DECONSTRUCTING THE 12
Copyright © by Irving Martinez. All Rights reserved.
Cover Design by Andrea Cárdenas
Cover Art Copyright © Jessica Hyd/Adobe Stock
All verses used are from the New Living Translation of the Bible unless stated otherwise.
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Everyone wanting to be a disciple of Jesus and to all the Judases of the world who think Jesus can’t take you back, He is still calling you to be His disciple.
In the early 1990’s the band “Guns N’ Roses” (GN’R) was the biggest rock and roll band in the world and I was their biggest fan (self-proclaimed). I owned every one of their albums and videos, of which I knew the lyrics by heart. I would listen to their music from the time I woke up until the time I went to bed. Listening to their more mellow songs really helped me go to sleep.
My bedroom was covered with posters of the band. My closet was filled with fan t-shirts and all my clothes looked like I was a member of the band. I actually entered a look-a-like contest for GN’R and when I won first place I was so excited, however, I was disappointed later because the prize was a cassette tape from a different band.
The way I walked, talked and acted was all focused on the band. My friends were all GN’R fans, otherwise I couldn’t consider them friends. We even formed a tribute cover band, which we named, “Black Roses”. In everything I did I tried to incorporate the band in some way shape or form.
To this day I thank God that I wasn’t allowed to get a tattoo as a minor, otherwise I would have had several GN’R tattoos on me. As a matter of fact, I had this idea of getting a tattoo of Axl Rose’s face on my back, which consisted of the entire length of my back, Axl Rose is the lead singer of GN’R and yes I wanted this man’s face covering my back. Crazy, I know… now.
I studied Axl’s every move when he was on stage because I wanted to be like him. I also followed his life off stage because I wanted to live like him because to me there was no one cooler than him. The truth is that I idolized him. The truth is that I was his disciple.
It could be a coincidence or a divine intervention, I’d like to think it is the latter. When I had started working on this book my church’s Pastor began a series of sermons on discipleship so I decided to pause what I was writing to see what new insight I could get about what being a disciple is all about. After the series was completed and I did more research it downed on me; “We are all disciples, the difference is who our master is”.
When I was a disciple of Axl Rose I resembled him. Later in life I was a disciple of work and all my decisions and everything I did revolve around my job and its schedule. I took pride in the fact that I was a workaholic but the reality was that I was a disciple of my job. This might not make a lot sense at first but when you realize that the word “disciple” and “slave” are often used in the bible under the same context, you’ll find that it makes a lot of sense. In order to be a disciple or a slave you have to serve, that or who you serve is your master and you its disciple.
In His farewell speech Jesus is very clear that we are all called to be His disciples. We are made to be His disciples and when we are not we gravitate towards other people or things to follow.
The twelve disciples that followed Jesus, who later became the twelve apostles were not that different from you and I. Aside from the era they lived in and the logistics they were regular men. Men with jobs, families and responsibilities. They all had lives to live like us and they were not sitting around waiting to be called to be someone’s disciple.
This book is about taking a close look at The 12 and see what it took for them to follow Jesus. You will understand how they fell and stood up again, how they let Jesus change their lives forever and what it takes for us to be disciples of Jesus. I invite you to look through the life of The 12 and see how we are all called to be His disciples. You will see how we can all be His disciples even with our busy and sometimes complex lives. John the Baptist once said that we are not worthy of even being Jesus’ slaves yet He calls us to be His disciples, He calls us to be His friends
Come and follow me, this is a short phrase that means do much. In the Gospels we find Jesus calling His disciples and even though not all the calls are mentioned, the ones that are present give a very interesting look at how Jesus works in our hearts and how He calls us to follow Him.
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke1 tell the story of how Peter, Andrew, John and James were called by Jesus. Peter and his brother Andrew were commercial fishermen, whom I imagine to be like the men from the show “The Deadliest Catch”. I picture them as being rugged and tough men, of strong bodies and characters. I don’t see them as being too humble, however, when Jesus gave the command to throw the nets in the water again, Peter obliged, even after a whole night of unsuccessful fishing and even though in his mind it was a waste of time; Peter answered “because you say so”. Perhaps he said this and rolled his eyes as he was throwing the nets, or maybe he wanted to test this man they said can do miracles, possibly it could be that he was so tired and just wanted to go home that he figured “let’s just get this over with so we can go home and rest”.
For whatever reason he did it for, he did it. He followed Jesus’ command, it was not a suggestion, it was a command, Jesus told him exactly what and how to do it. The same way God speaks to us every day, telling us what and how to do things to get a better result out of our lives. Unfortunately, we think we are too smart for Him. Peter was the fisherman and Jesus was a carpenter, he could have plainly said he knew better and that he would not waste time and energy following his orders, “get off my boat!” This is what we do all the time, we don’t need God telling us how to fix our lives, we got ourselves in this mess and we should know how to fix things, “get out of my life Jesus!”
Next time you listen to God telling you to throw out the nets where you don’t think you should or at a time you don’t believe it will work, try doing what He is saying. Even if it doesn’t make any sense, even if you’re rolling your eyes while you do it. Even if it is just to try Him like Peter did, go ahead and find out who is wrong, Him or you?
Peter and Andrew had a business to run, they weren’t idling through life without a purpose. One of the first excuses we come up with not to be a disciple of Jesus is that we are too busy. Jesus didn’t even wait for Peter and Andrew to finish working to call them, nor wait for them to have time to go to the temple so He would meet them there with more time to talk when they weren’t occupied, so He could have their undivided attention.
