The Apostles (the Ultimate Sacrifice)
We all know the old saying. Do not judge a person by their words, but by their deeds.
This powerful statement holds an exceptional meaning with Christ and his disciples. Their deeds were so profound, they changed civilization and the outlook for mankind forever.
The example that Christ made by His love, determination and eternal grace at Calvary, inspired his own disciples to give up their families, careers, and personal aspirations for the rest of their earthly lives. With the exception of the Apostle John (who died a natural death in old age) and Judas (who betrayed Jesus and committed suicide), the other ten disciples were eventually put to death for their relentless pursuit in spreading the Gospel. If Jesus didn’t exist or if He wasn’t who He claimed to be, why would His disciples have sacrificed everything they had in this life to spread His message?
The 12 Disciples of Christ
Below is an outline of Christ's 12 disciples, various apostles, and important figures from the New Testament.
1. Peter / Simon: (brother of Andrew) Leader of the 1st group who were councilors and prayer partners for Christ; Fisherman by trade; Apostle to the Jews; Rock on which the Church was founded; Ministered in Israel and Babylon; Said to have been crucified upside down in Rome between 64AD-68AD.
2. Andrew: (brother of Peter, disciple of John the Baptist) First called; Introduced people to Jesus; Fisherman by trade; Ministered around the Black Sea region; Crucified in Patras Greece on an X-shaped cross around 60AD.
3. John: (brother of James, disciple of John the Baptist) Youngest disciple (about 17); Fisherman by trade; Beloved by Christ; Ministered in Asia Minor; Lived near Ephesus while he looked after Jesus’ mother Mary; Died of natural causes in Ephesus in 100AD.
4. James the Elder: (brother of John) Silent Disciple; No record of him speaking; Ministered in Judea and Spain; First disciple to be martyred; Beheaded by Herod Agrippa when he returned to Jerusalem in 44AD).
5. Philip: Leader of the 2nd group that managed affairs and crowds in Deacon fashion; Analytical disciple; Always fifth; Ministered in Phrygia, Died a martyr in Hierapolis around 80AD.
6. Bartholomew / Nathanael: Sincere; Has a royal background; Ministered in Persia and Armenia, was skinned alive in Armenia in 70AD.
7. Matthew / Levi: Tax Collector; Publican; Oldest disciple; Outrageous sinner; Superior business skills; Negotiator; Fluent in Greek; Ministered in Judea and Ethiopia, Martyred in the city of Nabadar, Ethiopia around 70AD.
8. Thomas Didymus: Twin and doubter; Traveled to the east and ministered in Parthia, Persia, and India; Martyred on July 3rd in 72AD by jealous Hindu priests of Kali at present day St. Thomas Mount, India.
9. James the Lesser: (brother of Jude) Leader of the 3rd group that primarily managed worldly affairs and money; Small in stature; Ministered in Israel and Egypt, Martyred in Egypt in 63AD.
10. Simon the Zealot: Revolutionary; Wanted to overthrow Rome; Ministered in Egypt, Persia, Armenia, Britain and Syria, Some historians claim he was martyred with Jude in Beirut in 65AD, Others claim he was crucified by the Roman Catus Decianus, at Caistor (modern-day Lincolnshire), Britain on May 10, 61AD.
11. Jude / Thaddeus: (brother of James the Lesser) Ministered in Mesopotamia, Libya, and Persia, Martyred in Beirut in 65AD.
12. Judas Iscariot: Money handler for the Disciples; Ended up being a thief and a traitor; Committed suicide by hanging himself outside of Jerusalem after turning Christ into the authorities for 30 pieces of silver in 34AD.
Important Christian Apostles
Paul of Tarsus / Saul: Apostle to the Gentiles; Roman Citizen from the city of Tarsus; Educated member of the Pharisees; Witnessed the martyrdom of Stephen; Persecutor of Christians before his conversion on the road to Damascus; Participated in the Council of Jerusalem; Wrote much of the New Testament; Martyred by Nero in Rome around 67AD.
Barnabas: Originally from the Island of Cyprus; One of the early Christian leaders in Jerusalem; Traveling companion and close friend of the Apostle Paul; Participated in the Council of Jerusalem; Martyred in Cyprus in 61AD.
Luke the Evangelist: From Antioch; Physician by trade; Disciple to the Apostle Paul;
Wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts; Martyred in Thebes, Greece in 84AD.
Timothy: From the city of Lystra; Met the Apostle Paul during his 2nd Journey; Became a friend and disciple; Martyred in Macedonia in 97AD.
