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What Do You Know About the 12 Disciples?

                  What Do You Know About the 12 Disciples?

                                                                                       Joyce Webb    10113

For some of my information I am using Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts.

Jesus called 12 men to come and follow him and learn from him. The men had to leave what they did for work and they followed Jesus wherever he went. They followed Jesus to many towns. They ate with Jesus and slept wherever he did.

Since they had little or no money of their own, they would hope that people would give them food, or invite them to stay with them. Jesus made many friends. Many people who heard Jesus teach or saw the wonderful things he did-----would invite the men for a meal. Maybe they would give them a place to sleep.

Israel is a hot country most of the year so sleeping was probably done outside in a courtyard, or on a flat roof top, or on the floor. They probably used a mat or blanket to sleep on.

Jesus was 30 years old. He was probably the oldest of the group. The other men were probably very young men, maybe older teenagers, maybe twenty or so.

We think they may have been young because we know about when some of them died. We know that they lived at least 25 to 30 years after Jesus’ resurrection and going back into heaven. Some of them lived longer than 30 years after Jesus returned to heaven. Some of them died young, some of them may have lived until they were 50 or even 60 or so. John lived the longest.

People in those days did not live as long as we do because they lived a hard life. They did not have modern medicines and doctors like we do. Many died in their 40’s, only a few lived into their 80’s.

The men would be giving much time listening to Jesus teach. The would be trying hard to remember everything he said. In those days, there were few books, so people listen to history or what people said, they remembered it and then told it to others.

These teachings and stories were past down year after year for hundreds of years. So the disciples were with Jesus to learn and remember what he said,

They would travel with him to different places. Sometimes all of them were with him and sometimes a few and sometimes it was only Peter, James and John---the 3 who were the closest to him. They were to watch and listen and see what happened.

In Mark 6:7, Jesus called the 12 together, he sent them out two together to go to different small towns. He gave them no money, no food, no book, just a walking stick and their sandals (shoes) and one coat. He told them to go out and teach. He gave them power over evil spirits. And they were to anoint (put a little oil on) a person and pray for them and they would be healed of their sickness.

Jesus expected the people that they preached to would invite them to eat a meal with them and give them a place to sleep.

In Jesus’ day, people had great respect for teachers. They would have thought is was a good thing to have a "teacher" eat with them and stay with them.

Jesus told the disciples that if they went to a town and the people did not listen to them or welcome them in that they were to leave that town and forget about them and go to another town.

So that is the way Jesus lived, too. Jesus had brothers, sisters, and cousins. He had friends remember Mary, Martha and Lazarus? He stayed with these people often.

People lived in a simple way back then. If they had a little to eat, a place to lay down on the floor to sleep that was all they needed.

Peter was married. Andrew and Peter had a house that was theirs. Mark 1:29 Simon Peter’s wife was there with his wife’s mother. His wife’s mother was sick and Jesus healed her. So Peter had a responsibility to take care of his wife and her mother.

Now days in Israel, we often see parents living on the first floor of a house. When a son gets married, he builds a second floor and lives with his family on the second floor of the house. When his son marries, he builds a third floor on the house and he lives on the third floor. Maybe they did something like that in Jesus’ day. Maybe it was a family group that lived together, but each had their own part of the house or area of rooms. Peter’s wife and her mother was probably not living in a house all alone.

We do not know if any of the other disciples were married at this time.

They followed Jesus for 3 and a half years, then Jesus was crucified. So after this time of "learning" from Jesus, some of them may have married then---if they had not before.

It is possible that from time to time, a day here or there, they did fish so they had a way to take care of their families. But it is not likely that they did any more fishing to earn money, but that they trusted that Jesus and God would meet whatever need they had.

The Bible says that "they forsook all and followed Jesus". That means they left everything behind. Luke 5:11 Matthew 9:9 Mark 1:20 Matthew 19:27

One time Jesus told Peter to go fishing. Jesus and his disciples needed to pay a tax. He told Peter to use a "hook" and go fishing. Jesus said he would get a fish with money in its mouth. Peter did. He got one fish. It had money in its mouth. They paid the tax. Matthew 17:24-27

There were people who gave "offerings" of money to Jesus and his disciples.

The Bible says that there were people who believed in Jesus who gave money to Jesus and his disciples to help them. In Luke 8:3, it tells of a woman named Joanna, who was a wife of a servant to the King Herod----she gave money to Jesus. The servant to a king would have a lot of money, so she probably was able to help a lot. In that same verse, it says many other people also gave them money.

