Monday, March 24, 2014

Insights from Some of the Lesser Known Apostles (Training of the 12, chapter 4, Part 2)

What kind of people made up the newly chosen apostolic band? What we know about these men varies greatly, but it can be helpful to place them in three groups based on the amount of data we have.

The first group is most familiar to us and has the greatest prominence in the biblical narrative:
Simon Peter: The man of rock.
Andrew: Peter's brother.
James and John: Sons of Zebedee, and sons of thunder.

The second group:
Philip The earnest inquirer. 
Bartholomew or Nathanael: The Israelite of integrity.
Thomas: The Twin.
Matthew: The Tax Collector

The third group:
James (the son) of Alphaeus
Judas son of James (also called Thaddaeus)
Simon The Zealot.
Judas, the man of Kerioth: The Traitor.

We will become very well acquainted with the first group of these men as we read through the gospels. And there are a few disciples that we know almost nothing about, but here are few observations about some of the lesser known disciples:

Thomas, called “The Twin” is a warm hearted person with a melancholy temperament. He is ready to die with his Lord, but slow to believe in His resurrection. 

Judas Iscariot is the man who betrayed Jesus.  The presence of a man capable of treachery among the elect disciples is a mystery that we will not go into now. We just point out that he seems to have been the only one among the twelve who was not a Galilean.

Simon the Zealot was part the group that rose in rebellion under Judas some twenty years before Christ's ministry began, when Judea and Samaria were brought under the direct government of Rome, and the census of the population was taken with a view to subsequent taxation. What an amazing phenomenon to see this ex-zealot among the disciples of Jesus!  No two men could differ more widely in their spirit, ends, and means, than Judas of Galilee and Jesus of Nazareth. The one was a political malcontent; the other would have the conquered submit to the yoke of oppression, and give to Caesar what belonged to Caesar. Simon aimed at restoring the kingdom to Israel, adopting for his watchword, "We have no Lord or Master but God." Jesus aimed at founding a kingdom not national, but universal, not "of this world," but spiritual. The means employed by them were as diverse as their results. The Zealots had used the carnal weapons of war, the sword and the dagger; while Jesus relied solely on the gentle but omnipotent force of truth.  An ex-zealot was not a safe man to make an apostle because he might bring Jesus and His followers under political suspicion. But the Author of our faith was willing to take that risk. He expected to gain many disciples from the dangerous classes as well as from the despised. So He wanted have them to represented among the twelve.

Matthew was a tax collector, working for the Roman oppressors. Such people were considered traitors to the nation of Israel. It gives one a pleasant surprise to think of Simon the zealot and Matthew the tax collector, men coming from so opposite ends of the political spectrum, meeting together in close fellowship in the little band of twelve. The extremes meet in these two disciples  -- the tax-gatherer and the tax-hater: the unpatriotic Jew, who degraded himself by becoming a   servant of the alien ruler; and the Jewish patriot, who chafed under the foreign yoke, and longed   for emancipation. This union of opposites was not accidental, but was designed by Jesus as a prophecy of the future. He wanted the twelve to be the church in miniature form; and therefore He chose them so as to intimate that, as among them distinctions of tax collector and zealot were unknown, so in the church of the future there should be neither Greek nor Jew, bond nor free, but only Christ.

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