Jesus called Peter and Andrew when they were busy, while they were working and after a bad work day, that’s when Jesus showed up. When you least expect it He will call you. Don’t think that because you haven’t been to church or opened your bible (if you even own one) in forever that you are not in the roster for disciples. Jesus still wants you to be His disciple, He still calls you to come and follow Him.
John and James were also fishermen, but of a different category. They had a family operated business, they probably didn’t have to handle the same pressure of running a commercial fleet, as Peter and Andrew did. Their boat was probably smaller than any in their fleet, but it served its purpose. As with most family businesses all or at least most of the employees were relatives. The Bible tells us their father was there and maybe an uncle or cousin too. I picture John and James as two guys who liked to have some fun while working at the same time. When they needed to get down to business they would, but whenever they found time to have fun they would always mix it up a little.
John and James had the perfect excuses not to follow Jesus. Because their families depended on them. After all, what type of God asks you to put your family and its provisions aside? A God who knows that when you put Him first your family is blessed even more, that’s who.
John and James weren’t far from where Peter and Andrew had met Jesus, so chances are they saw the miracle of the nets overflowing with fish. They could have asked Jesus to fill their nets like that as well, if they were going to follow Jesus why not get something right away? They could have asked for a signing bonus, but they did not. Instead they accepted the call right then and there.
For some, like John and James, seeing a miracle is more than enough to change their lives. Others say they need more “proof”, that they need to be receivers of the miracle to believe. But there are others that follow Jesus on faith alone. Jesus said in John 20:29 that they are blessed.
In the lives of these four fishermen we see something very interesting. God’s calling to discipleship is ever present in our lives. Sometimes when life has us occupied with issues, like our health, family and money, we tend to think it’s not there. However, Jesus called His disciples not while they were at a synagogue or while praying, He called them while they were busy with life. Jesus is always there to call us. He calls us when we least expect it because that is when we really need Him in our lives. The only prerequisite to be a disciple of Christ is to need Him in your life.
Matthew’s call to discipleship2 is similar to that of the fishermen in the sense that he was also extremely busy. He was taking care of his business and business was very good! Matthew was a tax collector and the difference with Matthew was that he held a position of power. He was not well liked by his peers, but he was very powerful. Tax collectors were absolutely despised by their own culture because they worked for the Roman government and enriched themselves by collecting taxes from their own people. Therefore, you can see why he wasn’t liked.
I’ve heard people say that Jesus picked His disciples in a nonconventional way. He didn’t pick teachers of the law, nor did He go to the synagogue to pick the most religious individuals. His method was an out-of-the-box type of method. Matthew was the perfect example of the guy who was outside the box. He wasn’t liked by his own people and he acted like he didn’t care because of the benefits he received from his job. Because he worked for Rome and he collected taxes for them he was well compensated and well protected. When Jesus called him he wasn’t sweaty and tired like the fishermen, he was sitting at his desk with a bag of money on one side and a soldier for a bodyguard on the other side. Matthew was in his comfort zone; the problem was that Jesus was not in there with him. If God is not in your comfort zone you should feel uncomfortable, for this reason he left all of that and followed Jesus.
Imagine going back home today and telling your family you just quit your very comfortable government job to follow Jesus? That is what Matthew had to do, but he didn’t hesitate. On the contrary, he was so excited about it that he threw a party, invited family, friends and co-workers. His need was so great that he knew what he needed to do right away, he needed to share Jesus to the world starting with those closer to him.
Both Matthew and Peter do something very interesting after accepting Jesus’ call, they took Him home. In Peter’s case his mother in law was bedridden, there was a lot going on in his house due to her illness. When he accepted the call he took Jesus home and things changed for the best immediately. You can accept His call today and bring Him home like they did. You will see spiritual and physical healing, come into your home. Relationships are mended when Jesus is introduced to the family. This I can attest to from personal experience. There is no family happier than a family that has God at the center of it. I’ve had it both ways and the difference is indescribable. The peace in your home when God is there is a peace that you can breathe, it can be felt and seen in the family.
Being called by Jesus is not a coincidence or luck. Luke, chapter 6:12-13 tells us how the night before setting apart The 12 Jesus prayed, He talked to His Father and decided on these twelve men. He knew the pros and cons, He knew how they would desert Him and how He would be betrayed. Still He chose them the same way He chooses us. Just like He gave them all the benefit of the doubt He trusts us. We are all called to be His disciples, Jesus has brought your name before the Father and considered you for discipleship.
Even though we don’t have all the stories we know there is one common denominator, The 12 accepted Jesus’ call “come and follow me”. Matthew 19:16-21 tells the story of a man called by Jesus to be His disciple who rejected the call. It is said that this man had many worldly possessions and this is what kept him from following Jesus. Today we don’t know his name all we know is that he consciously decided not to be a disciple of Jesus. He probably told himself he would do it later, that he would have time to put his affairs in order and then follow Jesus. Maybe he wanted to put his businesses in order so he could follow Jesus but not be broke, so he would be able to provide for his family. Whatever the case may be, he never came back. Would there have been 13 disciples? Why not? Jesus wants us all to follow Him, if it was up to Him there be 7.4 billion3 disciples, or more!
The more and more we look at the lives of The 12 we will find that they, like us, had reasons not follow Jesus. He knew how busy their lives were, what their necessities were and the needs of their families were. He knew it wouldn’t be easy for all, but He said in Matthew 19: 26 “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But with God everything is possible” and He proved it in all their lives.
