These are the names of the twelve disciples: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Plus his replacement Matthias)
Although there are over twenty-five references to ‘the twelve’ within the New Testament, the ‘Twelve Disciples’ are only referred to three times in the New Testament and solely in the Gospel of Matthew. (Matthew 10:1; 11:1 and 20:17) So over the next 12 months we have the opportunity to look closer at ‘the twelve’ and maybe glean some insight into their lives that has not been apparent before. It will also give us the opportunity to understand the differences and similarities between disciples and apostles.
Disciples are followers of leaders, such as Moses or John the Baptist and even the Pharisees. (Mark 2:18) In our case, though, the twelve disciples were specifically the followers of Jesus.
Apostles are envoys or ambassadors, a person who represents the sender.
Our twelve disciples were also Apostles. Not only were they called and followed Jesus (disciples); they had also seen the Lord and represented Jesus before the whole world. (Apostles)
The first disciple in our series is Simon. Not Simon Peter but Simon the Zealot, sometimes also known as Simon the Canaanite. The NIV always refers to Simon as a Zealot whilst the KJV refers to Simon as a Canaanite. The word Canaanite or Zealot is primarily used to distinguish him from Simon Peter, although Simon was a member of a Jewish nationalistic party. Josephus, the Jewish historian, refers to the Zealots as ‘the fourth philosophy’ of that time. So what were the first three? It transpires that the Pharisees were the first, followed by the Sadducees and then, in third place, were the Essenes. The ‘tail end charlies’ for those of a military persuasion, were the Zealots. They were a group that was basically nationalistic and wanted ‘home rule’ for the Jews and for the Romans to return from whence they came. The party was generally, unorganised, unlike the other three parties. It is thought that Zealots first started to appear at the time of Quirinius, he who called for a census, (Luke 2:2) but the general opinion is that the party started as soon as the Romans put their foot in the land.
It is interesting that Jesus chose Simon the Zealot, a dissident, a political refugee, an anti-Roman and a Jewish patriot. Simon was also a person who had a devotion to God’s Law and someone whose leaders thought ‘that Heaven would be a zealous helper’ in their struggles against the Roman oppressors. Josephus also wrote that the Zealots ‘… had a passion for liberty and were convinced that God alone was their leader and master … and that they were willing to die for their conviction.’
Little is known of what became of Simon the Zealot after the first Easter. He stayed with the rest of the disciples and was with them when the Holy Spirit first came upon them all, and as the Scriptures say, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” (Acts 2:4)
With his background and with his training from Jesus; with his belief in God’s Word and being filled with the Holy Spirit gave him a good grounding to be an Apostle. Tradition implies that he was crucified and his full story is not known. At least, not until our final destination is achieved should we be a ‘Child of God’. (1 John 3:10)