The Twelve Apostles Of Jesus
The twelve Apostles of Jesus were a band of ordinary men who were individually chosen by Christ; chosen to become extraordinary men of God who would eventually change the world. In selecting fishermen, a tax collector, and others from common backgrounds, Jesus demonstrated that the things that might seem commonplace to the world are exceptional in His love. The stories of these students have made the Scripture, "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," (Philippians 4:13) come to life. These followers of Christ were living examples to the Jewish community, and eventually the world, of what God can do through His people and what the plans are for those who follow His Son. Originally known as the twelve disciples or students, they also became Apostles, ones being sent out to carry the Gospel message to the Jews first and then the Gentiles.
In Jewish tradition, students of God's Law were chosen by teachers. A religious leader, or teacher, would hand select a disciple and this man would then spend most of the day, for a period of years, at the teacher's side. Through close and consistent contact, the teacher would impart wisdom about the Scriptures, the Law, and through daily life, demonstrate to the student how a godly person would interact with the world. Perhaps the twelve disciples of Christ that were chosen had never been considered worthy of a teacher before. But when Jesus called to two brothers fishing at the Sea of Galilee to follow, we are told that they immediately left their nets and followed Christ. These fishermen became two of Christ's inner circle of disciples and they were Simon, called Peter and Andrew. The next to be chosen, John and James, were also brothers who were fishermen by trade. The twelve Apostles of Jesus also included Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon, and Judas Iscariot who would be the one who betrayed Christ. Not every Apostles official trade is made known in Scriptures, but we are told that Matthew was a tax collector, a career choice that was looked down upon by the religious leaders of the day.
Similar to a traditional student and teacher relationship, throughout Jesus ministry, the chosen men were at his side. In the early days when the twelve disciples traveled with Christ, they often misunderstood Christ's teachings and were inquisitive about the parables used to illustrate principles. We get a glimpse of their uncertainty early in the book of Matthew when the twelve were in a boat and a storm arose. During the turbulent storm, Christ was sleeping. At this, we read, the men were perplexed. "And his disciples came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish." (Matthew 8:25) Jesus rebukes his faithless companions and then miraculously calms the raging sea. The twelve Apostles of Jesus were amazed that even the winds obey their master. But once Jesus completed selecting each the students and companions who would become known simply as the twelve, he bestowed upon them miraculous powers.
Scriptures tells us that Christ gave these men power against unclean spirits and the ability to heal all kinds of sicknesses. And then Jesus told the twelve disciples to go and preach that the kingdom of heaven was near to the lost sheep of Israel, sending them to nearby towns and villages. Most theologians agree that the empowered students were sent to share their message in pairs. The mission was successful for upon their return, the men told Jesus of the wonders they'd done. From this point on in the New Testament, miracle after miracle is performed in the sight of Christ's chosen companions and throughout the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we begin to see the spiritual growth of the twelve Apostles of Jesus.
One cannot adequately study these fascinating men without giving attention to the one that betrayed Christ, Judas Iscariot. Prior to the Last Supper, we get a glimpse of the heart of Judas. Judas complained when expensive perfume was used to anoint Christ and were told that Judas was abusing the common financial purse. Judas, overcome with greed, bargained with the religious leaders to betray Jesus. As we know, Jesus was well aware this scheme, for at the Last Supper, Jesus tells Judas to go and finish the work he'd started.
At the last supper, the Apostles received amazing insight into Gods eternal plan through the Savior of the world. But within just a few hours, all would deny Him, leaving the Savior to die on a cross abandoned. It was part of the plan, however. The death of the Teacher was just the beginning of an eternal plan that would empower the twelve disciples in extraordinary ways. The fledgling group gathered together in prayer, believing that their master had a purpose, even in death. And as we know, Jesus is raised from the dead. He then appears to His disciples on several occasions and before the ascension, He gives a final command to the eleven who stayed faithful. The risen Christ commands that the Apostles now go into all the world and make other disciples. This is what we know as the great Commission, the task the Christian community labors to complete today. An undertaking that started with twelve men has become a worldwide mission of the bride of Christ, the church. In studying the twelve Apostles of Jesus, we can learn much about Christ and the godly plans for our lives.
