Sunday, January 3, 2010

Favorite Apostle

Of the 12 disciples who followed Jesus around and were closest to him, do you have a favorite? If it will make the question any easier, here are their names.

Matthew 10:2-4 lists the twelve apostles. They are:
1-Simon (who Jesus surnamed Peter)
2-Andrew (Peter's brother)
3-James (the son of Zebedee)
4-John (the son of Zebedee - James' brother)
6-Bartholomew (also called Nathanael)
8-Matthew (the publican-tax collector)
9-James (son of Alphaeus - also called James the younger or James the less)
10-Lebbaeus (whose surname was Thaddaeus - the brother of James)
11-Simon (the Canaanite - also referred to as Simon the Zealot)
12-Judas (the one who would betray Jesus).

Any surprises there? I have to admit, Lebbaeus was not a name I was familiar with as Thaddaeus is the name usually used for him. It is also interesting that out of 12 men, there were two Simons and two James.

There were three sets of brothers. Jesus surnamed Simon, Peter. Jesus also surnamed James and John, Boarneges (which means sons of thunder).

Judas is mentioned around 22 times in the four Gospels and just about every time his name comes up, it is tied with him being the one who betrayed Jesus. What a legacy! Judas was also the son of another Simon.

Jesus had four half brothers: James, Joses, Simon, and Judas. Are you beginning to get the same picture as me? There appears to be a lack of imagination as to naming boys. I guess naming girls was not much different. How many Marys are there in the New Testament? Although none of Jesus' half brothers were among the 12 apostles, James is the one who wrote the book of James and was a key figure in the early church.

If you notice, two of the Gospels were not written by any of the 12 apostles (Luke and Mark).

Acts 1:13 tells us that all eleven of the apostles were together in the upper room.

So, do you have a favorite? Some of the eleven are rarely mentioned by name and the first four in the list (which were all fishermen) were considered to be Jesus' inner circle.

I would imagine that most would select Peter or John as their favorite. Peter, because we can all relate to him is certain ways. He was brash at times, stubborn, sometimes slow to catch on, and he failed. To me, it is the failure of Peter that grabs my heart. But, it is the forgiveness of Jesus in his statement, "go and tell the disciples and Peter", that I really love. Jesus went out of his way, after the failure of Peter, to make sure Peter knew that he was still one of the closest men to Jesus.

John might be your selection because I believe he is the one of the 12 that we would most have wanted to be. John refers to himself as "the disciple that Jesus loved". Wow, what a relationship to experience! I get the picture of John as being one of the youngest of the 12 but still being very close to Jesus. It was John who Jesus asked to watch over his mother, while he hung on the cross.

You may relate to others on the list. Maybe you are an IRS agent and really like Matthew. Maybe you are politically minded and feel a bond to Simon the Zealot.

There is one other that I think we just might be able to relate to - Thomas. How would you like the nickname of "doubting Thomas" - again, what a legacy. In the book of John (20:19-29), the story is told of Jesus appearing to the disciples in the upper room. The first time he showed up, Thomas was not there. The others told Thomas that they had seen Jesus. His reply, "Unless I see...I will not believe."

Eight days later, when Thomas was with the others, Jesus came back. Jesus singled out Thomas and showed him his hand and side. Thomas responded, "My Lord and My God!" Jesus said, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed."

Where do each of us stand on that issue? Do we have to see or personally experience something with our senses in order for us to believe? None of us have personally seen Jesus (you cannot count the movies) and yet many of us do believe in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour of those who believe in Him. But, what about other things? Where do you stand on miracles or maybe a subject such as casting out demons?

Have you ever, personally, seen a miracle; something that happened, supernaturally, that only God could have done? If you answered, yes, then I would assume that you believe in miracles. What if you answered, no; do you believe that God does miracles, still today? Do you believe that the age of miracles ended centuries ago and that any claim to a modern day miracle either is bogus or has some other logical explanation?

If you fall into the group of "Doubting ________ (insert your name)", are you going to hold to that doctrine until God shows you a miracle? If that is the case, you may have to wait a long time - remember James 1:6-8. "must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts...that man ought not to expect...being doubleminded...unstable..."

I do believe in miracles for today. That is an easy one for me because I have seen miracles. They were not bogus and there was no other logical explanation. It was a work of God. But, I also believed in miracles prior to seeing them firsthand.

God has not changed! He is the same; yesterday, today and forever. He can still move your mountain and calm your rough sea. Do you need the impossible in your life? Go to God! "With God, nothing is impossible."

(Sub-note: This is not to say, by any means, that all claims to modern-day miracles are real. There are those who have hijacked "miracles" as a means to an end. They claim that God is working miracles through them but be careful, many times these are bogus and the key figure is not God, but is the man with his name on the sign hanging over the front door. He will probably also follow up the "miracle service" with a plea for your money. Do not send any!

When God does a miracle, he does not follow it with a collection plate. Real miracles are not tricks or something done "for show" in order to convince you to give to that ministry. A real miracle will leave you in awe of God, not of a man.

Just because there are the fake miracle workers, this does not mean that God has gone out of business.)

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