]
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed.
This idea is further confirmed in Revelation 5 by John’s vision of the Lamb who looked as if He had been slain.
James (son of Alphaeus) – All four of the lists of the twelve apostles specify that this James was the son of Alphaeus in order to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee and brother of John. If we accept that Levi the tax collector whose calling as a disciple is recorded in Luke 5:27 and Mark 2:14 is the same man who is called Matthew in the four lists of Jesus’ apostles, then James was very likely the brother of Matthew (Levi) who was also a son of Alphaeus according to Mark. Of course, Jesus may have called two different tax collectors – one of whom was a son of Alphaeus, and brother of James and the other (Matthew) was later named by Jesus as one of the twelve. It is also possible that Levi and James were the sons of two separate men named Alphaeus. Going forward, I think the traditional assumption that Levi and Matthew were two names for the same tax collector and that he and James were brothers is a safe one. At the end of the day, of course, it doesn’t really matter.
Simon the Zealot – There are many men named Simon in the New Testament including a Pharisee who invited Jesus to dinner, the father of Judas Iscariot, and Jesus’ own half brother. In order not to confuse this Simon with Simon Peter or any of the other Simons, the lists of Jesus’ apostles call him Simon the Zealot. On your handout, you will note that Matthew and Mark call Simon a Cananite. This is because the handout was originally generated from my research using primarily the NKJV. That translation renders the Greek word Καναναῖος kananaios into English as Cananite [sic] while the KJV renders the word more correctly (in spelling at least) as Canaanite. But all the other English translations I had available render the word as Zealot. The Zealots were a sect within the Pharisee sect who most urgently sought the coming of the promised Messiah. Sadly, most of them missed the fact that the Messiah had already come in the flesh of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Καναναῖος kananaios is most properly translated as Zealot or zealous. Hence, the KJV and NKJV mistranslated it in my opinion to give the false impression that Simon was a non-Jewish resident of the land of Canaan. The Greek word properly translated as Canaanite is Χαναναῖος chananaios. It is found only once in God’s Word – Matthew 15:22 – in reference to a woman of the region of Tyre and Sidon (modern day southwest Lebanon) who sought Jesus’ help to cast a demon out of her daughter. Apart from his listing as an apostle and identification as a Zealot, the Bible gives no other information about this apostle.
Judas/Thaddaeus/Lebbaeus Thaddaeus – the eleventh apostle listed by Luke in his gospel and in Acts 1:13. Most English translations of Luke’s lists mention that this Judas was the son of James to draw a distinction between him and Judas Iscariot. John 14:12 also mentions a man named Judas and says specifically that he was not Judas Iscariot, but John doesn’t say whether this Judas was one of “the twelve.” Compounding the matter further, the KJV lists this Judas as the brother of James rather than the son. In the Greek text of these lists we find neither the word son – υἱός yhios – nor the word brother – ἀδελφός adelphos. In the printed texts of the KJV and NKJV, we find the words brother (KJV) and son (NKJV) in these verses printed in italic type to indicate that the word was added by the translators so the translation would make grammatical sense. Furthermore, which specific James was the brother or father of this Judas is unclear.
Matthew and Mark don’t list this Judas as an apostle at all. Instead, they list a man named Thaddaeus. To make the matter even more confusing some of the ancient manuscripts of Matthew 10:3 call this man Lebbaeus Thaddaeus. Thus the KJV and NKJV list him as “Lebbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus.”
The exact identity of this eleventh apostle, and his family relationships (if any) with the other apostles remains the subject of scholarly debate. Apart from being listed as an apostle, the Bible is silent about him. So barring a new archaeological discovery that might clarify the matter, we’ll just have to wait until we see the twelve foundations of New Jerusalem (see Revelation 21:14) to learn the truth. Once again, this conundrum is unimportant except that we who are called to make Gospel disciples may one day have the issue pointed out by someone, and so we should be forewarned about it.
Judas Iscariot – The four gospel writers are in agreement about Judas Iscariot being among the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus as an apostle. Judas was a common name of the day among the Jews. Thus most often when Judas Iscariot is mentioned in the New Testament, his full name is given to draw a distinction between him and others called Judas. Neither Judas Iscariot nor the Judas son of James listed as an apostle by Luke should be confused with Jesus’ half-brother Judas (a.k.a. Jude) who became a believer only after Jesus’ death and resurrection and went on to write the book of Jude. Of course Judas Iscariot was not present with the other eleven apostles listed by Luke in Acts 1:13. As indicated in the handout, Matthius was later selected by the other apostles to replace Judas Iscariot and bring their number back up to twelve.
Foundations of New Jerusalem
The fact that Jesus chose exactly twelve apostles is significant. The number twelve is prominent throughout God’s Word, most often in connection with the twelve sons of Jacob who became the founders of the twelve tribes of Israel. Often in the Old Testament we find twelve objects such as pillars or stones being used to represent the twelve tribes. For example, there were perpetually twelve loaves on the table of show bread in the tabernacle and later in the temple, and on the breastpiece of the high priest’s robe there were twelve precious stones – each engraved with the name of one of the tribes of Israel.
Thus it would make sense that the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus were also to be representatives of the twelve tribes of Israel. We have no record in the Bible of the tribes from which each of the apostles came, so this idea is just speculation. Nevertheless, certainly the choice of twelve was not coincidence. Jesus chose these men carefully by the direction He received from God the Father in His all-night prayer. Jesus Himself confirmed to them the significance of their number.
Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.Matthew 19:28 [ESV]
Furthermore John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation gives an intriguing tidbit of information regarding the twelve.
And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.Revelation 21:14 [ESV]
But wait. One of the twelve – Judas Iscariot – betrayed Jesus to the authorities who crucified Him. At the last supper, Jesus Himself called Judas a devil. Surely Judas Iscariot will not be one of the twelve who sit on thrones in Heaven judging the tribes of Israel. Nor will the name of Jesus’ betrayer be memorialized on one of the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem. Will Matthias – the man the apostles chose by lot to replace Judas Iscariot take Judas’ place on one of the twelve thrones and have his name written on one of the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem? Given the care Jesus Himself took in choosing the original twelve, it seems incongruous that the one to take the apostle’s place in Heaven abdicated by Judas Iscariot would be chosen by the casting of lots. Traditionally, the term apostle has been used to indicated a man who saw the risen Christ. We have no way of knowing Biblically whether Matthias ever saw Jesus after His resurrection and before His ascension. Regardless of the traditional connotation of the word apostle, recall that the Greek word ἀπόστολος apostolos means delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders. Matthias was chosen by the remaining apostles after Jesus ascended to His Father’s side. Yes. Surely Matthias was one of the twelve who were together a few days later on the day of the first Pentecost when God’s Spirit fell upon them in accordance with Jesus’ promise to them. Matthias might surely have received his apostolic calling from the LORD Jesus on that day.
But there is another whom we know was called by Jesus Himself to be an apostle.
Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,Romans 1:1 [ESV]
Of course it is easy for Paul to simply make the claim of his calling as an apostle without having actually received such a call. Yet Jesus Himself confirmed Paul’s calling to Ananias of Damascus on the day Paul became a Christian and received the Holy Spirit.
15But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he [Saul/Paul] is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”Acts 9:15-16 [ESV]
Certainly the record of Paul’s service to the Gospel found in Acts, and in the New Testament epistles attests to Paul’s faithfulness to his apostolic calling. So I would submit to you that Paul’s name will be written on one of the twelve foundations of the New Jerusalem, and that Paul will sit on one of the twelve thrones in Heaven judging the tribes of Israel. Of course this too is just speculation. As with Judas (not Iscariot) son of James or Thaddaeus or Labbaeus Thaddaeus, we will just have to wait and see exactly whose names are inscribed on the New Jerusalem’s foundations, and who will be sitting on the twelve heavenly thrones judging the tribes of Israel. We may even be shocked to see Judas Iscariot there by God’s sovereign will. After all, he was called and sent forth by Jesus as an apostle before he became a traitor to that calling.