Heroes: Jesus and the Disciples 2


What Was It Like Being Jesus’ Disciple and Apostle?

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

In this article, get to know the 12 disciples (then apostles) and their:

  • Lives before they met Jesus
  • Experiences with Him in His ministry
  • Transformation from being disciples to apostles of Christ
  • Lessons they learned

Who Were These Twelve Men?

Heroes: 12 disciples of Jesus
Photo credit: Canva

Matthew 10:2-4 gives us 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

Heroes: Simon Peter
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Behind his name

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


It’s because He knew the disciple would have a significant role in establishing the Christian church1.

Now, the name Simon Peter originated from the Greek term Petros, which, like Cephas, means “rock”2.

Where did he live?

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

Who were his family members?

His father was Jonas and his brother was Andrew (John 1:40, 21:15).

What was his occupation?

Peter was a fisherman at Capernaum, working with Andrew, James, and John (Matthew 4:18-21).

Unfortunately, these men couldn’t eat their fresh catch because they had to lend it to the tax collector for sale to wealthy consumers. In return, the fishermen would only get processed fish from elsewhere3.

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

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

2) Andrew

Heroes: Andrew fishing
Photo credit: Canva

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?

Jonas was his father and Peter was his brother (John 21:15).

Where did he grow up?

Andrew grew up in Bethsaida and Capernaum (Matthew 8:5-17; John 1:44).

What was his livelihood?

Like his brother Peter, Andrew was a fisherman at Capernaum (Matthew 4:18-21).

3) James (Zebedee)

Heroes: James (Zebedee)
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Who was he by name and designation?

This James was different from James, the son of Alphaeus.

To distinguish him from the latter, Gospel writers identified him as James, the brother of Jesus.

What about his family?

This James was one of the sons of Zebedee. John the Beloved was his brother (Matthew 10:2-4, 17:1).

Do you know his occupation?

Like Peter and Andrew, James was also a fisherman at Capernaum (Matthew 4:21). He was fishing when Jesus invited him to be a disciple4.

4) John

Heroes: John
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Where did his name come from? What does it mean?

John originated from the Hebrew name Yohanan, which means “God is gracious”12.

It also translates as “God has been gracious” or “Jehovah has been gracious”5. And it denotes “God’s gift”6.

Who comprised his family?

John’s father was Zebedee and his brother was James (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19).

What was he doing for livelihood?

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

He was also working with Peter and Andrew, living this way until Jesus called him to be His disciple (Luke 5:1-11).

5) Philip

Heroes: Philip
Photo credit: Canva

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. No! This Philip was a disciple and apostle.

Where did he come from?

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

Was he a fisherman too?

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

6) Nathanael (Bartholomew)

Heroes: Nathanael (Bartholomew)
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Let’s study his name.

Nathanael’s name came from the Greek word bartholomaios, which means “son of Talmai.” Talmai was the king of Geshur during this time (2 Samuel 3:3).

What was his place of origin?

Nathanael hailed from Cana of Galilee, where Jesus called His first disciples John 1:43-51).

7) Thomas

Heroes: Thomas
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Thomas originated from the same name in Greek and from the Aramaic word te’oma, both meaning twin2.

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

8) Levi Matthew

Heroes: Levi Matthew
Photo credit: Smoodock’s Blog

What was his family background?

According to Mark 2:14, 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’ve probably learned from Bible stories that Matthew was a tax collector. Indeed, he was. Jesus encountered him in this occupation when He called him to be His disciple (Matthew 9:9-13).

9) James (Alphaeus)

Heroes: 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).

His name originated from the Greek word mikros, which 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?

He was born and raised in Galilee7.

10) Judas (Alpheus)

Heroes: Judas (Alpheus)
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Discover the facts about his name.

Here’s another confusing name. But Jude was not Judas Iscariot (John 14:22).

This one was the son of Alphaeus and the brother of James the Lesser (Acts 1:13).

Aside from Judas Alphaeus, his other names were Jude Thaddaeus, Judas Thaddaeus, and Lebbaeus (Matthew 10:2-4; Mark 3:16-19).

To whom was he related?

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

And 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.

11) Simon (Zealot)

Heroes: 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?”

With this, Simon might have been one of Jesus’ brothers too.

Where did he live?

Simon lived in Galilee7.

What kept him busy?

Simon was a merchant and a member of a Jewish sect called Zealots. These men were on revolution, looking for the Messiah to overthrow Rome8.

12) Judas Iscariot

Heroes: Judas Iscariot
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Discover the history of his name.

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

True enough, he was from Kerioth, south of Judah (Joshua 15:25).

Who was his father?

Simon Iscariot was Judas’ father (John 6:71).

How Were They Doing 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 Jesus4.

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). He also saw Him pray at the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46).

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). He also disowned his Master when a woman recognized him as His disciple (Luke 22:54-62).

Heroes: Peter walking on water
Photo credit: Canva

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, 11:19-30). And he was with Paul, who served the Gentiles9.

“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 but not in the same manner as Jesus did because he felt unworthy to be treated as such. Instead, he asked to be crucified with his head downward10.

Can you believe that? What a sacrifice!

2) Andrew

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

Heroes: Andrew preaching
Photo credit: Free Bible Images

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” (verses 1-14 of chapter 6, NIV).