The first thing a true disciple has to learn is to be humble. A true disciple of Jesus understands that all the glory is God’s, He deserves all the credit for everything. This is very easy to see in the four Gospels, the books of Matthew and John were written by disciples of Jesus who are recounting what they saw and lived. The books of Mark and Luke were written by these two men who gathered the stories from people who lived them. These books have one very important thing in common, they are Christ centered. Even the books of Matthew and John, written by the disciples who lived the stories tell very little about what the disciples did or even said. The gospels are focused on what Jesus did, what He said, what He did. The actions and words of The 12 are nothing but backgrounds to the story of Jesus’ ministry on earth.
For that reason, most of what we know about The 12 comes from what Jesus said and what we find in the rest of the New Testament, not what they said about themselves. Jesus gave us plenty of information on the character of a true disciple, aside from being humble and giving all the glory to God these principals were the mark for The 12:
Jesus said in John 8:31 “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings.” What easier way to do that than to go to the Bible? None, the Bible is the manual for life given to us by the manufacturer himself. The 12 kept the word of God close to their hearts, that plus prayer helped them stay connected to their teacher after He was resurrected and rose to heaven.
If Jesus hadn’t spent time “making life”4 with them they wouldn’t have endured their ministries after He had left. After three and a half years together they developed a bond that made them like family. In fact, in Matthew 12:49 Jesus called those who do the will of The Father His family.
By accepting His call to discipleship you are accepting to become part of Jesus’ family!
I know that “obedience” first sounds like we need to stop doing things we want to do and start doing things we don’t want to do. Obviously, depending on what our life style is, that might be the case entirely. What you need to keep in mind is what Jesus promised us in John 10:10 “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” If you are willing to accept Jesus’ call you must be willing to trust Him with your life.
And if you think that is not enough, remember this, Jesus doesn’t ask you to do anything He wouldn’t do himself. Even more, He will do more than He asks of you. In the book of Matthew, chapter 10, we see Jesus instructing The 12 to go on missionary trips around the country and in the next chapter you see Him doing what He has sent them to do too. He didn’t stay home waiting for them to do all the legwork, what He asks of you today He is willing to do with you and a lot of times for you. All you need to do is trust Him and obey Him.
If the One and Only Son of God had such dependency on Him, how much more do we need to be dependent of God?
Towards the end of His ministry, right before being arrested, the Bible records Jesus’ most famous prayer. Matthew 26:42 “My Father! If this cup cannot be taken away unless I drink it, your will be done.” In it Jesus shows how obedient and dependent He was of His Father. Obedience and dependence go hand in hand, you simply can’t have one without the other and in the prior verse Jesus tells The 12 and us why.
Matthew 26:41 “Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!” I think it’s beautiful how Jesus understands the human condition, He know we are weak. That is why He came and saved us because we couldn’t save ourselves.
Billy Graham said “Salvation is free, but discipleship costs everything we have”. That’s true, but the thing is, everything we have means nothing if we don’t have Jesus in our lives. The 12 gave everything they had to follow Jesus. So to answer the question, how to be a disciple? Give up everything and follow Jesus. Give up everything you have and receive everything that He is willing to give you, everything He died so that you could have access to.
It’s tempting to think you have too much to give up, that The 12 didn’t always have it easy, especially after Jesus went to heaven. As a matter of fact, the Bible doesn’t register much other than trials and tribulation in their lives, but they were so connected to their teacher that nothing in this world, no suffering in this world would cause them to separate from the idea of following Jesus. They had very clear that what Jesus had prepared for them in heaven was worth more than everything they gave up here.
The 12 had something a lot of people yearn for nowadays. They had peace and joy. People with plenty of material richness can find themselves feeling empty. They realize that if God isn’t in their lives all the richness in the world won’t give them happiness. Even those who don’t acknowledge the existence of God can feel this void in their lives. They don’t understand it so they spend a great deal of time and effort trying to find what’s missing, so they go from one thing to another trying to fill the void that only God can fill.
The 12 gave up everything to follow Jesus but gained it all when they did. Jesus said it better, in both Matthew and Luke5 “If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it”. Then in Luke 12:21 He added “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God.” That’s the joy of giving everything up for Jesus. It can only be understood when you experience it yourself, many books have been written about the subject but only personal experience can give you understanding of what this verse means. There is a great joy when you know your treasure in heaven overshadows what you could have here on earth. That is the difference between a true disciple and a false one, a true disciple puts his relationship with God First.
Throughout His ministry Jesus had to deal with the personality of each of The 12 and sometimes they acted like false disciples. For instance, when John and James asked Jesus to be at His right and left side when He established His kingdom6, they were only thinking of themselves and what they deserved for their “sacrifice”. Of course this did not sit well with the rest of the group, although at different times they all acted selfishly. But this is what happens when we start thinking of what we deserve instead of what is the will of God, we break the cycle of discipleship. We stop being humble, the relationship stops growing, we start to feel dependent and ultimately we stop obeying our teacher.
It is true that to be disciple of Jesus you have to sacrifice a lot, but in return there is also what we gain. A disciple of Jesus has privileges others do not have. The 12 were a selected group among a large group of followers of Jesus. Everywhere He went there was a crowd following Him, but The 12 had direct access to Him. In Matthew 13:11 He said to them “You are permitted to understand the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven, but others are not.” That was just one of many privileges they had. They were promised by Jesus that the miracles He was doing would seem small compared to those they would do later7.
A disciple is enabled by God to do amazing things. Through His ministry Jesus used the hands of The 12 to bless others.
These are just a few samples of the work The 12 did in the name of Jesus when He was with them. Jesus doesn’t need us just to follow Him, He needs us to be engaged into His ministry. He put these men to action every opportunity He had. His purpose isn’t just to choose disciples; He chooses disciples for a purpose. Jesus said in John 15:16 “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit”. A true disciple produces much fruit, and this happens organically, without a lot from us because it is He who enables the ones He chooses.
It’s very important that as a disciple we realize that we will not all be used for the same purposes but the we will all have a purpose. For example, Jesus said in John chapter 4 that sometimes the planters will not be there for the harvest. That’s OK, because there is so much to do for the kingdom of heaven that if every disciple fed the hungry who would heal the sick?
There are a lot of things that disciples need to do for the kingdom of God, we have until the end of time to live in the world and be part of the world while making a difference. For this reason, Jesus prayed in John 17:15 “I do not ask You to take them out of the world. I ask You to keep them from the devil”. A true disciple can be identified by these marks:
When Jesus was being prosecuted Peter was following from a distance trying not to get too close so he wouldn’t suffer the same fate11. Still Peter had a dilemma, he had been following Jesus for three years, this whole time he had been studying at the feet of Jesus and now when he was trying to look like just another bystander he couldn’t! people started recognizing him and they started pointing out how much he looked like “a disciple of Jesus”.
A friend said to me “evangelism is a constant overflow of our lives” and the same could be said about discipleship. This was Peter’s problem; his testimony was organic. He didn’t want to be testifying then but he couldn’t help it. The same happens to us, we go on about our lives everyday not thinking about it, but every day we tell people about what we believe in. Just saying something is not enough, for people to believe what we say we have to live it out. After only three years with Jesus, His personality was so imbedded in Peter’s actions that people knew what he believed in even when he was screaming that it was the complete opposite.
When you call yourself a disciple of Jesus, your actions reflect not just on you but they reflect on Jesus and all His other disciples. Sometimes the worst enemy of evangelism are the people doing the preaching, because once you start talking about the Good News you put yourself in the unique position of being judged as if you were perfect like Jesus. The fruits of our testimony have long lasting effects that is why we have to be careful to be producing good fruits. The 12 are the perfect example of this, even thought they were not perfect they are the foundation laid by Jesus for the Christian religion. It was through their testimony that the Good News of Jesus Christ reached the whole world.
Jesus said in John 13: 34-35 “I give you a new Law. You are to love each other. You must love each other as I have loved you. If you love each other, all men will know you are My followers. It is very simple, yet so complicated. Love each other and people will recognize you as my followers, my disciples.
I have seen more people leave the church because of arguments with other church members than because of anything else. It takes just a little argument, or a bad look to make you think about changing churches. And if a whole group of people are involved in the disagreement the church splits and now you have two Christian churches preaching about the love of Jesus, but hating their former brothers and sisters.
Of course this happens because it’s complicated to get along with everybody. It is genuinely hard to deal with other people’s differences and issues. Jesus knew this first hand, The 12 were not always a hundred percent in sync with each other. In more than one occasion12 the disciples argued because they wanted to be recognized as greater than the others or argue over who was closer to Jesus.
As with any group of people, the larger the group, the greater chance of arguing there is. Within The 12 there were cliques, you had pairs of brothers, family men and single men, those who had left a lot to follow Jesus and those who didn’t have much before following Him. The beautiful thing is that whether they had families or not, whether they had a lot of a little, they all left it for Jesus. Jesus was the common thread in their lives.
This is what churches nowadays have to remember. A church should not be a building full of people, a church should be people connected to Jesus and doing the work of Jesus. The 12 were the original Christian church, they might not have known it at the time, but they were a living, breathing and moving church.
When Jesus rose to heaven after His resurrection He had one last instruction for The 12, He said in Matthew18: 20 “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” Jesus wanted them to teach the new disciples how He taught them, with love.
The disciple that doesn’t love his peers can never give a good testimony for Jesus. The work of a disciple is to love one another and to testify about Jesus. Everything else in your life will fall into place when you are ready. You will be prepared and ready to go out into the world and be a positive part of a world that desperately needs true disciples of Jesus.
Any relationship we are a part of is driven by something, for better or worse. Some people go to work every day because they are passionate about what they do, others simply to get a paycheck, but something gets us out of bed every morning. It’s sad to say but even marriage is driven by something, we stick together because we love our spouses in sickness and in health, or we don’t get a divorce because it’s not convenient. Every relationship is alive as long as that something drives it, the moment it stops the relationship dissolves. For example, we quit our jobs when its making us miserable or because we got a better offer somewhere else. We get divorced when we stop loving our spouses or because now we love someone else. Discipleship is no different than all these relationships, something has to keep you in it.
Every time Jesus calls someone to discipleship He offers something in return. To all He offers healing, abundance of life and forgiveness of sins. When He healed Bartimaeus13, the blind, Jesus told him “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” However, Bartimaeus didn’t go on his way as he was instructed. The Bible tells us that he followed Jesus, he was so grateful for what Jesus had done for him that he decided to follow Him. Bartimaeus became a disciple.