People invited them to stay with them and fed them. Mary and Martha and Lazarus often had Jesus and his men stay with them. Mary Magdalene followed Jesus and she also helped out. There were other women, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary’s sister, and a woman named Salome----these names are often spoken of when things were happening to Jesus. They were close to Jesus and knew what he was doing.

Judas kept the "money bag" or "purse"---he was the treasurer for the money that was given to Jesus and the disciples. John is telling the story and told what Judas said to the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus-----John said that Judas was angry.

Judas thought the woman should have sold the perfume and given it to the poor. He probably thought if the perfume was sold----the woman would give some of the money to Jesus and he (Judas) would take care of the money. John said of Judas----he said this because " he was a thief, and he had the bag, and he kept (took care of) what was in it." John 12:6

So there was enough money given to Jesus and his disciples that they had a "purse" of money to take care of. It makes you wonder if John knew Judas was taking some of the money others must have known. Why was he still allowed to keep the "purse"? Maybe Jesus knew it would all come to and end soon anyway. 


Andrew was at the River Jordan went Jesus was there to be baptized by John the Baptist. John the Baptist was Jesus’ cousin.

John 1:38-40 says: Andrew went with some other men to stay with Jesus overnight. But first he went and got his brother, Simon Peter. He brought him to meet Jesus. John 1:41

Andrew and Peter’s father was a fisherman. So Andrew and Peter learned to be fishermen, too. It was a family business. They lived on the north side of the Sea of Galilee.

Andrew and Peter met Jesus that day at Jesus’ baptism, but they did not start following Jesus then. Later, Jesus was walking along the north side of the Sea of Galilee and he saw them working----he called to them---he asked them to follow him and learn from him. John 6:8 Matthew 4:18,19

There are stories that are passed down through time of history. These stories say that Andrew lived his last days in Scythia ---north of the Black Sea.

A book called Acts of Andrew says that Andrew preached in Macedonia (northern Greece). They say he was killed in Patras.

Roman Catholic stories say Andrew was crucified on a cross that was an X shape. This X has now become a symbol for Saint Andrew. It is called Saint Andrew’s cross. He is the patron saint of Scotland. The Scottish people name many buildings, churches, etc. after Saint Andrew.

The Bible does not say how Andrew died. 

Simon Peter:

Simon Peter is Andrew’s brother.

When Jesus first met Simon Peter, he said, "You are called Simon, but you will be called "Cephas". John 1:42 Cephas is an Aramaic word meaning "stone". Peter is a Greek word meaning "rock".

Jesus knew from first meeting Simon Peter that Simon would grow into the strong person that was like a "rock".

Simon Peter was a fisherman. He was married.

Peter gives us all hope. He was not always so wise at first. He did and said things quickly without thinking. But as he learned to walk by the Holy Spirit he became a strong leader.

Peter loved Jesus and he wanted to be with him, he wanted to please him. Peter got excited about things. He could get happy or mad fast. He said things without thinking them through and the Jesus had to correct him or scold him.

Peter said that he believed Jesus to truly be the Son of God come from heaven. Matthew 16:15-16

He wanted to walk on the water like Jesus did one time when they were all in a boat fishing. So he walked on the water to Jesus. Matthew 14:28

When Jesus was on a mountain and God came in a cloud to cover Jesus and bless him-----Peter wanted to build places to stay in so they all could just stay up there.   Luke 9:33

At first, Peter did not want Jesus to wash his feet. He thought that was too low of a job for his teacher to do. But then Jesus said that if he did not wash his feet, Peter could not have a part with him------then Peter wanted Jesus to wash all of him. Jesus said, No, that is not needed, just your feet.

John 13:4-12

Jesus wanted all of the men to understand that "teachers" and "leaders" should not think of themselves as so important that they would not do the work of a servant. Jesus wanted them to be humble not proud. Jesus wanted them to see how they should be with others.

Peter cut off a soldier’s ear in the Garden of Gethsemane John 18:10 This time Peter was quick to stand up against the soldier for Jesus.

But later, Peter said he did not know Jesus. Jesus had warned Peter. He told him, before the rooster crows 3 times, you will have said you do not know me. Peter could not believe he would do that. He was sure he would be true to Jesus.

But later, Peter followed the soldiers and Jesus to the place where they asked Jesus questions. Peter was sitting outside waiting, a young servant girl said that Peter was one of the disciples of Jesus. Peter said no he was not. Several times he said he did not know Jesus. Then the rooster crowed. Peter remembered what Jesus said. Peter left and went out and wept (cried hard). He was so sad he had not been true to Jesus. Matthew 26: 69-75

Peter must have gone to see Jesus crucified, too. When Peter wrote his book I Peter 5:1 He said that "I am a witness of the suffering of Christ."

