MEET THE DISCIPLES

September 10, 2017

JUDAS

My name is Judas. History isn’t quite sure what to make of me. John thought I was a thief. Others thought my last name linked me to a group of assassins called the Sicarii while others thought I came from a city in Judea named Kerioth. No matter what you want to think, I was considered an outsider from the beginning and always was suspicious of this Jesus as the others were of me. Even though he called me to be one of his disciples – and I agreed – I was always watching and waiting to see where this was all heading.

Of course you all remember me because I was the one who betrayed him. Somebody had to do it. He said a lot of great things and he did a lot of good but he was stirring up trouble with the authorities and I was concerned – as others were – about what this would lead to – especially when he came to Jerusalem in such an open and triumphant way. Of all the ways I could have chosen to betray him, I did it with a kiss – a way to show love was what I chose to betray one who had put his faith and trust in me.

I came to regret my actions when I saw how they treated him and came to understand who he really was. I returned the money but it was too late. I felt great remorse. I had a hand in killing God Himself – some people believe I hanged myself. I can’t really remember what happened but I was pretty shaken up by the events that followed that night in Gethsemane. I heard that he forgave me. Imagine that!

THOMAS

My name is Thomas. Everyone knows me as Doubting Thomas but I never really doubted. I just had trouble believing something that seemed too incredible! How do you wrap your head around the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection! I had been with him for the past 3 years and had even encouraged the others to stay with Jesus after he raised Lazarus from the dead. That caused quite a stir and there were more people than ever out for his blood.

Maybe you might think I am a weak believer because I needed to touch and see Jesus for myself. I know that many others have never had the chance I had to witness Jesus in the flesh but I really needed to be sure.

But Jesus was okay with it. He knew we are not all the same and that there are some of us who find it difficult to accept something second hand from someone else – even if those people are our closest friends and we can’t imagine them lying to us.

But, hey, I did witness that Jesus was alive. I touched his hands and felt his side. Because of me – even though I appeared to be a doubter – you can believe that it’s true. He lives!

I was so grateful for what I had learned that I took the message to the east into India. In AD 72, I lost my life for the sake of his gospel of hope and peace.

I am the patron saint of those who have doubts, blind people as well as stone masons, carpenters and architects among others.

NATHANAEL

My name is Nathanael. I have also been called Bartholomew. It could be that some people knew me by the name my father gave me – Bartholomew means son of Tolmai. Others may have known me by the name my mother gave me – Nathanael – gift of God.

Apparently Jesus considered me a true Israelite – probably because I was bold enough to question whether anything good could come from Nazareth. One of those inside jokes back in my day. You know, there are always towns where you come to believe nothing good can come from. Nevertheless, this Jesus was like someone I had never met before. He seemed to know all about me even before I laid eyes on him. I decided to follow and see where this would lead me.

But I was one of the first ones to believe that this Rabbi known as Jesus was the Son of God and the rightful king of Israel.

I also went to India for a while. It is believed that I was martyred in Albania but that was a long time ago. My memory is fuzzy on that.

PHILIP

My name is Philip. I’m the one who introduced Nathanael or Bartholomew or whatever you want to call him. I was a fisherman from a town called Bethsaida in Galilee, the same town as Andrew and Peter.

I was a follower of John the Baptist. I was following John and his work when I first met Jesus. He called me out of a crowd. Wow, I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited I wanted to introduce him to my friend Nathanael.

I wasn’t one of the more important disciples but I did my best to follow. But I was the one the Greeks approached when they were seeking to speak with Jesus.

According to Polycrates, a 2nd century Bishop of Ephesus, I was almost crucified in Phrygia but survived and was buried in Hieropolis around AD 54. My life is celebrated on May 3rd.

JUDE

My name is Jude. Sometimes I am known as Thaddeus. Sometimes I am known as Jude Lebbeus. I am the brother of another disciple whom you will meet later. I am the mystery disciple because while I appear in the list of disciples, my name changes with different accounts.