In another occasion Jesus encountered another blind man14, this man had been blind from birth. Jesus healed him in an amazing way, He made mud with His spit and clay from the ground and anointed the man’s eyes with it, after the man washed the mud of his eyes he could see for the first time in his life! The Bible does not indicate that this man asked to be healed, because Jesus knows what is in our minds even before we ask and if He knows we can’t ask He acts on our faith alone. This man was grateful for this miracle that he became a self-proclaimed disciple. He went on to testify about Jesus even to the Pharisees.
Jesus transformed the lives of all the people He came in contact with. These people were so grateful that they couldn’t help but to follow Him, sometimes He would have to explain why they had to stay, like He did with the demon possessed man in Gerasenes.15 This man had been suffering for a long time. For many years he was homeless and naked, he lived in the cemetery outside of town. As if being possessed by demons wasn’t enough, he was an outcast of society and even his family. Jesus liberated him from the legion of demons that had him trapped and he immediately became sane. He was so changed that when then townspeople saw him they were afraid due to his miraculous transformation. The Bible tells us that he begged Jesus to let him follow Him as Jesus was stepping on the boat to leave town. He wanted to join the band of disciples and go with Jesus.
Remember there is a purpose for your calling. Jesus liberated this man and when he asked to follow Him Jesus told him no. Sounds crazy, right? He explained that He didn’t need him to follow Him where He was going but He needed him to stay and be a disciple where he was. This former demon possessed man became an evangelist of the Good News of Jesus to his town. His testimony was stronger than any other there because people knew how he was and how he used to live. Now they see this transformed man speaking powerfully about the man who saved him. He was grateful for what Jesus had done for him and for that he now preached about Him.
Gratitude, this is what drives a disciple. The beautiful thing about gratitude is that once you receive God’s grace and you realize what He has done for you and what He has forgiven of you, then your gratitude will not run out. As long as we remember who our God is and never forget where He has pulled us out of, then gratitude won’t run out because His grace will never run out.
How grateful should you be? Only you can answer that question, but it comes down to two things.
I felt unhappy in many ways, but I felt my spiritual life was the worst of it all. I complained and argued with God about it while feeling guilty for asking him. I continued reading the Bible and I found that many times people asked God questions. I went to the Gospels and I found that in more than one occasion The 12 questioned Jesus. You know what that means? It’s perfectly fine to ask our teacher things we don’t know and understand. What type of relationship can you have with someone who refuses to be asked questions?
I kept pursuing this until I started finding answers to my questions in the Bible, as well as in my life. The more and more I looked I realized how blessed I was. I saw how much God loved me and how He had never let me go.
Then something happened, I can’t remember what or whom gave me this idea, but I decided to make a list. I divided a sheet of paper in half and on the left side I started writing all the bad things in my life, everything I could complain about. I thought I would go on for pages but to my surprise I was done about half way down. Then on the right side of the paper I wrote down the good stuff in my life. These were the times I had felt God was working on my life, “little” blessings here and there.
When I finished writing on the right side I had already turned to other side of the sheet of paper. I was laughing with an overwhelming feeling that the cloud over my head was gone and I was now surrounded by an immense feeling of happiness. All I had to do was remember who my God is and now I constantly remind myself of the oceans He has opened for me already. I have recommended this exercise to many and it has never failed, because God never fails! Maybe your list won’t be the same as mine, you could have pages of bad things in your life, but whatever the case may be with God in your life the good will always overshadow the bad.
Now I am grateful for everything He has given me and I’m even grateful for what I haven’t received. I trust that His purpose in my life will be made if I allow Him and all things work together for good to them that love God16.
The only limitation for this is you, so when you feel the sins you carry are too much for Jesus to handle and you lose hope. Remember that nothing The 12 ever did disqualified them as disciples, just like Jesus knew what emotional and physical baggage they came with when He called them He knows yours. Jesus says that even if your sins are many17 He is willing to forgive you.
Jesus’ main mission when He came to earth was to forgive our sins and rescue us from them. How pointless this mission would have been if there was a sin too great for Him to forgive. How senseless His death if there was a limit to His grace. What a waste it is when we refuse to accept His forgiveness, because at the end that is the only thing that can keep us from salvation, ourselves. Only when we refuse the free gift of salvation through the forgiveness of our sins do we condemn ourselves.
Not believing that or forgetting it is the difference between being saved and lost. Believing it and remembering it is what makes Jesus’ disciples so happy. This was the difference between Judas and the rest of the disciples, everyone but him remembered who Jesus was, what He had done for them. They all remembered and knew that He would forgive them, again.
Following the events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion the remaining 11 disciples were scattered, probably desperate and confused. Their teacher had been killed, betrayed by one of their own, who later hanged himself. They needed something to pull them back together, something to help make sense of all that mess. One by one Jesus confronted them and reminded them who He was, what He had said to them before that all happened and He showed them mercy one more time.
They were grateful and it showed in the love they had for their teacher. They were capable of spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ with an incredible drive because their testimony was fueled by a passion and love to their teacher
All the men and women who followed Jesus throughout His ministry had one thing in common, they all had something to thank Jesus for. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, showed mercy to the sinners and The 12 were participants in this. That was because Jesus wanted The 12 to be enabled to bless others in His name.
