Photo by Pavel Danilyuk
Before stepping into discipleship, perhaps it is best to learn about the first disciples themselves, the Apostles, who learned directly from Christ himself.
At the crossroads of history and religion, there is Christ. Regardless of one’s belief in his divinity, he is one (if not the) of the most influential men in human knowledge. Yet, behind him, following like school-children, were his disciples, the Twelve Apostles. The Disciples of Christ, though not as influential as their teacher was, still occupy a unique space.
The Disciples of Christ weren’t saints or scholars; they were fishermen, tax collectors, zealots–simply ordinary men who, one way or another, were chosen for the extraordinary task of witnessing the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. They were to carry his message to the four corners, to the whole world.
Their stories, replete in the Bible (specifically the Gospels), hold not just a historical account of their lives in Christ’s ministry but timeless lessons for all of us that we can apply to our daily lives.
Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles.– Acts 2:43
Lessons from the Disciples of Christ
With their individual flaws and strengths, each disciple represents a facet of the human experience. Their journeys, triumphs, and stumbles mirror our own; thus, they offer valuable insights into faith, doubt, and the path to becoming better versions of ourselves. Let us delve into the lives of these twelve pillars and uncover wisdom:
Boldness and Forgiveness
The impetuous and passionate Peter, Jesus’ closest confidante, is a reminder that leadership stems not from perfection but from having the faith and the courage to take risks. Though his impulsive nature led to moments of denial and cowardice, his repentance was swift and unconditional. Peter teaches us that even the strongest can falter, but true strength lies in owning up to our mistakes and finding the courage to rise again.
Love and Understanding
The “Beloved Disciple,” John is known for his gentle nature and unwavering devotion. He closely embodies the essence of Christ’s message of love. As the only disciple present at the cross, John offers a glimpse into the depth of Jesus’ affection and teaches us to extend that.
Ambition and Humility
James, son of Zebedee, reminds us that striving for greatness is natural, but ambition must be tempered with humility. His desire for primacy alongside his brother was met with Jesus’s gentle rebuke, reminding us that true greatness lies not in earthly positions but in spiritual service to others.
Faith and Trust
As the first of the Disciples of Christ, Andrew serves as a model of unwavering faith and trust. He readily introduced others to Jesus, demonstrating the power of sharing one’s beliefs with conviction.
Curiosity and Openness
Philip serves as an example of intellectual curiosity in the pursuit of spiritual understanding. His questioning of Jesus about the path to God reminds us that doubt is not synonymous with a lack of faith but rather a vehicle for deeper understanding.
Doubt and Acceptance
Thomas represents the human yearning for certainty in matters of faith. His refusal to believe without seeing the wounds of the resurrected Jesus teaches us that faith can coexist with doubt, and acceptance often arrives through personal experience and introspection.
Practicality and Loyalty
Bartholomew helps us remember that faith must be part of everyday life. His question about feeding the masses highlights the need for practical solutions even in the midst of miracles. Through him, we learn that faith and reason can work together in the service of humanity.
Transformation and Forgiveness
Matthew, the tax collector, exemplifies the transformative power of faith. His willingness to leave his former life behind and follow Jesus offers hope for redemption and the possibility of starting anew. Matthew’s inclusion among the twelve, despite societal disapproval, speaks to Jesus’s message of radical inclusivity and forgiveness.
Service and Humility
James the Less teaches us the value of quiet service and dedication. His reputation for piety and asceticism reminds us that outward displays of faith are not always necessary. It’s the silent work of service that carries immense weight.
Passion and Acceptance
Simon the Zealot embodies the power of conversion and the embrace of radical change. His journey from being a zealot to a peaceful follower challenges us to confront our own biases and be open to transformative experiences.
Loyalty and Obedience
Thaddeus, chosen by the apostles to replace Judas Iscariot, represents the power of community and the strength in filling the void left by betrayal. His willingness to step in without hesitation demonstrates the importance of loyalty and commitment to upholding a shared mission.
Temptation and Redemption
Judas Iscariot, the disciple who betrayed Jesus, serves as a tragic reminder of the ever-present possibility of human frailty and the lure of personal gain. While his actions cannot be condoned, his story cautions us that there are always temptations to stray.
Mary Venable-Vaughn’s Stepping Into Discipleship: Our Journey Begins is a personal testimony to the transformative power of serving Christ and connecting more intimately with the world. It’s available in all major online bookstores.