Nonetheless, I was one of the disciples even if I remained insignificant and myserious. I was even believed to have authored the Epistle named after me but scholars have now discovered that someone else wrote it and put my name to it.

Because so little is known about me, there are a lot of rural legends – we didn’t have a lot of urban areas back then. Some people think I was the bridegroom at the wedding in Cana; others believed that I traveled to Syria, Libya and Mesopotamia to preach the gospel; still others believe I went to Armenia with Nathanael. Who knows? What I do know is that Jesus made a difference in my life and I followed his teachings until the day I died.

JAMES THE LESSER
My name is James – son of Alphaeus; but I am also known as James the Less or the Lesser so as not to be confused with the other James, the son of Zebedee and the brother of the disciple known as John. Also don’t either of us confused with that other James – the third one – who was the biological brother of Jesus.
Some people thought that Matthew was my brother but there really is no truth in that and I’m glad. I wouldn’t want to know my brother was a tax collector – even if he did come to his senses and join us.
You’ve heard of the mysterious disciples? Well, I am known as the obscure disciple. I am so invisible that you would never know I was there except for the fact that my name shows up when the disciples are listed.
But even though you will never know a lot about me, you know this. I lived and I followed Jesus. Like so many of you, I am and will remain an unsung hero of the faith. In the words of the Psalmist: “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory.” (Psalm 115:1)

JAMES THE GREATER

My name is James. I have come to be known as the Greater. But maybe I wouldn’t have been so great if not for my brother John. Both of us were called by Jesus as we were mending our nets. Neither one of us hesitated to go with Jesus. We’d seen him around and heard a lot about him. We were both surprised to be asked but could not resist the lure to learn how to fish for people.
The nickname Jesus gave us was “Boanerges” (sons of thunder). Some believe it was because of our tempers but we were just passionate guys. After all, think of that great gospel my brother penned – there’s a lot of passion in that! Another story on the name is linked to a time when a Samaritan village rejected Jesus and we wanted fire to come down from heaven and destroy the place!
I suppose, though, that our request to share power with Jesus in that kingdom he was always going about wasn’t showing ourselves on our best behaviour. It was selfish of us but we thought we were more important than the others because Jesus took us to places that the others weren’t invited like the resurrection of Jarius’ daughter, the transfiguration and later on the time of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. I guess we learned a thing or two about humility. It was a good lesson to learn and I never forgot it.
When you read the book of Acts, you will find me in the account. Aside from my other activities, you will find recorded my death by beheading at the hand of Herod Agrippa sometime between 41 and 44 AD.

MATTHEW

My name is Matthew and yes, I was a tax collector when Jesus met me. I know it was an ugly profession but I really wasn’t trained for anything else. I was certainly glad when Jesus came along and took me away from it.

You probably think that I wrote that gospel that has my name. Well, there were probably a lot of my recollections in it but someone later than me put it together. Nevertheless, I do like the account and would recommend it to you.

Some Christian legends say that Iwas martyred in Ethiopia, others that I was martyred in Parthia. There is no evidence for the truth of any of these traditions or even that I would have been martyred at all anywhere.

You see, Jude isn’t the only mysterious disciple. I know you want to know more about who I was and what I did but I can’t help you. I can’t remember!!

SIMON

My name is Simon. I am often referred to as a Zealot. It’s never been decided whether I was a member of the radical Zealot party or just a person with religious zeal. Some even thought I was from Canaan which really would have been something as the Canaanites were old enemies of the Jewish people. Nevertheless, I was delighted to have been asked to join Jesus and serious about following Jesus.
A lot of people are convinced that I was a member of the Zealot party. That group hated taxes – especially the taxes imposed by the Romans – and they hated the Romans. Some people are even convinced that Jesus chose me – a tax hater – to counterbalance his choice of Matthew – the tax collector. But I’m not sure that Matthew really loved taxation. It was a job and paid the bills.
But it is fascinating to think that Jesus would have chosen each one of us because we represented some part of our society and culture and wanted to be sure that everyone – no matter who they were – could be a part of the kingdom he was talking about.
Other than that, the only other thing ever mentioned about me is that I spread the Gospel in Egypt as a missionary and was martyred in Persia.
Not much of a biography but I got my name in there!