I couldn’t count the number of times I have heard sermons or lessons on this question. Which disciple can I relate with the most? And people go on trying to compare themselves to one of The 12. What I have seen is that the majority of people say they relate to Peter, I suppose this is because he is by far the most outspoken of the group. You can literally count with your fingers the number of times the disciples talked in each gospel. Not all of them have statements recorded and Peter has the most, so it’s easy to relate to Peter but no so much to the others who don’t say even one word throughout scripture. I believe there is a lesson to be learned from Peter about this, outspoken people tend to be more noticeable or popular and that is good as long as you get noticed for saying the right things. I’m not saying that some of the disciples were mute or never actually spoke.
Remember that the gospels are not about what the disciples did or said but about Jesus’ ministry. If there was a literal account of what they did and said it would be too big to have in one book. The 12 did and said plenty, otherwise how would they spread the Good News of Jesus Christ to the world.
That being said, because there is not a record of everyone’s personality in the Bible, I think it’s only fair that we look at The 12 as one individual. This way we can relate to not just one of them but the entire group. You can see that they, like us, were human beings before being disciples, and that they had more flaws than attributes to be considered for discipleship.
These are just some of the character traits of the group:
When you look at them like that I think now it’s easier to relate The 12, right?
If you have ever counted yourself out as a disciple of Jesus because of your turbulent past, or present, then you couldn’t be more wrong. Next time you have doubts about your call to discipleship keep in mind Jesus handpicked The 12 knowing the baggage they carried with them.
Just as Jesus was patient with them when they kept doubting Him, He is patient with you when you start to think twice about following Him or what He can do through you. Whatever the sin may be that makes you think you aren’t fit for the job, Jesus can handle it for you.
If you’re a thief you are no different than Judas was. If you have a bad temper you’re just like John and James. Maybe you’re prone to act without thinking, well then you’re just like Peter. Or perhaps you never say a word, that would make you just like Bartholomew.
Within The 12 there is a piece of all of us. No matter your background there is a match for it within them. These men were picked, to represent Jesus to the world, but first they were picked by Him to show the world that if He can do great thing through men like these, imagine what He can do with a sinner like you and I.
You are not very different than The 12 before they were transformed by Jesus. What’s more impressive is that Jesus didn’t transformed them before calling them, or waited for them to transform themselves before calling them. He knew they would never change without Him so He called them as they were. Jesus wasn’t concerned about their present because He was counting on their future.
Personally, I relate to The 12 in the sense that I can easily forget what God has done in my life and lose faith in His providence. Like when Jesus multiplied the bread and fish to feed the more than 5,00018 people. Jesus purposely gave the disciples the task of feeding them, He could have easily made the food appear in their laps but He wanted to enable The 12 so that they would be part of the miracle instead of just viewers. Just a few days later the same scenario presents itself when a large crowd, now 4,000 people, needed to be fed. When Jesus asked The 12 “what should we do” they threw their arms up in the air in protest arguing they didn’t know what to do or how to solve the problem.
Did you get that? First Jesus miraculously feeds over 5,000 people, then, a large but not so large crowd needs to be fed and it was like the disciples forgot what had happened the last time they were in almost the same situation! The crazy thing is, that we act the same way! God helps out of a bad situation or maybe He provided right when we needed it, fast-forward to when life hits us again and we throw are arms up in the air arguing with God because we don’t see a way out. You get angry at God for “letting this happen to you”, after all, you don’t deserve it.
How does God respond? Like He did with The 12, with kindness and loving patience. That is just the way God is. This is how He works with His people always. He acted like that with the people of Israel, even with all the nagging and complaining they did He always came through for them, because God being good doesn’t depend on us being good but on Him. That’s why I have realized that the secret to a happy, worry free life is this:
Always remember who your God is, never forget the oceans He has opened for you already.
But aside from their flaws The 12 had some good character traits as well. At the top of that list I would put perseverance and love. These men failed time and time again, and with the exception of Judas, they all made it to the finish line. They became who God had envisioned when He called them. On the night of Jesus’ arrest and later His crucifixion they were all scattered, lost and desperate. They didn’t know what they would do next. With their teacher dead what would they do? What was the next step?
In spite that they failed the initial faith test, when Jesus was crucified they should have been strong and remembered all He had told them would happen. Although they all left running scared when the Roman soldiers arrested Jesus. Even though it took for Jesus to show up in front of them resurrected in order for them to believe again. The perseverance and love they had for Jesus, their teacher and their friend was stronger than any doubt or fear in their hearts.
Jesus has called us all to be disciples and just like with The 12 He knows our pros and cons, He has talked about it with the Father and they have agreed that you are the disciple they need now. There is a plan set for you, a vision of what you can accomplish if you accept the invitation to follow Jesus. Maybe you were once a disciple but you lost your way, you got separated from the teacher and now you don’t know if you can go back to the group. You need to know that Jesus is waiting to receive you with arms wide open.
Peter felt like that once, after denying Jesus he felt he was lost. There was simply no way back from such treason. How could Jesus forgive him? Jesus had warned him and still he betrayed Him19. Peter felt the fault was too much and that God’s mercy was out of reach. Then Jesus did something wonderful, He called Peter again!
The book of John, chapter 21 describes this scene. After Jesus had resurrected He and the disciples, now 11, met at the Sea of Galilee. They had decided to go fishing, Jesus shows up on the shore and calls to them. If you read this story in the Bible, you’ll see a lot of similarities to when Jesus first called the fishermen.
Peter realizes it is Jesus on shore, so he jumps in the water to get to Him as fast as possible. They all meet by a fire and start eating. Jesus confronts Peter about whether he loves Him or not and after that, He tells Peter one more time “follow me”. So, even if you have betrayed God like Peter did He calls you back to the group. His plan for you is still within reach and nothing you do can persuade Him from calling you back to discipleship. Perseverance and love brought Peter back to discipleship and it can do the same for you.
