Jesus With Disciples


How Was It Like Being Jesus’ Disciple and Apostle?

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Do you sometimes wonder how it was like being Jesus’ disciple and apostle?

In this article, get to know the twelve disciples (then apostles) and their:

  • Lives before they met Jesus
  • Experiences with Jesus in His ministry
  • Most important lessons learned

In this article, get to know their:

Let’s begin.

Who Were These Twelve Men?

Matthew 10:2-4 (NIV) gives the following names:

  • Simon Peter
  • Andrew
  • James, the son of Zebedee
  • John
  • Philip
  • Bartholomew
  • Thomas
  • Matthew
  • James, the son of Alphaeus
  • Judas, the son of Alpheus
  • Simon, the Zealot
  • Judas Iscariot

Who Were They Before They Met Jesus?

1. Simon Peter

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What you might have known about his name

You might have known him as Simon, Peter, or Simon Peter. But did you know that Jesus called him Cephas? You can read it in John 1:42 (ESV).

But why Cephas?

It’s because Jesus knew Simon would have a significant role in the Christian church. In particular, he would be the rock to serve as the foundation of its establishment (Behind the Name, 2020).

Now, let’s trace the origin of his name. According to Christian (2020), Simon Peter got his name from the Greek term Petros. Guess what it means! It’s “rock,” the same as what Cephas means.

Now, where did he live?

Peter hailed from Bethsaida and Capernaum (John 1:44; Matthew 8:5-17, ESV).

Who were his family members?

Jonas was Peter’s father. Andrew was his brother (John 1:40 and 21:15, KJV).

What was his occupation?

Peter was a fisherman at Capernaum (Matthew 4:18-19, ESV). He worked with Andrew, James, and John.

Unfortunately, these men couldn’t eat their fresh catch, according to Oakman (2017). They had to lend it to the tax collector for sale to wealthy consumers. In return, the fishermen would only get processed fish from elsewhere.

How would you feel if you were one of these fishermen? How would you fight for your right?

Aside from this, did you know that Peter became a follower of John the Baptist? John 1:35 (NIV) says that John was with two of his disciples. They were Peter and Andrew (verses 40-42).

2. Andrew

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What was the origin of his name?

Andrew’s name in Greek was Andreas. It came from the root word aner or Andros, meaning “man.”

What about his family background?

According to John 21:15 (ESV), Andrew was Jonas’ son and Peter’s brother.

Where did he grow up?

Peter lived in Bethsaida and Capernaum (John 1:44, Matthew 8:5-17, ESV).

What was his livelihood?

Like his brother Peter, Andrew was a fisherman at Capernaum (Matthew 4:18-19, ESV).

3. James (Zebedee)

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Who was he by name and designation?

This James was different from James, the son of Alphaeus—how true?

Well, Gospel writers identified him as James, the brother of Jesus, to distinguish.

What do you know about his family?

This James was the son of Zebedee. Also, he was the brother of John the Beloved (Matthew 10:2-4 and 17:1, NIV).

Do you know his occupation?

Like Peter and Andrew, James was also a fisherman at Capernaum (Matthew 4:21, NIV). He was fishing when Jesus invited him to be a disciple (SDA Bible Dictionary 4.4, 584-94).

4. John

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Where did his name come from? What does it mean?

According to Behind the Name (2020), John originated from the Hebrew name Yohanan. It means “God is gracious” (Christian, 2020).

It also translates as “God has been gracious” or “Jehovah has been gracious” (She Knows, 2021). Still, it denotes “God’s gift” (Rubia, 2017).

Who comprised his family?

John’s father was Zebedee. Then, his brother was James. You can read this from Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-19 (NIV).

What was he doing for livelihood?

As you have learned earlier, John was with his brother, James, as a fisherman (Matthew 4:21, NIV).

With this, he was also working with Peter and Andrew. He lived like this until Jesus called him to be His disciple (Luke 5:1-11, NIV).

5. Philip

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What was behind his name?

Philip came from the Greek name Philippos, meaning “lover of horses.”

You may be wondering if this was Philip the Evangelist described in Acts 8:5-6 and 21:8 (ESV). No. This Philip was a disciple and apostle.

Where did he come from?

Philip hailed from Bethsaida (John 1:44, ESV). It was also the city of Peter and Andrew.

