When Does ‘Disciple’ Become a Verb?
…when we put our beliefs in action!
By Majors Don and Isa McDougald –
JOHN–“The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved”
Of course this title raises a question. Didn’t Jesus love all the disciples? Of course he did, but there was a special love for John.
Jesus nicknamed him and his brother James, “Sons of Thunder.” This would seem to indicate that he had a fiery temper.
But we remember John most for his love of Jesus–when the other disciples fled at the cross, we find John there with the women. In fact, at that time Jesus entrusted his mother into John’s care and she lived in his home.
John’s life is marked with loyalty–to Jesus–to Peter (he could have spurned him after Peter’s denial of Jesus, but he didn’t)–to the Christians in Jerusalem during the time of persecution.
John wrote the gospel of St. John and the Epistles. It is here that we can see that he had an amazing grasp of spiritual truth and insight. John probably understood Jesus better than any other of the disciples. It is interesting to note that in the gospel he never refers to himself by name.
John 12:34 states, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another…” This is John, the disciple of love.
JAMES–“Son of Thunder”
James was the older brother of John, and the son of Salome, whose sister Mary was the mother of Jesus. His father, Zebedee, was a prosperous fish merchant of Capernaum. James, along with John, was in business with their father. There is evidence that they were fairly prosperous, as they owned a home and had servants.
James did not achieve a model Christian character overnight. He exhibited flashes of impatience and, on one occasion, vindictiveness towards the inhabitants of a Samaritan village who refused overnight hospitality to Jesus and his disciples. “Will you command fire to come down from heaven to consume them?” he asked Jesus. “Sons of Thunder” was a fitting name for him and his brother.
And yet for 14 years James was one of the leaders of the early church. So much so that when Herod Agrippa wished to increase his prestige by putting down the new Christians, James was the target for his wrath. He had him killed.
Are you a “Son of Thunder”? Anger can be a good trait–if it is controlled. I think the reason Herod chose James for the sword was because James was outspoken concerning Jesus. Are you outspoken for your Saviour?
PHILIP – “The Practical One”
Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. John 1: 44,43 tells us that Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said unto him, “Follow me.” Some of the apostles sought out Jesus. Not Philip–he was too practical. I can just see that meeting: Philip talking to Jesus and asking questions and getting answers. But upon receiving those answers the practical Philip believed and followed Jesus.
One of the first things Philip did was to tell his friend Bartholomew (or Nathanael, as he is also called). When Bartholomew questions, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” practical Philip states, “Come and see.”
We again see Philip at the feeding of the multitude. Jesus turns to him and asks him, “Where are we to buy bread to feed these people?” Now Jesus already knew what he was going to do. Why did he ask Philip? I think he wanted Philip to test him. Would he act of faith? He had already seen Jesus do many miracles. True to form, Philip answers, “It would take a fortune to begin to do it.” There is no way. He forgot that he was with Christ, with whom all things are possible.
Are you practical? This is a good trait. But don’t be so practical that you forget the miracles that Christ can perform in your life and in the lives of others.
ANDREW–“Simon Peter’s brother”
Andrew was first a disciple of John the Baptist. He was a fisherman by trade. We don’t hear a lot about Andrew. He is usually referred to as “Andrew–Simon Peter’s brother,” and it would seem he is always in the shadow of his brother.
But Andrew does have the distinction of being the first disciple to follow Jesus, and he was the first person to bring someone to Christ. After he meets Jesus he goes and tells Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” In fact, the three times that he is mentioned in the scriptures we see him bringing people to Jesus–first Peter, then the boy with the loaves sand fishes, and then some Greeks.
Some people have referred to Andrew as the “one-talent man.” But what a talent to have–that of bringing people to meet the Saviour.
Maybe you feel that you don’t have many talents, but we can all introduce people to Jesus. Maybe not in mass evangelism, speaking to great crowds like Billy Graham, but as Andrew did: one at a time.
Peter was one of the most colorful members of the twelve. He was the leader among the disciples and later became a leader in the apostolic church. Jesus said, “You are Simon, son of Jonas; thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, a stone.”
Peter and his brother Andrew were fishermen by trade. Jesus called him and said, “I will make you a fisher of men.”
What an interesting man–impetuous, sometimes angry, the first to speak and the first to act–sometimes with disastrous results. He often failed. People have referred to him as “the disciple with the “foot-shaped mouth.” And, of course, just before Christ was crucified, Peter denied him three times.
That could have been the end of Peter right then–but it wasn’t. Christ appeared to him after the resurrection. We don’t know what that conversation was about, but we do know that Peter was forgiven and went back to Jerusalem and helped build the early church.
Have you failed the Lord? He is always willing to forgive, as he did Peter, and send you back to work for him again.
MATTHEW–“The Publican, the Tax Collector”
The tax collector in the days of Jesus had little standing. His word was not accepted in a Jewish court of law because he was reckoned unworthy to take the oath. His money was tainted and not accepted by the synagogue. Matthew was probably a very unpopular man.
But one day Jesus came to him and said, “Follow me.” I think Matthew was probably astonished–Jesus wanted him, and without a second thought, he left all he had and followed Jesus. There is a good possibility that Matthew was a rich man, and so when he followed Jesus he probably left a lucrative business for a humble friendship with Jesus. Moreover, he had to live down his past.
Of course, the first book of the New Testament was written by Matthew. How Jesus changed his life. He wrote a gospel about Jesus and yet he doesn’t mention himself. Humility is a true mark of conversion.
