Then Jesus summoned is twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as 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 Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
(Church in Wales Lectionary, New Revised Standard Version)
What's the difference between a 'Disciple,' an 'Apostle' and an 'Evangelist'? Well, an 'Apostle' means someone who is sent with a purpose - like a messenger. In the New Testament it's mostly reserved for the twelve disciples. The word 'Disciple' is normally used of someone who is a student, and while we use it of the twelve men who followed Jesus, we also use it of others, including women. An 'Evangelist' is someone who proclaims, or preaches, the Gospel - the Good News of Jesus Christ. Today we look at four of the twelve Apostles to see what we know about them:
Peter: A fisherman, and the leader of the twelve, he was impulsive, and passionate, but after Jesus' death he became a great leader. Tradition has it that he was crucified, upside down, not feeling worthy to suffer in the same way as Jesus. His emblem is two crossed keys (because Jesus gave him the 'keys of the kingdom') on a red background.
Andrew: Originally a follower of John the Baptist, and a fisherman, he and his brother Peter came from Bethsaida in north Galilee. History has it that he took the Gospel to Constantinople and Russia, and was crucified on a saltire cross (shaped like a kiss) around AD 60. He is the patron saint of Scotland, and his emblem is a silver saltire on a blue background.
James: Brother of John, was a fisherman and son of Zebedee, who were called the "Sons of thunder". Often known as 'James the Greater' to differentiate from another James, he is the patron saint of Spain, and his emblem is three shells - the symbol of pilgrimage. He was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith in AD 44.
John: Brother of James, a fisherman and son of Zebedee, he was known as the 'beloved apostle' because of his closeness to Jesus. Jesus gave his mother, Mary, into his care, at his crucifixion. Tradition has it that he, or the community inspired by him, wrote 'St John's Gospel'. He preached against heresy, dying of old age in Ephesus. His emblem is a gold chalice with a serpent on a blue background, representing an attempt made to poison him.
So are you a disciple - a student? Is God calling you to more than this?
Lord God, You called the most unlikely people to follow You, men and women without education, and those in despised occupations. Help us to realise that You call us today. May we not ignore Your prompting, but find out exactly what that call is. Amen.