Was he a fisherman too?

Philip was a fisherman like most other disciples (John 1:43-51, ESV).

6. Nathanael (Bartholomew)

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Let’s study his name.

Nathanael’s name was from the Greek word bartholomaios. It means “son of Talmai.” If you read 2 Samuel 3:3 (ESV), Talmai was the king of Geshur during the time.

What was his place of origin?

Nathanael came from Cana of Galilee. According to John 1:43-51 (NIV), Jesus called His first disciples in Galilee. Here, he met Philip.

7. Thomas

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Thomas originated from the same name in Greek. Also, it traced itself from the Aramaic word te’oma. According to Christian 2020, both mean “twin.”

Hence, Gospel writers often referred to Thomas as “Didymus” or “the Twin.” You can read it from John 11:16, 20:24, and 21:2 (ESV).

8. Levi Matthew

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What was his family background?

According to Mark 2:14 (NIV), Levi Matthew was one of the sons of Alphaeus. Other than this, the Bible does not say much about his family background.

What was his role in society?

You have learned from Bible stories that Matthew was a tax collector. Indeed, he was. You can read it from Matthew 9:9-13 (NIV). Here, Jesus called him to be His disciple.

9. James (Alphaeus)

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Know what’s behind his name.

Another James! No, he was different from James, the son of Zebedee. This one was another son of Alphaeus (Mark 3:16-19, NIV).

His name originated from the Greek word mikros. It means “less” or “small.” For this reason, New Testament writers called him “the Lesser,” “the Minor,” “the Little,” or “the Younger.”

Where did he live?

Finally, according to Bible Info, he was born and raised in Galilee.

10. Judas (Alpheus)

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Discover the facts about his name.

Here’s another confusing name. But Jude was not Judas Iscariot as you read in John 14:22 (NIV).

Acts 1:13 (ESV) says Jude was the son of Alphaeus. Also, he was the brother of James the Lesser.

Jude had different names, according to Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-19 (ESV). These were Jude of James, Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus, and Lebbaeus.

To whom was he related?

Jude 1:1 (NIV) says, “Jude a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.”

Now, Galatians 1:19 (NIV) relates James with Jesus. It says, “I saw none of the other apostles – only James, the Lord’s brother.”

To conclude, Jude might have been one of Jesus’ brothers, too. 

11. Simon (Zealot)

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Who were his family members?

Matthew 13:55 (NIV) mentions, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t His mother’s name Mary, and aren’t His brothers James, Simon, and Judas?”

In conclusion, Simon might have been one of Jesus’ brothers.

Where did he grow up?

Simon lived in Galilee, according to Bible Info.

What kept him busy?

Simon was a merchant and a member of a Jewish sect called Zealots. These men were on revolution. In particular, they were looking for the Messiah to overthrow Rome (Overview Bible).

12. Judas Iscariot

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Discover the history of his name.

Judas Iscariot got his name from Hebrew Ish Kerioth. It means “a man from Kerioth.” 

Hence, you know that he was from Kerioth, south of Judah. You can find this place in Joshua 15:25 (ESV).

Who was his father?

According to John 6:71 (ESV), Simon Iscariot was Judas’ father.

Now, How Were Their Lives With Jesus in His Ministry?

1. Simon Peter

How was he as a disciple?

You’ve learned earlier that Peter was a disciple of John the Baptist. But through his preaching, he decided to follow Jesus (SDA Bible Dictionary 4.4, 584-94).

As Jesus’ follower, Peter belonged to the inner circle with James and John. With this, he has seen his Master’s significant life events.

For instance, he was there during Jesus’ transfiguration (Luke 9:28, ESV). He also saw Him pray at the garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46, ESV).

How would you like to see these in person, too?

But Peter had his flaws and challenges, too.

For instance, his pride and fear almost drowned him while walking on water with Jesus (Matthew 14:28-33, ESV). He also disowned his Master when a woman recognized him as His disciple (Luke 22:54-62, ESV).

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Despite this, Jesus’ love transformed Peter. He became a faithful disciple and evangelist.

How was he as an apostle?

Peter did missionary work for the Jews (Acts 10:9-48 and 11:19-30, ESV).

Ellen White said the same thing in her book, The Story of Redemption 315.1. But she added that Peter was with Paul. While the former ministered to the Jews, the latter did to the Gentiles.

