This blog post will address the issue of the Apostles of Christ, those men so important to Christianity who were the first to follow our Lord Jesus Christ and recognize him as Lord. These are the same men who evangelized the most men and women throughout the world and who allowed the word of God to spread outside the territory of the people of Israel.
In this article we will first try to define what an apostle is, then who are they and how did Christ meet them. This will then allow us to see what their role was during their life shared with the Lord, what mission was entrusted to them and what they did after the Holy Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ and his Ascension, which marks their last meeting with him.
What is an apostle?
An apostle is a disciple of Jesus Christ, who is chosen and sent to preach the gospel (good news) and establish communities of believers. In the New Testament of the Bible, the apostles are seen as witnesses to the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The word "apostle" comes from the Greek "apóstolos", which means "sent" or "ambassador". The twelve disciples of Jesus are generally considered the first apostles, but in Scripture the title apostle is also given to other people such as Paul, Barnabas, James, etc.
In Christian tradition, the apostles are often honored as saints and considered the founders of the Christian Church. The apostles are truly the first to have recognized Christ as savior and as God, even going so far as to reject everything that constituted their life to follow Christ and propagate the Gospel and this, at the risk of their lives, is even enough symbolically when they are on the verge of death and persecution that their message announcing the Good News will shine most clearly in the eyes of the world.
Who are the Apostles?
The apostles are the twelve disciples chosen by Jesus Christ to be his closest companions and to spread his word throughout the world. Here is the list of the twelve apostles:
- Simon, called Peter
- André, brother of Simon-Pierre
- James, son of Zebedee
- Jean, brother of Jacques
- Barthélemy, also called Nathanaël
- Matthew, also called Levi
- Thomas, also called Didymus
- James, son of Alphaeus, also called James the Less
- Simon, the Zealot
- Jude, also called Thaddeus or Lebbeus
- Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus
Finally, it should be noted that there are in theory more than 12 apostles. Indeed, after the betrayal of Judas Iscariot, it was Matthias who was chosen to replace him, which makes him the 12th apostle, replacing Judas or the 13th if we include Judas in the list of apostles. We must also not forget Saint Paul, this personality so important to Christianity, nicknamed the apostle of the Gentiles. He who called himself "the least of the apostles" out of modesty, therefore increases the number of apostles to 13, if we exclude Judas Iscariot, or to 14 if we keep him in the numbering. We often keep the name "12 apostles of Christ" because the apostles were 12 at the time of the Last Supper, where Christ announced and explained to them his Passion, as well as the fact that he was going to be betrayed by one of them. 'between them.
How did Christ meet them?
- According to Christian scriptures, Jesus Christ met his first apostles near the Lake of Galilee in Palestine, while they were fishing. Jesus called them to follow him and become his disciples, promising to make them fishers of men. The first apostles were Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John , all of whom abandoned their jobs and families to follow Jesus.
Philip: In the Gospel of John (1:43-44), Philip is presented as a friend of Nathanael and was invited by Jesus to follow him. Philip then called Nathanael to join Jesus as well.
Bartholomew: Bartholomew is considered the equivalent of Nathanael in the Gospel of John (1:45-51). Nathanael was initially skeptical of Jesus' messiahship, but Jesus convinced Nathanael to follow him by revealing personal information about his life.
Matthew: Matthew, also known as Levi, was a tax collector. In the Gospel of Matthew (9:9), Jesus called him to follow him while he sat at his tax collection desk.
Thomas, also called Didymus: In the Gospel of John (20:24-29), Thomas was initially skeptical of Jesus' resurrection and asked for tangible proof. Jesus finally met Thomas and showed him his wounds to convince him.
James, son of Alphaeus, also called James the Less: The Gospels do not provide much information about James' encounter with Jesus. According to early church traditions, James was a cousin of Jesus and was called to follow him in later life.
- Simon: The Gospels do not provide information on how Jesus met Simon the Zealot. However, it is possible that Simon the Zealot was one of the disciples who joined Jesus because of his preaching in Galilee. Regardless, both the Gospel of Luke (6:15) and the Gospel of Mark (3:18) include Simon the Zealot in the list of apostles, indicating that he was one of Jesus' closest disciples.
- Jude: Early Church traditions indicate that Jude was probably the brother of James the Less, another apostle of Jesus. According to the Gospel of Luke (6:12-16), Jesus spent a whole night in prayer before choosing his twelve apostles, including Jude. It is possible that Jude was one of many disciples who followed Jesus and were chosen to become apostles after this prayer. It should be noted that Jude is also mentioned in the Gospel of John (14:22-23), where he asks Jesus a question at the Last Supper.
- Judas Iscariot: According to the Gospel of Matthew (10:1-4), Jesus called the twelve apostles, including Judas, to become his disciples and sent them out to preach the kingdom of God. It is possible that Judas was attracted by Jesus' preaching and decided to follow him as a disciple.
- Matthias: According to the Acts of the Apostles (1:15-26), after Jesus' death and Jesus' ascension to heaven, the apostles decided to replace Judas Iscariot by choosing a new disciple to take his place. The apostles prayed for God's direction, and they ultimately chose Mathias to be the one to replace Judas Iscariot. Mathias knew Christ before he ascended to heaven but was not at that time an apostle but a simple disciple.