Matthew had been rescued from sin. Do you need to be rescued from sin? Just as Jesus called Matthew, he calls you from an empty existence. Look at what a difference Christ made in his life. He can do the same for you.
Philip was the one who came to Bartholomew and said, “We have found the Messiah–the very person Moses and the prophets told us about! His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth! And Bartholomew replied, “Can anything good come from there?”
But he went anyway and met Jesus. As he approached, Jesus said, “Here comes an honest man–a true son of Israel, in whom is no guile.” That was quite a compliment. A man without guile–without hypocrisy–without deceit, without craftiness. He thinks no evil. He does not look for wrong motives. He takes you at face value.
Nathanael, who at one moment states, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” meets Christ and states, “Master, you are the Son of God.” He had a childlike faith.
It would be good if Christ could say of us, “Behold, a Christian in whom there is no guile.”
Simon the Zelotes–Zelotes was a nickname. It identified Simon with a party called “The Zealots.” This was a political party who were fanatical patriots. They were a group of Jews who believed in national freedom for Israel.This party came into existence about 20 years before the ministry of Jesus.
Simon the Zealot was a member of this party before he became an apostle of Jesus. This is about all that we know about him. But Jesus chose him to be his disciple–a man with zeal.
THOMAS– “The Doubter”
Thomas was the most pessimistic most melancholy, the most stubborn of the disciples He would not believe anything he couldn’t see. Thomas the doubter.
And yet, Thomas had his good traits. When Jesus announced his intention of visiting Bethany, where Lazarus had died, Thomas declared that he was going with him, even if it meant death. He was loyal to Jesus and didn’t want Jesus to face the danger alone.
We meet Thomas once more on Easter Sunday. Jesus has risen from the dead, but when he appears to the disciples, Thomas is absent. Later the others tell Thomas about Jesus, but he refuses to believe. A week goes by and still he will not believe that he is alive–until Jesus appears to him. Jesus tells him to put his hand in the nail prints and in his side. Thomas now goes from doubter to believer. On his knees he states, “My Lord and my God.”
Are you, like Thomas, sometimes doubting, sometimes lacking in faith?
JAMES (The Lesser)
Mark in his account of the crucifixion calls him James the Less, or James the Little. We assume from this that he was either that he was short of stature or he was younger than the other James. His father was Alphaeus. His mother was a follower of Jesus. He was chosen to be an apostle, and that’s all we know of him. His name does not appear anywhere else in the Scriptures.
But that doesn’t make him less important. Jesus chose him, as he chooses you and me. Luke 10:20, “Rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” When we choose, like James, to follow Jesus, our names are recorded in heaven.
In Matthew he is called “Lebbaus, whose surname is Thaddaeus.” In Acts and Luke, “Judas of James,” All we know of this disciple is the question he asked Jesus at the Last Supper. (At that time he was identified as “Judas–not Iscariot.”)
Judas had been listening For three years he had been faithful. At the Last Supper he asked Jesus, “Lord, how is it that you are going to make yourself known to us, but not the world?” Jesus did not try to explain “how.” All he said was, “You must do this, and then that will be so…”
Sometimes when we pray, Jesus doesn’t answer our questions, but rather he tells us. “When a man loves me, he follows my teaching…just trust me. Someday you will understand.”
Judas–the one who betrayed Jesus. He is the disciple hardest to understand. But the fact remains–Jesus chose him to be an apostle, and I believe that he was not chosen specifically to betray Jesus. He was not chosen to become a traitor–he had the same chances as the others. For three years he was in the close company of the Lord. He saw the miracles. He proclaimed the Kingdom’s message–he witnessed. As all men, God made Judas a free-will agent and he chose to betray the Lord.
Judas was the treasurer of the group, and as such we might assume that he had skills as a businessman.
What made Judas betray Jesus? Jesus knew that he was going to do it, but how did he know? Probably there were signs: stubbornness, prayerlessness, resentments, quarreling with the other disciples. Later on, looking back, John states that Judas was a thief, that he took money out of the purse of which he was in charge. He betrayed Jesus and then hanged himself.
What a waste! He was chosen as an apostle, but he went his own way. He didn’t listen to Jesus’ words, his warnings, his leadings.
But what of us–you and me? We hear Jesus speak to us. We know what we should do and yet do we betray him in our words and in our actions? Do we let him change us?
He was a student of religion–he studied with the best. He had great knowledge As a learned man, who had studied law, as a devout Hebrew and a religious leader of the strict sect of the Pharisees, Saul vowed to silence these Christians and the nonsense that Jesus was not dead. He would bring those early day Christians to court and expose this fiction.
But something happened to Saul on his way to Damascus: he met Jesus Christ and Saul became Paul the apostle–a completely changed man. No one he met could ever forget him or his faith. Faith changed Paul.
Wherever he went he stirred up reaction. Because of his efforts, the Christian church grew. He is known for his missionary journeys and the starting of new churches.
Paul faced much because of his commitment and love for Christ–he was persecuted, assaulted, threatened, beaten, imprisoned, attacked, stoned, ridiculed, bound with chains and shipwrecked. He was truly an outstanding man.
What have you faced because of your commitment to Christ?
What happened to these men who changed the world? I think two things made the difference. First of all, they were committed–committed to Christ–committed to sharing the message of love that Christ brought to a lonely, sinful world–committed to winning others to Christ.
Secondly, these men allowed the Holy Spirit to fill and guide them: give direction to their lives in their daily walk. I would ask you to think about your own commitment to Christ and the message of love that he offers to you.