Yet, “both were to bear witness for Christ in the world’s metropolis.” They were to “shed their blood as the seed of a vast harvest of saints and martyrs.”

Peter was later condemned and crucified (316.1). He felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus did. As such, he asked his executioners to nail him to the cross with his head downward.

Can you believe that? What a sacrifice!

2. Andrew

Like Peter, Andrew was once a disciple of John the Baptist (John 1:40-42, ESV).

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Through this baptist’s preaching, he decided to follow Jesus. He invited Peter, and they became His first two disciples.

Being with Jesus, Andrew has seen most of His miraculous acts. One was when He fed five thousand men with “five small barley loaves and two small fish” (John 6:1-14, NIV).

3. James (Zebedee)

James belonged to Jesus’ inner circle with Peter and John (Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 9:28, ESV). Hence, he was with Him in most of His significant ministries and personal moments.

Yet, like Peter, he also had flaws and challenges. For instance, his hot temper triggered him to call down fire from heaven (Luke 9:54, NIV). It was because a Samaritan village refused to give Jesus a place of lodging.

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4. John

What were his experiences as a disciple?

Like Peter and James, John belonged to Jesus’ intimate three. He has seen his Master’s transfiguration, healing ministry, and other significant moments. You can find them in 1 Corinthians 9:5, Matthew 17:1-13, and Mark 5:35-43 (ESV).

How would you like to be part of this intimate circle if you were a disciple?

Aside from this, John was close to Jesus. For instance, he would recline at his Master’s bosom at the dining table (John 13:23, ESV). Then, they would talk about anything for as long as they wanted. They were the best of friends.

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Yet, John had difficult experiences too in Jesus’ ministry. As mentioned before, James attempted calling down fire from heaven. He wanted to burn the hostile Samaritans. John was here, too (Luke 9:54, ESV). Like his brother, he was so angry.

Still, Jesus’ love transformed John. He became a loving, caring, and responsible disciple and friend. For instance, he accepted His request to take care of His mother Mary when He died (John 19:26-27, ESV).

How was his life as an apostle?

John was an active evangelist.

For this, he faced persecution under the Roman Empire. The emperor challenged him to bathe in burning oil. He also had him drink poison (Wilson, 2020; Early Christian Writings, 2021).

Can you imagine this persecution happening to you?

Despite this, John “continued to preach the doctrine of Christ.” He never lost “great zeal and success” (Ellen White, The Sanctified Life 70.1).

Because of this, the Roman emperor condemned him “for the word of God” and His testimony. You can read it from Revelation 1:9 and Ellen White’s Acts of the Apostles 570.3).

Then, the Roman emperor ordered his exile at the isle of Patmos.

John was alone at Patmos. But he enjoyed his time with God there (Acts of the Apostles 571.2). John saw through visions the events that would take place in the future. Great wars, earthquakes, diseases, and so much more – He saw them all.

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5. Philip

Jesus called Philip by the Sea of Galilee. With this, Philip also invited his friend Nathanael (John 1:43-51, ESV).

One of Philip’s significant contributions to Jesus’ ministry was that in John 6:1-14 (ESV). Here, he helped Jesus find food for five thousand men.

Does this story sound familiar?

Besides, he also joined the gathering in Jerusalem to pray after Jesus’ ascension. You can read it in Acts 1:13 (NIV).

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6. Nathanael (Bartholomew)

The Bible is silent about Nathanael as a disciple. 

But he was with Jesus in most of His activities and ministries. For instance, all twelve disciples were present in the Last Supper. You can refer to Matthew 26:17–29 (ESV).

As an apostle, Nathanael spent years being a missionary in Armenia (Bible Info). His apostolic symbol had three parallel knives.

7. Thomas

There is not much information about Thomas in the Bible.

But there’s a character trait most of us know about him. That is, among other disciples and apostles, he was the doubtful one. 

For instance, he didn’t believe Jesus resurrected until he saw Him a week later. Learn more from John 20:24-29 (ESV).

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8. Levi Matthew

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As you’ve learned earlier, Matthew was a tax collector. In Matthew 9:9-13, ESV), he was at the tax booth when Jesus invited him. He remained in this occupation as a disciple.

9. James (Alphaeus)

According to 1 Corinthians 15:7 (ESV), James was the first to witness the risen Christ.