Silas / Silvanus: Hellenistic Jew and Roman citizen; Close friend to Peter; Early leader of Church in Jerusalem; Accompanied the Apostle Paul on parts of his first two missionary journeys; Arrested and imprisoned with Paul at Philippi (Acts 16:19-40).
Mark the Evangelist / John Mark: From the city of Cyrene, Libya; Traveling companion of the Apostle Paul and Barnabas; Author of the Gospel of Mark; Said to have founded the Church of Alexandria; Martyred in Cyrene, Libya in 68AD.
Stephen: Known as the first Christian martyr; Powerful leader in the early Church in Jerusalem; Gave famous speech to the Sanhedrin; Which then led to his martyrdom by stoning in 34AD.
Priscilla and Aquila: were a married Jewish couple; Priscilla was one of earliest known Christian converts who lived in Rome; Aquilla, husband of Priscilla, was originally from Pontus; Disciples of the Apostle Paul; They are credited with instructing Apollos.
Apollos: was a Jewish Christian evangelist from Alexandria Egypt; Friend of the Apostle Paul; Early Church leader in Corinth and Ephesus.
Seventy Disciples: (some manuscripts say 72) As mentioned in Luke 10; Jesus spoke of the great need for evangelism in Verses 1 and 2. He then commissioned 70 unknown individuals, giving them instructions in verses 3-23 on evangelizing the Gospel.
Important People from the New Testament
John the Baptist: Probably the 2nd most important person from the New Testament; Forerunner and cousin to Christ; The Angel Gabriel foretold of John's looming birth; Lived in the desert, survived on locust and honey; Baptized Christ in the Jordan River; Beheaded by King Herod Antipas around 30AD.
Mary, Mother of Jesus: A brave and willing servant when chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah; Christ was conceived through the Holy Spirit; Loving and faithful mother; Cousin to Elisabeth; Witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection of her Son; Late in life, Mary lived near Ephesus under the care of the Disciple John, per Christ's request.
Joseph: Foster father to Christ; Lineage is traced back to King David; Accepted his role after a dream; Much older than Mary; Carpenter by Trade; Assumed to have died before Jesus' ministry began.
Elisabeth: Mother of John the Baptist; Wife to Zechariah; Cousin to Mary; Childless and past normal child bearing age; Strong in faith and righteous in the sight of God;
Zechariah: Father of John the Baptist; Husband to Elisabeth; Jewish Priest; Strong in faith and righteous in the sight of God. The Angel Gabriel foretold of John the Baptist to him.
Joseph of Arimathea: Respected member of the Jewish council; Supported Christ's ministry; Organized the burial of Christ after the crucifixion.
Mary Magdalene: was possessed by seven demons when she met Christ; Then became a follower and close friend; Witnessed Jesus' crucifixion with His mother Mary; Discovered Jesus' empty tomb too.
Joanna is a woman who was healed by Jesus and became a supporter of His ministry. She was also mentioned in the Gospel of Luke as a witness to the resurrection of Christ. What is interesting about Joanna is that her husband, Chusa, was the household manager for king Herod Antipas. This might explain why she was able to provide financial support for the ministry of Christ and His twelve disciples. There were obviously unlikely people that supported Christ across society.
Lydia of Thyatira: Known as the first Christian convert in Europe; She was from Thyatira, Asia Minor; Influential business women; Supported the ministry of the Apostle Paul;
James, Brother of Christ: As a brother, there is evidence that he was originally a skeptic of the "divinity" of Christ; In time though, he eventually became an inspiring leader of the early Church in Jerusalem; Close friend of the apostle Peter; Martyred when thrown from the pinnacle of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, then stoned and beaten to death with a club in 69AD. This ironically occurred just before the destruction of the Jewish temple by the Romans in 70AD. The plunder from this event was used by the Romans to pay for and build, via Jewish slave labor, the infamous Colosseum in Rome that stands to this day.
What inspired the Apostles?
Why did Jesus inspire so many people to forget about their personal ambitions and invest their lives to teach the masses about the Gospel? Let us start by examining two apostles, one was a disciple who denied knowing Christ while under threat of arrest, and the other was a powerful Pharisee who persecuted Christ’s followers. I am obviously referring to the apostles Peter and Paul respectively.
It is human nature to feel a certain amount of guilt when we let a friend down or cause harm to another person. Yet, God does not create or relish in our guilt, as we create our own guilt since we are made in God's spiritual image and sin separates us from God.
"But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God,
and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear."
- Isaiah 59:2 (ESV)
So imagine the overwhelming guilt Peter must have felt after he denied knowing Jesus on three separate occasions, just after Christ was arrested and then Crucified. And imagine Paul’s deep-felt guilt after his conversion, when previously, with his authority had been condemning Christians to death. I don’t think anyone can realistically imagine how these two felt in retrospection. It must have been so profound that it changed their purpose.