Ephesians 3:20 says “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think”. This means that our potential is only determined by God’s imagination! When we put ourselves in God’s hands and we allow Him to do bigger things through us than we could ever imagine.
Which disciple are you? You will be the disciple God needs you to be, where you are, or maybe in a place He will take you like He did with Abraham, Joseph, Moses and others. The point is we should not limit ourselves by our own ideas. God is waiting to take you to the next step for the plan He has for your life.
My high school principal use to say “Make fame for yourself and lay to rest”, he said it to more often than I care to admit. This was because I was always in trouble, or causing trouble, I was one of the usual suspects anytime something bad happened. If you looked at my student file you would immediately see that I was up to no good in my teenage years. I am sure I must have done something good every now and then, at some point I must have been trying to be a good student, but that probably wouldn’t show in my file because it would be buried under all the bad things in it.
I remember one specific time at the beginning of the school year. When I had to repeat the sixth grade I had started the year with enthusiasm, I wanted to turn a new leaf and make this my best school year yet. One day, during art class, the teacher asked a question and I was the first to raise my hand. I answered the question correctly and I felt very good. That feeling lasted until one of my classmates made fun of me by saying “of course he knows the answer, this is his second time in 6th grade”, everyone laughed until the teacher said “At least he’s trying to be a good student this year”. That made me feel even better than I did before. Sadly, I have to say I don’t remember many more moments like those, probably because there weren’t any.
So you see I had a reputation for being a trouble maker and a bad student and even though towards the end of school I was a very good student my reputation stuck to me.
This is also true, although on a much larger scale, about one of The 12. Judas Iscariot. If anyone has a bad reputation in the bible is Judas, second only to Satan. Judas isn’t known for anything else but for being the guy who sold Jesus to the Pharisees and the Roman empire to be crucified. The “Kiss of Judas” is reference to the worst kind of betrayal one can suffer. To add insult to injury Judas sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, which in today’s market is about $600.00! Not that you can even begin to put a price on a human life. Even worst if we are talking about the life of the Son of God.
I’ve heard the question, what would have happened if Judas had not turned Jesus in? Even though I don’t know the exact answer I know this, Jesus said in John 10:18 “No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded.” There’s a theory that Judas turned Jesus in because he thought he had to do it to fulfill the prophecies, but this verse and many others prove that Jesus didn’t need Judas. Judas was not a pawn to be sacrificed in the grand plan of God.
So, if Jesus didn’t need to fulfill the prophecies, what did He need him for? What was the purpose of having him around? Why was he part of The 12? I believe Jesus called Judas into discipleship for two specific reasons. First for love, Jesus loved Judas. Second, for testimony, He wanted to use him as a testimony to the world.
Jesus’ love and grace can be seen perfectly in the life of Judas. Any of us who had a traitor inside our house would throw him or her out. A close friend who simply does not agree with us will find himself on our unfriended list in no time. A cheating spouse is hardly ever trusted again. A stealing employee will be fired on the spot.
For us it’s second nature not to give second chances to those who break our trust. For God it’s only natural to forgive and forget if we so request20. If Jesus wasn’t interested in his salvation He would have gotten rid of Judas quickly, “I gave you a chance and you blew it, now go! Because I know you will end up betraying me”. Who would’ve blamed Him for doing that? It was the smart move, right? If Judas wasn’t needed to fulfill the prophecies, then why keep him around? To save him, for love.
Personally I think I have sometimes been more like Judas than any other disciple. I have betrayed Jesus when I decide I’d rather please myself than Him. It’s like selling Him to the highest bidder. I have even robbed God, when I’ve kept His money for myself21.
I think there is a lot to be learned from Judas and Jesus’ relationship and that’s where the testimony of Judas comes into play. Jesus called Judas to follow Him even when He knew the possible outcome, and that’s the key word “possible”. Just because Jesus knows the past, present and future does not mean that we have no saying in our future. He knew Judas would betray Him but He was hoping up until the last instant that he wouldn’t. Time and time again Jesus told Judas He knew what he was planning, He told him in hopes that Judas would repent, that he would confess and turn towards his teacher. How beautiful the story would have been! It would have been the greatest redemption story in the Bible, how Jesus forgave the disciple who betrayed Him.
That Jesus chose Judas and put up with his stealing, lying, backstabbing and God knows what else is the proof that we are never too far from His grace. Jesus treated Judas like He treated everyone else. He didn’t threaten him to get him to stop his plans, He could have but He chose to show Judas His love and grace. That is how Jesus treat us too, He will call us to follow Him and will show us His love and grace so that we can realize what His plans for us are, so that we can be transformed into His vision.
Judas’s testimony to the world is that Jesus loved him to the end. His demise was not part of God’s plan, that was the devil’s plan to kill one of Jesus’ closest friends.
Abraham Miller said “When a man has once gained a reputation not even with God’s help can he get rid of it”. Obviously I believe God can change anything, even a bad reputation, but I believe this quote can be true if you don’t allow God to help you. Judas’ reputation could have been different, just like Peter mended his relationship with Jesus, so could have Judas. If he hadn’t hung himself and repented in his heart, Jesus would have looked him up and mended their relationship.