Jesus felt sad about Peter saying he did not know him, too. And God knew how bad Peter felt after. When Jesus raised from the dead. Some of the women went to the tomb to see to Jesus’ body. But Jesus was not there, he had risen.

An angel was there. The angel told the women to go tell the disciples and Peter that Jesus had risen. Mark 16:7 The angel especially said Peter’s name.

After the Day of Pentecost, after the Holy Spirit came into the disciples, Peter stood up before thousands of people and preached to them, and 3000 of them decided to believe in Jesus. Acts 2

Peter is the one who said------after Judas killed himself----that they should choose another man to take his place. Acts 1:22

Peter was the first one to preach to the Gentiles (not Jews). God gave Peter a vision that he was to preach to the Gentiles. Acts 10

Many of the Jewish people did not like Peter preaching to the Gentiles. Some of the disciples did not think he should either. They especially did not think Peter should eat with the Gentiles. The Gentiles often ate pork. God had told the Jews back in Old Testament times not to eat pork. Since the Gentiles ate pork, the Jews thought they were "unclean" people. They never ate with them.

But Peter had a vision that he was to eat with the Gentiles, and he was to preach to them about Jesus. So Peter obeyed.

For many years Peter ate with Gentiles, and preached to them. And then one time, he was in Antioch, he ate with the Gentiles, and then some Jewish friends of James came to Antioch. These Jewish friends were much against eating with Gentiles, so Peter stopped eating with the Gentiles and ate with the Jews. Then some of the other Jews followed Peter they stopped eating with Gentiles, too. Even Barnabas, a new preacher started to follow Peter.

Paul saw this happen and he got very upset. He talked to Peter and scolded him.

He said, "This is wrong." You believe God told you to eat with the Gentiles and preach to them. Now, you ignore them and go eat with the Jews only. Now the others are doing the same." Galatians 2:11

And so Paul scolded Peter. Peter was wrong. He did not stand up for what he believed God had shown him. He let his fear of what those Jews would say make him do the wrong thing. 

So Peter was not always perfect. 

Peter and John were the first ones after Pentecost to touch a man and heal him in the name of Jesus. Acts 3:1-11  

The stories from church history say that Peter went to Rome to preach. While he was in Rome he was killed-----along with many others----for preaching about Jesus. The stories say Peter was crucified upside down. He said he was not worthy to be crucified like his Lord, Jesus. So they put Peter with his head down.

The Roman Catholic church has built a beautiful building in Rome where the Pope lives and they say it is where Peter is buried. The building is famous it is called Saint Peter’s Basilica.

The Roman Catholic church has always taught that Peter was the first "bishop" of the Christian church. The Bible does not say that. But Peter was looked up to as a leader among the disciples, and among the first believers.

Peter was not a perfect man. But he loved God with all his heart. He was excited to do things for God. He wanted be near Jesus . Peter made mistakes, but he was sorry in his heart when he did. In the end, he became a good and great leader. He has great respect and honor even today. 


James, the son of Zebedee. There was another James who was a disciple, too.

James had a brother, John. There were both disciples of Jesus. Mark 1:19

They were fishermen. They lived near the Sea of Galilee. When Jesus called them, they were working fixing their nets.

Their father had enough money that he was able to hire servants to work for him. Mark 1:20

James was the first of the disciples to be killed for being a follower of Christ.

King Agrippa I had called for James to be killed with a sword. Acts 12:2

James was probably very young.

James is never talked about by himself. His name is always said with his brother John. "James and John".

Both of them were on the mountain with Jesus, when God came down in a special cloud and blessed Jesus. Mark 9:2-13

Peter, James, and John were Jesus’ closest disciples. They were with him even when the others were not.

Jesus named James and John "the sons of thunder". They must have been quick to get angry. There were in Samaria one time and the people there did not accept them or want them there. James and John wanted to "call down fire from heaven" on them like Elijah did in the Old Testament. II Kings 1:10-12 Jesus did not let them do it.

After the king had killed James, the king had soldiers come and get Peter. They put Peter in prison. In the night, an angel let him out. Acts 12

The Roman Catholics say that James was a missionary to Spain, and that he died there.

The Bible does not say so. Since James was killed so soon after Jesus’ going back into heaven it does not seem like James would have had time to go to Spain. 


John is the brother of James---a son of Zebedee. John, James, and Peter were the 3 closest to Jesus.

John was at the foot of the cross when Jesus died. Jesus talked to John from the cross and asked John to take care of Mary, Jesus’ mother. John 119:26-27

After Jesus rose from the dead, after the women, John got to the tomb first, but he let Peter be the first to go into the tomb to look around. John 20:1-8

John wrote the book of The Gospel of John in the New Testament, he wrote the First, Second and Third Book of John, and the book of Revelation.

John ended up as a prisoner of the Romans. He was put on an island. He lived there a long time. It was there on the island that he wrote the book of Revelation.

He lived to be an old man.

The stories from history say that John was a pastor in a church in Ephesus. That he took care of Mary, Jesus’ mother until she died. Later, John was taken prisoner to the island.


His name was Lebbaeus Thaddaeus. This man seems to be called by different names. Bible teachers can not agree about some of them.

Some say he was sometimes called "Judas" .

We do not know much about this man.

James, the Son of Alphaeus

Some think he was a brother to Matthew. Matthew’s father had the same name. Mark 2:14

Some say he went to Persia and was killed there.

We do not know much about this man.

Simon, the Canaanite, the Zealot

Canaanite was an Aramaic word meaning "zealous". The Zealots were a religious group of Jews. People think he belonged to this group.

Church history stories say that he preached in Egypt, Africa, and Persia.

We do not know much about him.


Thomas was also called "Didymus" Didymus meant "twin". John 20:4

Thomas was with the men who returned to fishing after Jesus was crucified.  John 21:2-3

He was willing to die with Jesus when Jesus was talking about going into Judea

to Bethany to see Lazarus. Judea was a dangerous place because the Jewish leaders were looking for Jesus to kill him. Thomas was willing to go with Jesus even if he died, too.

John 11:16

Thomas was the one who spoke up about his doubt that Jesus could be alive again after he was crucified. Thomas said that he would not believe it unless he could see Jesus’ hands and touch them himself. John 20:25

A few days after that, Thomas was in the room when Jesus appeared to them again. He saw Jesus’ hands and could touch them. But Jesus had known that he had said these words. So before Thomas got to do anything Jesus said to Thomas, "Go ahead, put your finger on my hands and on my side." When Thomas saw Jesus "appear" in the room and heard his voice Thomas knew it was Jesus. He said, "My Lord, and my God." John 20:28

Church history stories say that Thomas went to India to preach. That he was killed there and was buried there. 

Bartholomew (Nathanael)

John 1:45-48 speaks of Nathanael. Philip brought Nathanael to meet Jesus.

Jesus told Nathanael, " Before Philip called you    I saw you under the fig tree."       Nathanael was so surprised!    Jesus was not even near there,

How did he see Nathanael under the tree?

He said to Jesus, "You are the Son of God!" Jesus said, You will see greater things than this.

Bartholomew may have been his last name. "Bar" means "son of" so it may mean "son of Thalamai"

Church history stories says that Nathanael went to India That he was killed there and was crucified upside down like Peter.

We have no proof of where he went or died. 


This is not the same Philip who was the evangelist who spoke to the Ethiopian man and baptized him. That Philip was one of 7 men that were chosen to serve the believers when the Christian church was new. Acts 6:3

Jesus met Philip (the disciple) at Bethsaida, the town where Andrew and Peter lived. John 1: 43,44

Philip was the one who asked Jesus how they would feed the crowd of 3000 people. John 6:5

Philip took some Greek men to Andrew so he could take them to see Jesus.  John 12:20-22

At the last supper, Philip said, "Show us the Father." Jesus said, "If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father, because the Father and I are one." John 14:8

Some church history stories say that Philip preached in France, in southern Russia, and India. Some say he was in Antioch.

We really do not know where he went.

Matthew (Levi)

Matthew was a tax collector. In the King James Version of the Bible the word "publican" is used.

The Romans ruled over the Jewish people. The Jewish people had to pay taxes to the Romans. The Romans hired Jewish men to collect the taxes.

The men were told how much the price was for each thing to be taxed, then the collector would add a little bit to the price. Then the tax collector would keep the extra as his profit.

Many of the tax collectors were not honest they added a lot more to the price of the tax. The Jewish people knew they did this but there was nothing they could do about it.

The Jewish people did not like the tax collectors for another reason----they thought it was being like a enemy to work for the Romans. The Jewish hated that the Romans were ruling over them. They did not like anyone who worked for the Romans.

They would not have anything to do with such workers.

Jesus came to Matthew’s table and ask him to follow him. Matthew 9:9 

Matthew must have had money he had a really big dinner party for many people. Many of them were other tax collectors. Luke 5:29

"Publicans" or tax collectors were listed with sinners Matthew 9:10,

Matthew 21:31 Probably because so many of them cheated people.