We all feel guilt for various reasons throughout our lives. And, it can be easy to let guilt negatively affect our lives and hold us back. As Christians we must learn from our past mistakes and move on. Just like feeling physical pain, guilt can be a blessing if it inspires us to fix our problems and into action to make a change for the better. Peter and Paul are two primary examples of Christians who were inspired by their own bad decisions to take prior wrongs and make them right. Their sincere faith and love for Christ provided the life changing motivation to counter their mistakes with lifelong commitments to spread Christ's message of love and salvation for all of humanity.
In the book of Mark (ch.10) we learn that both James and John asked to have royal status in heaven. They even had their mother, Matthew (ch.20), present this same request too.
To a certain point, all of the disciples let Christ down on various occasions. At times, the disciples had difficulty understanding Christ’s reasoning and ministry. After almost three years of learning from their Master and just before His crucifixion, they even failed to stay awake to warn Jesus when the guards came to arrest him in the Garden of Gethsemane.
Yet after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, a newfound theme was recorded about all of the disciples. They matured to set their own egos aside. Their various self-centered faults were now transformed by their faith into boundless courage and unrelenting commitments to share their own messages about eternal salvation through Christ. All of their individual ministries now spoke to those who would listen and this would usually include the sick, the poor and those without prejudice that had an open heart.
These amazing journeys of service to God, though often painful and in many ways deadly, would serve as an example for all Christians to not give up and to keep the faith in times of doubt and hardship.
James, Son of Zebedee (brother of John), was one of the original four disciples of Christ. He ministered the Gospel in Judea and supposedly Spain. He was eventually (Acts12:1-2) beheaded by King Herod in 44AD after returning to Jerusalem. He was a man of courage and forgiveness, a man without jealousy, living in the shadow of his brother John, a man of extraordinary faith. He was also the first of the twelve to become a martyr.
Before his beheading, tradition has claimed that James returned back to Jerusalem after assuming his ministry journeys had failed. Yet in reality, long after his ministry in Spain, James has inspired the Camino de Santiago that continues to this day. Known in English as “The Way of Saint James”, it is a pilgrimage where millions of inspired individuals take six weeks out of their lives to symbolically walk a 500 mile path that follows where James is said to have traveled. This pilgrimage leads to the famous cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia in northwestern Spain where tradition has it that the remains of the Saint are now buried. Here is an inspiring video of one man's journey across the Camino.
Andrew the Apostle (brother of Peter & follower of John the Baptist) was the first disciple of Christ. Andrew eventually spent many years ministering to people about Jesus in Asia Minor and the Black Sea region until his martyrdom around 60AD. His fatal mistake was healing and converting the wife of the Roman Governor Aepeas in Patra, Achaea (present day Greece).
This conversion enraged the pagan governor, who ordered the arrest of Andrew and condemned him to die on a cross. Andrew, feeling unworthy to be crucified in the same manner as his Master, begged that his be different. So, he was crucified on an X-shaped cross. Today, this X-shaped symbol of a cross is revered and called Saint Andrew's cross. This symbol is currently honored on the flag of Scotland.
Thomas Didymus was a disciple that hailed from Galilee. When hearing that Jesus had risen after His crucifixion, in John Ch.20 Thomas said:
“unless I see the nail prints in Jesus' hand and the gash of the spear in His side,
I will not believe”.
This is where the term 'Doubting Thomas' comes from. And when Jesus later appeared to the disciples, He invited Thomas to put his finger in the nail prints in his hands and in his side. Like so many other disciples, his shame for doubting the Lord causes him to have a profound change of heart and confession of faith when he says: "My Lord and my God".
Thomas' doubts were transformed into undeniable belief and faith. Tradition says he went on to minister in Parthia, Persia, and India and eventually suffering martyrdom near Madras, at present day Mt. St.Thomas, India.
These three condensed examples are just a small sampling of the incredible tales of first century Christian faith and sacrifice. If one were to research the ministries of the disciples and apostles in detail, they would find inspiring stories of faith and sacrifice.
To this day, there are countless legends, shrines and cathedrals spread out across the many nations where they traveled, ministered and died.
A disciple is a student, one who learns from a teacher... An apostle is one who delivers those teachings to others. The apostles of Christ were on a mission to teach the Gospel with compassion and brotherly love, so that we may also acknowledge the glory of God. We do not earn our eternal salvation through deeds, as it was Christ who has already paid for our sins at the cross of Calvary. As Christians, it is Christ's eternal grace that allows us the opportunity to now learn as disciples and bear fruit as apostles.
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