Good morning! I hope this day finds you and your family well, and I want you to know that you are in my prayers daily during this difficult time.
I invite you to take a few moments with me to reflect on today’s Upper Room Devotional below — as well as on the theology woven into “It is well with my soul.”
Mark 3:13-19 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Jesus Appoints the Twelve
13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles,[a] to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, 15 and to have authority to cast out demons. 16 So he appointed the twelve:[b] Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); 17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); 18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Then he went home;
Tim’s Devotional Reflection for Today
Much has been written about the group of Jesus’ followers called “the twelve.” They’re listed in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts with slight variations among the lists. Jesus had many followers and disciples, but these twelve stand out as his closest disciples and were designated “apostles,” which means “sent.” These particular followers of Jesus were “sent out to proclaim the message.” Paul would later call himself an “apostle” because he understood himself to be sent by Christ to proclaim the message, as well, even though he did not know Jesus during his earthly ministry.
The twelve came from different walks of life. Andrew, Simon Peter, James, and John were all fishermen. They made their living fishing in the Sea of Galilee—a freshwater lake that was teeming with edible fish. When Jesus called them, he called them to become fishers of people. That reminds us that Jesus’ call is to use our experience, our talents, and our abilities to serve others and to share the good news of God’s grace and love.
Philip was responsible for introducing Bartholomew to Jesus. We don’t know much about him, other than that he was also from the shores of the Sea of Galilee, a place called Bethsaida.
Bartholomew and Nathanael have been viewed throughout church history as two names for the same person. Early church historians used the names interchangeably for the same person and that seems to fit the biblical narrative. The form of the name Bartholomew is that of a last name because bar means “son of.” For example, Simon Peter’s name was Simon bar Jonah (Simon, son of John) and the name “Peter” was a nickname meaning “rock.” Perhaps Nathaniel’s full name was Nathaniel Bartholomew.
Matthew was a tax collector. Thomas was somewhat of a skeptic. We don’t know much about the other James, who was the son of Alphaeus. We don’t know much about Thaddaeus, either.
Simon the Cananaean is also called Simon the Zealot, so we know that before he became a disciple, he was one of a band of fiercely patriotic Jews who were dedicated to throwing out the Roman occupiers from their land by any means necessary, even violence. The activities of the Zealots culminated in a Jewish rebellion which led the Romans to destroy both Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D.
Then there is Juda Iscariot. From his last name, it appears that either he or his family was from the town of Kerioth in Judah. He has gone down in history as the one who betrayed Jesus.
They had different personalities. Jesus gave John and his brother, James the nickname, “Sons of Thunder.” We can imagine that they had fiery, loud personalities. Simon the Zealot probably had strong convictions and maybe not willing to compromise much. As a Zealot, Simon would have seen Matthew the Tax Collector as a mortal enemy who sold out to Rome. Simon Peter was always quick to speak and was somewhat argumentative at times. When Philip found Jesus, the first thing he did was to seek out Nathaniel Bartholomew and tell him that he had found a man from Nazareth, who was the one of whom Moses and the prophets wrote. He responded with the famous question, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (Jn 1:46). I can imagine Nathaniel Bartholomew had a sarcastic wit.
This collection of Jesus’ followers named in our passage of scripture shows us that Jesus can use all kinds of followers and that we can work together even though we differ in background, style, experience, and perspective.
Thank you for sharing this early moment of your day with me, with God, and with the words and music that I hope you will carry with you throughout the coming day and night.
I am so grateful for you, for our church, and for the Love that will see us all through this very difficult time. Please stay safe and well and we’ll be together again in spirit tomorrow morning!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster