Bible Terms

Bible Term: Disciple

In general terms, a disciple is someone who follows another. John the Baptist had disciples (John 1:35), the Jewish religious leaders had disciples (Luke 5:33), and Jesus had disciples (Matthew 10:1). Also, the Pharisees affirmed that they were Moses’ disciples, albeit centuries after Moses’ death (John 9:28).

Sometimes Disciple, as a proper noun, refers to one of Jesus’ original twelve followers, whereas other times it refers to any follower of Jesus (John 8:31).

Often the terms disciple and apostle are used interchangeably, although some would say that a Disciple is one of the original twelve followers, whereas an Apostle is a more generic term that applies to all followers of Jesus.


How Many Disciples Did Jesus Have?

We all know that Jesus had twelve disciples, right? This number occurs repeatedly in all four gospels. And the first three list them by name. Unfortunately, the lists don’t match.

Matthew and Mark list Simon Peter, Andrew, James (son of Zebedee), John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot.

Luke matches eleven of these names, but includes Judas (the son of James) and omits Thaddaeus.

John doesn’t provide a list but does mention some disciples by name: Andrew, Simon Peter, Phillip, Judas Iscariot, and Thomas. Indirectly included are John and James (“the sons of Zebedee”). However, John also implies Nathanael is a disciple, but he’s not even mentioned in the other three gospels.

So that ups the count of disciples to 14. How do we understand this?

Here are some possible explanations:

Nicknames Were Used: If we assume that Thaddaeus was also known as Judas (the son of James) as well as Nathanael, that explains everything, but this is quite a stretch.

Some Lists Are Wrong: Matthew and Mark completely agree, so their lists must be right while Luke and John must have each made a mistake.

The Group was Dynamic: Though Jesus only had twelve disciples, there was an ebb and flow over his three years of ministry as disciples came and went.

Twelve is not an Absolute Number: We live in a culture that assumes precision. If we say twelve, we mean twelve, no more or no less. We don’t mean about twelve or twelve give or take a couple; we mean twelve.

I dismiss the first explanation as being too farfetched and discount the second theory as being too convenient.

While Jesus’ disciples might have changed over time, it’s more likely that the label of “The Twelve” was a generic reference and not quantifiable.

So that makes Jesus’ twelve fourteen disciples as:

  • Andrew
  • Bartholomew
  • James (son of Alphaeus)
  • James (son of Zebedee)
  • John
  • Judas Iscariot
  • Judas (son of James)
  • Matthew
  • Nathanial
  • Philip
  • Simon Peter
  • Simon the Zealot
  • Thaddaeus
  • Thomas

[Matthew’s list, Mark’s list, Luke’s list, Nathanael’s story]


How Far Do We Go To Protect Tradition?

Whether or not we realize it, all aspects of our lives include traditions: unexamined habits and mindless rituals. But perhaps traditions most often exist in our approach to God and our worship of him. While some traditions had a positive origin, others were misguided from the start. With little thought we pass our traditions from one person to the next, one generation to another.

Churches often protect their traditions with adamant, unyielding passion – sometimes at the expense of obeying God and doing what the Bible says. This is not a new problem. Jesus addressed this two thousand years ago.

The religious leaders of the day (the Pharisees) were quick to point out that Jesus’ followers (disciples) broke from tradition. They didn’t bring this up to provide correction but to pronounce condemnation. They thought they could discredit Jesus and embarrass him in front of the people.

Their plan didn’t work. Jesus foiled them. He declared that what the Bible said took precedence over their traditions. Jesus put his detractors and their ideas of what was important in their place.

What are some traditions or rituals that you have jettisoned? What are some traditions that might warrant reconsideration?

[Matthew 15:1-6]


May I Have Your Attention Please?

There’s a story in the Bible of Jesus instructing some fishermen to try fishing from the other side of the boat. Imagine that, a carpenter giving fishing lessons to commercial fishermen.

The amazing thing is once they moved to the other side, they caught a boatload of fish. It was as if Jesus was trying to get their attention — and it worked.

In fact, it worked so well, he did it twice!

The first time was early in his ministry, when he was looking for disciples. He definitely got their attention, because they immediately left everything to follow him.

The second time was at the end of Jesus’ ministry, after he rose from the dead, but before he returned to heaven. The fishermen-turned-disciples didn’t know what to do after they saw Jesus die, so they resorted to fishing, but caught nothing.

Jesus hollers for them to try fishing from the other side of the boat. They did and another miraculous catch occurred. Again, he got their attention — and they believed he was alive.

Twice Jesus got their attention. The first time they followed him and the second time they believed in him.

[Luke 5:4-11 and John 21:4:14]


Jesus’ Party

Tuesday’s post was about Jesus’ invitation to side with his life-party. This is not a raise-your-hand, say-a-prayer, or sign-a-card decision made without careful consideration, but a total, lifelong commitment regardless of the consequences. To grasp the enormity of this, contemplate the verses where this phrases appears in the Amplified version of the Bible:

…became His disciples [sided with His party and followed Him] (Matthew 4:20).

…joined Jesus as disciples [sided with His party and followed Him] (Matthew 4:22).

“Be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me],” (Matthew 9:9).

“…be My disciple [side with My party and follow Me]” (Matthew 19:21).

…become Your disciples [sided with Your party and followed You] (Matthew 19:27).

“…you who have [become My disciples, sided with My party and] followed Me,” (Matthew 19:28).

…followed [with] Him [joining Him as disciples and siding with His party] (Mark 1:18).

…went off after Him [to be His disciples, side with His party, and follow Him] (Mark 1:20).

Follow Me! [Be joined to Me as a disciple, side with My party!] (Mark 2:14).

…take up his cross, and [joining Me as a disciple and siding with My party] follow with Me (Mark 8:34).

“…we have yielded up and abandoned everything [once and for all and joined You as Your disciples, siding with Your party],” (Mark 10:28).

…they left everything and joined Him as His disciples and sided with His party and accompanied Him (Luke 5:11).

“Join Me as a disciple and side with My party and accompany Me” (Luke 5:27).

And he forsook everything and got up and followed Him [becoming His disciple and siding with His party] (Luke 5:28).

“Become My disciple, side with My party, and accompany Me!” (Luke 9:59).

“I will follow You, Lord, and become Your disciple and side with Your party,” (Luke 9:61).

“…follow Me [become My disciple, join My party, and accompany Me],” (Luke 18:22).

…many believed in His name [identified themselves with His party] (John 2:23).

This is what it means to follow Jesus.

[Biblical references to Jesus’ party (and a few others, too)]


What’s Your Party?

Regardless of what country you live in, there will be at least one political party, and usually many to choose from. People who read and follow the Bible often affiliate with a particular party in order to best align their politics with the Bible. What’s interesting is they can read the same book and reach different conclusions about which party to join. This, I think, points to the diversity of the Bible — and the God behind it — as much to the varied interpretations of its readers.

But setting politics aside, what if there was a life party, a holistic philosophy that covered everything? Might you join a compelling life party? I have.

In the Amplified Bible, Jesus invites people to “side with my party.” This wasn’t about politics, but about life. When Jesus calls people to do this, it usually accompanies phrases such as “be my disciple” and “follow me.” Other supporting thoughts include “take up your cross,” “forsake everything,” “identify with me,” “leave everything,” and “join with me.”

Being part of Jesus’ party isn’t about politics; it’s about all of life. It’s not an opinion to be held, it’s about a complete, all-in, sold-out commitment to side with him.

Will you side with his party?

[Biblical references to Jesus’ party (and a few others, too)]