Matthew could have been a brother of James, Son of Alphaeus, because Matthew’s father’s name was the same. Matthew 10:3 Mark 2:14

Matthew wrote a book. It is first in the New Testament. Matthew tells how Jesus came and how he fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament. Matthew showed how Jesus was the Promised Messiah.

We do not know what happened to Matthew after the Day of Pentecost of Acts 2.

Some say he preached in Parthia, some say Ethiopia. They say he was killed in Nadabah in AD 60. But we have no proof. 

Judas Iscariot

Iscariot means "man of Kerioth" Kerioth was a town near Hebron in Judea.

Judas was also called "son of Simon" John 6:71

It seems that Judas was from Judea. He was the only one from Judea. Most of the others were from the Galilee area.

People from Galilee were thought to be "country hicks". Most of them were farmers, fishermen, people who worked the land. People from Judea thought they were of a higher class.

Judas kept the "money bag" or "purse"---he was the treasurer for the money that was given to Jesus and the disciples. John is telling the story and he told what Judas said to the woman who poured the expensive perfume on Jesus-----John said that Judas was angry.

Judas thought the woman should have sold the perfume and given it to the poor. He probably thought if the perfume was sold----the woman would give some of the money to Jesus and he (Judas) would take care of the money. John said of Judas----he said this because " he was a thief, and he had the bag, and he kept (took care of) what was in it." John 12:6

Jesus told Judas to go buy the things they needed for the dinner. John 13:29

Why did Judas betray Jesus? No one knows. It is hard to believe that he would betray Jesus. Luke and John say that Satan tempted him and Judas listened.. Luke22:3, John 13:27

John thought that Judas was already listening to Satan because he was taking money from the money bag. John 12:6

Judas was very sorry that he betrayed Jesus. He tried to give back the money.

Matthew 27:5 (The Bible does not say that Judas tried to find forgiveness from God or from Jesus.) Being sorry for wrong doing is not the same as asking for forgiveness and being forgiven.

Judas went out and hanged himself.




We really know very little about these 12 important men. Some of them we only know their names.

Yet each one had a important part to do in following Jesus and later in going out and telling the world. Some of them traveled a lot and far. Some of them stayed closer to home.

Only 3 of them John, Matthew, and Peter wrote books of the Bible.

James who wrote the book of James was not one of the 12 disciples. He was the brother of Jesus. Jesus had 4 brothers: James, Joses (John), Simon, and Judas, he also had sisters. Matthew13: 55,56 Mark 6:3

Isn’t it strange 12 men who were so important to the growth of the Christian beliefs and we know very little about them only their names!

We have this idea that to be "important" also means everyone knows about us and what we have done.

These 12 men were very important but we know almost nothing about them and we do not know anything about most of them.

Yet Jesus called each one to him. Jesus knew how each man would fit into God’s plan.

Eleven (11) of them were faithful. If we can believe the stories from church history-----all of them died because they were preaching Christ or believing in Christ---most all of them were killed----several were crucified on a cross.

Matthew tells about a time when the mother of James and John came to Jesus asking if he would choose her sons to sit beside him when Jesus came to his kingdom.

She thought that Jesus would be a king here on earth he would sit on a throne and be a ruler. She wanted her sons to sit on thrones with Jesus.

But Jesus said to her, " You do not know what you are asking." He said to James and John , "Do you think you are able to drink from the cup that I drink from?’ In other words, "Do you think you are able to do what I will have to do?" They said, "Yes, we are able."

They did not know what they were saying either. They had no idea that Jesus was not going to be king, on earth now but that Jesus would die on a cross.

Jesus did not try to explain to them. He said, "You will drink the cup I will drink." "But it is not for me to give you a throne or a place to sit in my kingdom, because that will be for my Father to decide." Jesus’ kingdom would happen far in the future. Matthew 20: 22,23

When Jesus said, "You will drink of the cup I drink." Jesus knew that some of those 12 men would die on a cross like him, and that all of them would be killed for following Jesus.

Jesus said: "Who ever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. ……..who ever will lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s

the same shall save his life.." Matthew 8: 34, 35

We do not hear much about "taking up our cross" for Jesus. Preachers like to tell all the things God will do for us. Jesus was telling the men who followed him---this is a hard way following me and it may mean "a cross". Do not be afraid, take the cross for me.

Times are changing in America. Many more people are against Christ and Christians. Being true to Jesus may cost us a lot. Think about it. Be ready. Only those who stay true to Jesus will sit with Him in heaven.













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