- Paul (formerly known as Saul) met Jesus in a very special and memorable way, as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 9 of the Bible.
At the time, Paul was a fierce persecutor of Christians, actively working to eradicate fledgling Christianity. One day, while on his way to Damascus to continue his mission, he was suddenly enveloped in a bright light from heaven, and he heard a voice asking him: "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me ?” Paul was immediately struck by the voice and the light, and he responded, “Who are you, Lord?” The answer came: "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But arise, enter the city, and they will tell you what you must do." After this, Paul was temporarily blinded and was helped by his traveling companions to get to Damascus. Once there, he met Ananias, a disciple of Jesus, who was sent by God to cure his blindness and tell him that he had been chosen by God to be an apostle of Jesus. After his healing, Paul was baptized and began his mission of preaching the gospel to non-Jews, becoming one of the greatest missionaries in the history of Christianity. Paul's encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus was therefore a key moment that radically transformed his life and his mission, leading him to devote himself entirely to spreading the good news of Christ.
Christ therefore revealed himself to the apostles in quite different ways. He was able to choose some of them from the beginning of his ministry, like Peter, Andrew, James and John, or a little later, like the vast majority of the other apostles. In the case of Matthias, he was chosen exceptionally by the action of the Holy Spirit, and Saint Paul was chosen by manifestation. Christ therefore chose those who would be responsible for spreading the Word of God and the Good News not only to the Jews, but to the whole world, so that as many people as possible could believe and be saved.
Their life with Christ
During their time with Jesus, the apostles witnessed his miracles and teachings, and they began to understand who he really was, the Messiah promised in the Scriptures.
During their time with Jesus, the apostles also began to preach the gospel and heal the sick. However, their understanding of Jesus' mission was not yet complete, and they were shocked by his death on the cross. Indeed, this is visible in particular in Matthew 16:22 where Saint Peter did not want Christ to die. He had not yet understood that the crucifixion of Christ was necessary for the forgiveness of sins and for his glorious resurrection.
It was the resurrection of Christ that truly changed the apostles, as Christ had said. It is thanks to this that they understood the power of God and his love, and that, as Christ had asked them, their mission was to spread the Good News throughout the world. Finally, we can say that the resurrection of our Lord had the effect on them of no longer fearing death and no longer seeing it as a finality, but rather as a necessary moment to be able to access eternal beatitude in Paradise, near of God. This is what will ensure that the apostles, despite the persecutions and violence to which they will be victims, will continue to spread the Good News throughout the world.
Their life after Christ
After the Ascension of Jesus, the apostles continued their mission of spreading the word of God throughout the world. Almost all of them, in fact all with the exception of Saint John, spread the word of God and the Good News until they ended up dying as martyrs. Here is what we know about each of them:
Peter: He became the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and went on many missionary journeys. He became the first bishop of Rome and thus the first Pope before dying as a martyr in Nero's circus around AD 67 in Rome. Saint Peter's Basilica is built over his tomb.
John: He also went on missionary journeys, but also wrote several New Testament books, including the Gospel of John, the Epistles of John, and Revelation. He was also exiled to the island of Patmos for his faith, where he wrote the Apocalypse.
James the Major: He was the first of the apostles to be martyred, killed by the sword by Herod Agrippa I. He is the patron of Spain and his remains are believed to be buried in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
Andrew: He preached in Greece and Asia Minor before being crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is now known as the St. Andrew's Cross.
Philip: He preached in Greece and was martyred in Hierapolis.
Bartholomew: He preached in Armenia and India, where he was martyred by being flayed alive.
Matthew: He preached in Ethiopia and Syria before being martyred in Ethiopia.
Thomas: He preached in India, where he was martyred by being pierced by spears.
James the Less: He became the head of the Church in Jerusalem after the death of Peter and was martyred in Jerusalem.
Jude: He preached in Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia, where he was martyred.
Simon the Zealot: He preached in Egypt, Persia and Mesopotamia before being martyred.
Matthias: He was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelfth apostle and preached in Ethiopia before being martyred.
- Paul: After his conversion on the road to Damascus, Paul began preaching the word of God to Jews and Gentiles throughout the Mediterranean world. He made several missionary journeys throughout Greece, Turkey, Syria and Italy, where he established numerous Christian communities and wrote several of the letters of the New Testament. Paul was also arrested and imprisoned several times for his faith, but he continued to preach even in prison. Eventually he was executed in Rome during the reign of Emperor Nero.
The apostles therefore carried out what Christ had told them to do, that is to say, to spread the Good News throughout the world at all times and in all places, even going so far as to die as martyrs in excruciating suffering. We should find in them an example and a model to follow: to spread the good news of the Resurrection of Christ in all times and in all places.
It is possible to summarize this article by saying that the apostles, that is to say the men chosen by God to announce the Good News and the Word of God, are the same men who were with Christ during his Passion and who can, through what they have seen and heard, testify to his immense love. The apostles never stopped doing the will of Christ, even going so far as to accept torture and horrible deaths. Yes, they proclaimed the Good News in order to save as many people as possible, at the risk of their lives, in order to do the will of our Lord.
If you would like to know more about the sacrament of the Eucharist, which is so important in Christianity and in the life of a Christian, our great blog article entitled "The Apostles of Christ" should greatly interest you.