MATTHAIAS
My name is Matthaias. I wasn’t one of the original 12 disciples but I had been a follower of Jesus. After the betrayal of Jesus by Judas and the events of Jesus’ death, crucifixion and resurrection, the other disciples decided that it was important to have 12 core disciples. We would now be known as apostles for now we had a story to tell and not just learners.
After I was chosen, I seem to disappear from the record. No one can really be sure what became of me but one Greek historian claims I was crucified in Colchis in the Caucasus Mountains. Another legend has it that I was stoned then beheaded by Jews in Jerusalem.
I did write a gospel which is quoted in part by Clement of Alexandria in the 3rd century but no copies exist today.

JOHN
My name is John. I am the disciple of whom it is said: “Jesus loved him.” We certainly were quite close. He even instructed me to care for his mother. Perhaps that was because I was the only one still there when he died but I believe it was because of our close personal relationship. I remember leaning my ear against his chest just to hear the beat of his heart.
I was also part of the inner circle with my brother James and Peter. I also became an elder in the early church and helped spread the gospel message.
I was fortunate to have met Jesus and been called by him. He was a great teacher and his many sacrifices for me and for the world have never been forgotten. I didn’t always get everything right. I misunderstood Jesus message about forgiveness but eventually I understood about his unconditional love.
I faced many trials and tribulations after Jesus’ death and resurrection but I survived them all. I started out a fisherman but ended up being able to leave behind written accounts of the life of Jesus and the message of hope he brought so that everyone who came after us might know this human face of God that we were able to touch and the hands of God we were able to hold and the heart of God that we were able to feel.
Even though I was exiled to the island of Patmos, I outlived all the other disciples and died of old age at Ephesus around 98 AD.

ANDREW
My name is Andrew which means “manly”. I was the brother of Simon who came to be known as Peter. My greatest claim to fame is that I brought my brother to Jesus.
I was a follower of John the Baptist and when I heard John declare that Jesus was the Lamb of God, I had to go and see for myself. I was convinced that he was who John said he was but didn’t know then what I would come to know later. But I had to bring Simon to meet him. Little did I know how critical and life-changing that decision would be.
While it can never be proven, people have come to believe in the 14th century tradition that I was crucified on an X-shaped cross and hung there for 2 days before I died. Today there is an X on Great Britain’s flag as a reminder of my sacrifice and that I am the patron saint of Scotland.

PETER
My name is Peter. I became one of the better known of the disciples perhaps because Jesus changed my name from Simon to Peter and said it was because I would be like a rock – solid and reliable. But I think I am better known because of all my mistakes and rash decisions. I was the one who jumped into the water thinking I could walk on it like Jesus. I was the one who desperately wanted nothing bad to happen to Jesus and even defended him at his arrest by cutting off a person’s ear. But then I was the one who denied him three times out of fear for my own life.

He had brought me into his inner circle. He had shared moments with me that few others even knew about until we told the accounts and they were recorded in the Gospels. He loved me so much and yet I let him down over and over again.

Yet he never gave up on me. He even trusted me to take care of his people and to lead the new community – even after all I had done to disappoint him.

Jesus made a prediction about the end of my life – that I would be carried places I didn’t want to go. No one knows for sure what happened to me in the end but it is believed I ended up in Rome and became a victim of the oppression of Nero. A small shrine to me has been found under the St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and this might mark the place of my grave.

JESUS

Well, you’ve met the motley crew I decided to put my faith and trust in and then entrust them with passing the message on. Because you are here, it tells me they did a pretty good job.

As you can see, I didn’t seek out the brightest and the best but I saw something in each one of them that told me they would believe and that they would follow.

So, what about you folk here today? Are you prepared to be modern day disciples and apostles? Think about it as you sing the written by John Bell.

Love and Peace
Jesus