3) James (Zebedee)

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

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

Heroes: Burning house and field
Photo credit: Canva

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 (Matthew 17:1-13; Mark 5:35-43; 1 Corinthians 9:5).

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). Then they would talk about anything for as long as they wanted. They were indeed the best of friends.

Heroes: John lying on Jesus' chest
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Yet, John had difficult experiences too in Jesus’ ministry. As mentioned before, James attempted to call down fire from heaven to burn the hostile Samaritans. John was there too. Like his brother, he was angry too (Luke 9:54).

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).

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 and drink poison1112.

Can you imagine this persecution happening to you?

Despite this, John “continued to preach the doctrine of Christ” with “great zeal and success”13.

Because of this, the Roman emperor condemned him “for the Word of God” and His testimony (Revelation 1:9)14.

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

Though alone at Patmos, John enjoyed his time with God there. He saw through visions the events that would take place in the future. Great wars, earthquakes, diseases, and so much more—he saw them all15.

Heroes: Man praying
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5) Philip

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

One of Philip’s significant contributions to Jesus’ ministry was when he helped Jesus find food for five thousand men (verses 1-14 of chapter 6).

Does this story sound familiar?

Besides, he also joined the apostles’ meeting in Jerusalem to pray after Jesus’ ascension (Acts 1:13).

Heroes: Tongues of fire on the apostles
Photo credit: The Economist

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 at the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-29).

As an apostle, Nathanael spent years as a missionary in Armenia. His apostolic symbol had three parallel knives7.

7) Thomas

Heroes: Doubting Thomas
Photo credit: Free Bible Images

There is not much information about Thomas in the Bible.

But there’s a character trait most of us know about him—being doubtful.

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

8) Levi Matthew

Heroes: Matthew, the tax collector
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Matthew was a tax collector. He was at the tax booth when Jesus invited him. He remained in this occupation as a disciple (Matthew 9:9-13).

9) James (Alphaeus)

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

He was also present during the apostles’ meeting in the upper room where the Holy Spirit came in tongues of fire (Acts 2:1-13).

10) Judas (Alpheus)

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

But as an apostle, he was an active missionary, preaching in Mesopotamia, Judea, Samaria, Syria, and Libya8.

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. And for sure, he was at the Last Supper, knowing that all twelve disciples were there (Matthew 26:17-29).

12) Judas Iscariot

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

Heroes: Judas kissing Jesus
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He sold Him for 30 pieces of silver. Then, before Jesus’ trial, Judas gave Him an insulting kiss (Matthew 26:15, 49).

But Judas felt regretful about what he did.

When he learned about Jesus’ crucifixion, he attempted to return the money he received for his Master’s betrayal and killed himself by hanging (verses 3-10 of chapter 27).

What Have They Learned From Jesus?

1) Being Jesus’ follower is a lifelong commitment.

Heroes: Man being baptized
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While He was on earth, Jesus called His 12 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 that involves learning about, growing in, and testifying of Him.

Are you willing to follow Jesus now?

2) Remain humble no matter what.

Heroes: Teaching children
Photo credit: Canva

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

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

Jesus also served the people. He healed the sick, offered forgiveness to those in need, and 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. 

Heroes: Couple arguing
Photo credit: Canva

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

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

This gives you a lesson to hold back a bit whenever you feel angry. Analyze your emotions first and check your temper before reacting.

As 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.

Heroes: Preacher in church
Photo credit: Canva

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

Look at Jesus. He not only preached but also lived up to His teachings.

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

Also, he preached about the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). And yes, he manifested love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control all throughout His life.

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

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

Heroes: Jesus comforting a sinner
Photo credit: Church of Jesus Christ

Jesus never looked down on a sinner.

No matter how stubborn most of His disciples and other people He encountered were, He looked at their hearts. Their outward manifestations didn’t blind Him from seeing their potential to change.

Let’s go back to some of the disciples.

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

With this, behind your stubbornness on the outside, Jesus sees your good heart and potential to change if you will choose to.

6) Trust God without reservations.

Heroes: Praying
Photo credit: PCDN

Peter has failed this test many times.

Also, Thomas often doubted Jesus even if there were proofs already.

And during that stormy evening on the boat, the disciples felt as if Jesus didn’t care.

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

With this, how could He abandon you, too?

So “trust in the Lord with all your heart, and 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 until they were commissioned as apostles? Would you also want to be one?

To whom did you relate the most? In what way? What have you learned from him?

To learn more about the lives of Jesus’ disciples and apostles, subscribe to Heroes: The Bible Trivia Game, read their stories on our hero page, find them in our Bible study course, and download our game on Google Play and App Store.

  1. Behind the Name, 2020 [] []
  2. Christian, 2020 [] [] []
  3. Oakman, in Deni Rene YouTube Channel, 2017 []
  4. Siegfried Horn, The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, 1979, 584-94 [] []
  5. She Knows, 2021 []
  6. Rubia, 2017 []
  7. Bible Info [] [] []
  8. Overview Bible [] []
  9. Ellen White, The Story of Redemption, 315 []
  10. Ellen White, The Story of Redemption, 316.1 []
  11. Wilson, 2020 []
  12. Early Christian Writings, 2021 []
  13. Ellen White, The Sanctified Life, 70.1 []
  14. Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles, 570.3 []
  15. Ellen White, The Acts of the Apostles, 571.2 []
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