Before being only known as the “one who betrayed Jesus” Judas was simply known as one of The 12. He was one of the ones Jesus sent to heal the sick, raise the dead, cure leprosy and cast out demons22. When Jesus preached Judas baptized people with the other disciples23. Judas was there when Jesus multiplied the fish and bread to feed the 5,000 and later the 4,00024 and he handed the food to the crowds. Jesus used Judas to bless others, just as He can do with you!
Many years after high school I was able to change my reputation, it wasn’t easy but God helped me. Now, the old reputation is lost in the shadow of the new. Judas’ reputation is set in stone now but it was never meant to be that way. Jesus had plans for him, plans that were frustrated by the enemy. Pride, jealousy, ambition and fear all contributed to Judas’ fall but if he had remembered who his God was, had he remembered Jesus’ promises to him, if only he had put God before himself Judas’ story would be different. Judas represents all of us when we are turning away from God. He represents the possibility we all have of being saved if we put Jesus First.
I wish there was enough time to talk about the life of The 12, how they lived and all of their accomplishments. There are so many things that can be pointed out about them; like how they were so young, in fact some were even teenagers when Jesus met them! We could focus on how they established the first church and how thousands would accept Jesus as their savior and get baptized when they preached.
A single book doesn’t do justice to their ministry and how almost all died as martyrs for their cause. Many books have been written about them and many more will continue to come because their lives are the reflection of what Jesus can do in the lives of all who accept His call and persevere.
There is so much to discuss about The 12 that even the Bible doesn’t provide a lot of details about them. For example, Andrew, Bartholomew and Thomas are only mentioned when there was roll call. We know nothing about what they said or did specifically like we do about Peter, John or Matthew. Does this mean they were any less than the others? Of course not!
This is what we know about them:
If all anyone ever knew about me was what’s on this list I would die a happy man. If the end result of my life is that I am a friend of Jesus, then I can say I lived a good life. Towards the end of His ministry Jesus makes an astonishing statement to The 12. John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.” (KJV). This has a deeper meaning since it was following a prophetic statement, He said in John 15:13 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”
These men were truly an amazing group of people, not for any merits of their own, but because they allowed Jesus to transform them. They went from being regular guys with regular lives to being called friends of Jesus. They became friends of the King of the universe!
Now get prepared to have your mind blown! Jesus’ last recorded prayer in the book of John, chapter 17, reveals just how much He wants you to be His disciple. This is one of the more known of His prayers and it is focused on His disciples, on His friends. Jesus, the Son of God is praying to His Father so that He may bless and protect His friends. In verses 20 and 21 He said “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one, as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me.”
Jesus prayed for you! When He was thinking of His future disciples He was thinking of you! Long before you existed Jesus had picked you, prayed for you and prepared the way for you to be His disciple! He knew your pros and cons and He weighed you and found you fit for discipleship.
Jesus disciples became The Apostles; they were empowered to make disciples in the name of Jesus. They went from following Jesus to going out into the world to bring people to Jesus. Remember we are all disciples of somebody or something, but only a few become apostles. That’s the difference with Jesus’ discipleship program, He doesn’t want you to just follow Him. Jesus wants to enable you to be an apostle, a leader. He says so in His final message to the disciples, now 11, since this was before Judas was replaced by Matthias.
They call it The Great Commission, in it He said “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you.” Just as He prayed for you back then and now (I believe Jesus is still praying, interceding for all of us with the Father in heaven). This last message was for them and for us.
We are all called to be His disciples, we are all called to make disciples, by teaching what Jesus has taught us through His word and example. Any other type of teaching is not from Jesus and will not lead to a happy fulfilled life like the one Jesus promised us.
The Bible tells us something else that I find magnificent. It goes into detail to describe that when this world passes God’s new city will be established, The New Jerusalem. This city is marvelous and defies the imagination. The Bible says this about it, in Revelation 21:14 “The wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were written the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” How beautiful it will be! Imagine what they will say when they see their names there.
If you take anything from this book let it be this, “Jesus purposely took flawed men and transformed them to show you that He can take you, flaws and all and transform you into His vision of you.” Accept His call, follow Him.
1. Matthew chapter 4, Mark chapter 1 & Luke chapter 5
2. Matthew chapter 9, Mark chapter 2 & Luke chapter 5
4. Phrase picked up at Calvary Chapel.
5. Matthew 16:25 & Luke 9:24
6. Mark 10:35-45
7. John 14:12
8. Matthew 10 & Luke 9
9. Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17 & John 6:1-15
10. John 4: 1-2
11. John 18:15-27; Mark 14:66-72 & Luke 22:54-62
12. Luke 9:46-62 & Luke 22:24-30
13. Mark 10:46-52
14. John 9
15. Luke 8:26-39 & Mark 5:1-20
16. Romans 8:28
17. Luke 7:47
18. Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17 & John 6:1-15
19. John 18:15-27; Mark 14:66-72 & Luke 22:54-62
20. Micah 7:19
21. John 12:6 & Malachi 3:8
22. Matthew 10 & Luke 9
23. John 4: 1-2
24. Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:30-44; Luke 9:10-17 & John 6:1-15
A look at the 12 Disciples of Jesus, how they went from ordinary men to the Apostles of Jesus. Studying their lives we can see that Jesus is still calling disciples today and we are all called to follow Him. The reality of life is that we are already disciples, the only difference is who our teacher is. This is for everyone wanting to be a disciple of Jesus and to all the Judases of the world who think Jesus can't take you back, He is still calling you to be His disciple.