Summary: How you can select disciples for the long haul, who produce into the fourth generation, and will preserve the gospel without alteration or addition.
Today, many people think discipleship is only for the few, the brave, the select, but this is not the Master’s attitude.
When Jesus chose disciples, He wasn’t looking for models; He was looking for real people. He chose people who could be changed by His love, and then He sent them out to communicate that His acceptance was available to anyone - even to those whose lives are marked by failure.
We may wonder what Jesus sees in us when He calls us to be His disciples. But we must believe that Jesus accepts us, and, in spite of our humanity, can use ordinary people just like you and me to do His extraordinary work.
We must understand that discipleship, from salvation to glorification, is by God’s grace through faith. The calling of Jesus is gracious and inviting, adventurous and unsettling. But it is a choice – a choice originating with God and fulfilled in simple obedience.
Jesus’ 12 disciples were from all walks of life - fishermen, political activists, tax collectors, common people and uncommon leaders, rich and poor, educated and uneducated.
Of the 12, Jesus’ first disciples were Andrew, John, Peter, and James.
Of these four, two sets were brothers: Andrew and Peter, John and James (Matthew and James – the sons of Alphaeus - may have been brothers as well bringing the total number of those who were brothers to 6 – truly, a band of brothers – a family of families).
These first four disciples were all fishermen; perhaps, even in business together. Zebedee, the father of James and John, would be left with the fishing enterprise along with his servants when his sons followed Jesus (Mark 1:20).
Let’s briefly review the lives of those Jesus chose as His disciples (including Matthias and Paul):
Peter: Was a fisherman from Galilee who was previously called Simon and was also called Cephas; he was Andrew’s brother; wrote 1st and 2nd Peter; preached the Gospel in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Betania, Italy, and Asia; was afterwards crucified by Nero in Rome.
Andrew: Was a fisherman from Galilee; was Peter’s brother; brought Peter to Jesus; preached to the Scythians and Thracians; was crucified and buried at Patrae.
James: The son of Zebedee, brother to John; from Capernaum; referred to by Jesus as one of the sons of thunder; when preaching in Judea, was killed by Herod the tetrarch and was buried there.
John: The son of Zebedee, brother to James; from Capernaum; referred to by Jesus as one of the sons of thunder and identified as the disciple “whom Jesus loved”; he wrote the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John; in Asia, was banished by Domitian the king to the isle of Patmos where he wrote the Book of Revelation; died in Ephesus.
Philip: From Bethsaida; not to be confused with Philip who was one of the seven deacons chosen to help with the food distribution program in the church (Acts 6:5); preached in Phrygia, and was crucified and buried in Hierapolis in the time of Domitian.
Bartholomew: From Cana in Galilee; also known as Nathanael; preached to the Indians, to whom he also gave the Gospel according to Matthew; was crucified and buried in Allanum.
Thomas: Also called Didymus; possibly a fisherman; often remembered as "Doubting Thomas”; preached to the Parthians, Medes, Persians, Hyrcanians, Bactrians, and Margians; was killed and buried in Calamene, a city of India.
Matthew: A tax collector in Capernaum; son of Alphaeus, possibly James’ brother; also known as Levi or the publican; wrote the Gospel of Matthew; died at Hierees, a town of Parthia.
James: Son of Alphaeus, possibly Matthew’s brother; not to be confused with the son of Zebedee or the author of the Book of James (who was Jesus’ brother); when preaching in Jerusalem was stoned to death by the Jews and was buried there beside the temple.
Jude: May have taken the name Thaddaeus ("warm-hearted") because of the infamy that came to be attached to the name Judas; also called Lebbaeus; not to be confused with the author of the Book of Jude who was Jesus’ and James’ brother; preached to the people of Edessa, to all Mesopotamia, and died and was buried at Berytus.
Simon the Canaanite: From Cana; also called Simon the Zealot (the Zealots were Jewish revolutionaries who opposed Rome); the son of Clopas, died and was buried in Jerusalem.
Judas Iscariot: From Kerioth, and possibly the only Judean among the twelve; was the betrayer of Jesus and committed suicide by hanging himself; we may also forget that while Judas betrayed Jesus, all the disciples abandoned Him; he is called "doomed to destruction" (John 17:12) because he was never saved; when we think of Judas we should also consider our commitment to God and the presence of God’s Spirit within us.