Parables Of JesusThe Parables of Jesus are some of the most fascinating teachings in the Bible, imparting truth in the context of everyday stories that applied to the people living in biblical times and to us today. While on earth, Christ communicated truth through narrative analogies to impart moral and spiritual lessons to his followers and those gathered to see and hear this mysterious man. Different people responded very differently to the illustrated stories and this prompted Christ's disciples to question why their leader chose to teach in this method. In the book of Matthew we find the answer to their query: "He answered and said unto them, 'Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.'" (Matthew 13:11) Jesus also told the disciples that because many in the crowd could not see nor hear, they would not understand the truths He revealed. Even though these narratives drew upon everyday circumstances that most could identify with, many, in fact, missed the illustrated relation to the kingdom. In the book of John, Jesus is recorded as saying that He only speaks what the Father tells Him to speak. This applies to the symbolic stories he told throughout the years of his ministry. In the book of Matthew, Christ explains that his speaking in parables was to fulfill prophecy that had been written long ago. We can then know and understand that our Sovereign God used this way of communication for a purpose. And the truth found buried in the Parables of Jesus can still teach us today.
The first parable Christ taught was a story involving a farmer planting seeds. This narrative is known as The Sower and The Seeds. In this story, a man sows seeds in four types of soil. It is important to note that The Sower and The Seeds is one of the most definitive parables of Jesus because he tells the disciples that if they do not understand this particular narrative, then the other teachings will likewise elude them. The Sower and the Seeds is documented in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This amazing story focuses on four types of soil used in planting the seeds. Interestingly, the farmer sowed seeds alongside a road, on rock, amid thorns, and also in good soil. The seed which fell alongside the road was trampled and birds came and snatched what was left. That on the rock had no root and therefore withered. The seed that fell among the thorns grew, but was eventually choked by the thorns and died. But the kernels that were sowed into good soil grew and produced an abundant crop of fruit. Shortly after the narration of this parable, the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him the meaning of story. The account recorded in the book Mark tells that Jesus then explained the importance of this particular parable and the meaning behind the story. The seeds, we are told, are a symbol for God's Word and the soil relates to the human heart. In only one place does the Word take root and produce living fruit: the good soil. In this first of many parables, Christ seems to explain that not everyone who hears the Word of God will understand and believe in Christ, nor be effective ambassadors for the kingdom. This narrative set the tone for upcoming stories full of symbolism, proving that not everyone who would hear them would grasp the deeper meaning.
Among the most popular of Christ's other parables is the story of the Prodigal Son. This is a story that demonstrates the forgiveness and grace of God. The story opens with a rich man whose son desires to take his inheritance from his father and venture into the world. They young man in the parable squanders the inheritance money. Living in destitution, it finally occurs to the son that to be a servant in his fathers house would be better than the life he'd so foolishly chosen. The father, a man full of grace, welcomes the wondering son home. A picture of hope, this beautiful story illustrates how God eagerly welcomes His children back after they make a choice to roam. Many a worried parent, concerned spouse, and anxious friend have found hope in the principles demonstrated in this story. Most everyone has experienced a loved one who has chosen a dangerous path in life. While the story of the rebellious son spoke directly to the culture of the day, this remains a favorite of the parables of Jesus in modern times. Other stories that illustrate God's love and concern for our returning to His will include the Parable of the Lost Coin and the Parable of the Lost Sheep.
Christ taught using many other parables and these include the stories of the Mustard Seed, The Parable of the Weeds, The Parable of the Net and also the Hidden Treasure. There are also stories that point to the coming End Times and these taught about Christ's return and the future Kingdom of Heaven. The parables of The Wedding Feast, The Ten Virgins, and The Talents all illustrate what Christians are to be doing until the return of their king. These dynamic stories also served as warnings for those who are caught off guard or unprepared for the second coming of Christ.
What applied to those gathered to hear Christ speak still applies to us today. While many of the stories He told used common circumstances of that day, we can still understand the meaning and internalize the teachings though our modern culture is vastly different. Christ promised to send a Helper who would teach and guide. The Helper, or Holy Spirit, brings these fascinating stories from two-thousand years ago the relevance of our daily lives. We can have the ears to hear.