Then, he was present in the upper room when the Holy Spirit came in tongues of fire. You can find this in 1 Corinthians 15:7 (NIV).

10. Judas (Alpheus)

Little do we know about Jude Thaddaeus as a disciple. The Bible doesn’t provide much information about him.

But as an apostle, he was an active missionary. According to Overview Bible, he preached in Mesopotamia, Judea, Samaria, Syria, and Libya.

11. Simon (Zealot)

The Bible doesn’t say a lot about Simon as a disciple.

But he was with Jesus in His healing, preaching, and other ministries. Without a doubt, he was in the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17–29, ESV). All twelve disciples were present there.

12. Judas Iscariot

His Life As Jesus’ Follower

Judas Iscariot was close to Jesus. He saw most of His miracles and heard His teachings. But, unfortunately, he gave in to the temptation of betraying Him.

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Before Jesus’ trial, Judas gave Him an insulting kiss. Then, he sold Him for 30 pieces of silver (Luke 22, ESV).

But Judas felt regretful about what he did.

Soon, he learned about Jesus’ crucifixion. He attempted to return the money he received for his Master’s betrayal. Then, he killed himself by hanging (Matthew 27:3–10, ESV).

What Have They Learned From Jesus Which Can Change Your Life, Too?

1. Being Jesus’ follower is a lifelong commitment.

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While He was on earth, Jesus called His twelve followers “disciples,” meaning students.  When He ascended to heaven, He called them “apostles,” meaning messengers.

As you can see, there’s a process. First, you study and learn Jesus’ teachings and principles. Then, you go out there to preach.

Yet, it doesn’t end there. Following Jesus is a lifetime commitment. It involves learning about, growing in, and testifying of Christ for the rest of your life.

Are you willing to follow Jesus now?

2. Remain humble no matter what.

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During His time with the disciples, Jesus taught and demonstrated humility.

He was God. Yet, He took on human weakness and recognized His need for the Father. Jesus would always pray for guidance, protection, and wisdom from heaven.

Also, Jesus served people. He healed the sick. Jesus offered forgiveness to those in need. He even washed His disciples’ feet like a servant.

As Philippians 2:3-5 (ESV) says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit.” Instead, “count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others.”

3. Be a master of your impulse. 

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James and John’s fury toward the Samaritans could have triggered Jesus’ anger, too. Also, Judas’ kiss of betrayal and Peter’s denial could have made Jesus deny them as well.

But Jesus didn’t let emotions master Him. Instead, He was in control of His impulses. With this, He rebuked His traitors with love, gentleness, and patience.

As such, whenever you feel angry, hold back a bit. Analyze your emotions. Check your temper. 

Remember what Proverbs 15:1 (ESV) says? “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Can you do it? Of course, not. But with God’s help, you can.

4. Walk your talk.

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Would you listen to someone advising something he hasn’t experienced yet? Would you even follow his advice?

Look at Jesus. He didn’t only preach but also lived His teachings.

He always taught about the importance of prayer. True enough, the disciples always saw Him on His knees in total surrender to the Father.

Also, he preached about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23, NIV). And yes, he had love, joy, and peace with everyone He encountered. 

He never ran out of patience, kindness, and goodness in everything. Still, His faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control were more than enough.

As such, practice what you preach. As the saying goes, “action speaks louder than words.”

5. You are more than what you are on the outside. 

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Jesus never looked down on a sinner.

No matter how sinful you are, Jesus looks at your heart. Your outward manifestations don’t blind Jesus to seeing your potential to change.

Let’s go back to some of the disciples.

Who would know the proud, faithless Peter transformed into a humble, faithful apostle? Also, who could imagine the ill-tempered John became a patient, loving evangelist?

6. Trust God without reservations.

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Peter failed this test many times.

Also, Thomas often doubted Jesus even with proofs already.

Still, during that stormy evening on the boat, they and other disciples felt Jesus didn’t care.

They all lacked faith. Yet, Jesus never failed them.

How could He abandon you, too?

All it takes is to “trust in the Lord with all your heart.” With this, “do not lean on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5, ESV).

What Do You Think?

How did you find this article?

Did you enjoy exploring the lives of the twelve disciples, then apostles? Would you also want to be one?

To whom did you relate the most? Why? What have you learned?

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