THE TWELVE DISCPLES
MARK 1:17, ESV
And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”
LUKE 5:1-7, NIrV
1 One day Jesus was standing by the Sea of Galilee. The people crowded around him and listened to the word of God. 2 Jesus saw two boats at the edge of the water. They had been left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into the boat that belonged to Simon. Jesus asked him to go out a little way from shore. Then he sat down in the boat and taught the people.
4 When he finished speaking, he turned to Simon. Jesus said, “Go out into deep water. Let down the nets so you can catch some fish.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught a large number of fish. There were so many that their nets began to break. 7 So they motioned to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. They came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
Everybody and their brother wanted to hear Jesus teach. The crowd was so big, he had to stand in a boat on the lake to make room! That boat belonged to a fisherman named Simon. When teaching time was over, Jesus gave Simon an order: “Throw your nets into the water.” Simon could have said, “What do you know about fishing? You’re just a Bible teacher! We fished all night and caught nothing!” But he didn’t. “I’ll do it if you say so!” Simon said. It’s a good thing he did. He ended up with two boats filled with fish! The catch was so big, it almost sank the boats as they floated back to land!
+ Why was Simon able to catch so many fish after catching zero the night before?
+ What were the names of the partners who helped Simon? (vs. 10)
LUKE 5:8-11, NIrV
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees. “Go away from me, Lord!” he said. “I am a sinful man!” 9 He and everyone with him were amazed at the number of fish they had caught. 10 So were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who worked with Simon.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid. From now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore. Then they left everything and followed him.
After such a monstrous catch of fish, Simon could have asked, “Jesus, can you come fishing with us every time?” But actually, he said the opposite: “Go away! I’m a sinful man!” Why did he ask Jesus to leave? Because only a man sent by God could have the miracle power to do what Jesus did. “I’m a lowly sinner,” Simon thought, “I’m not good enough to be around a man like this!” Thankfully, Jesus didn’t follow Peter’s order. He told the fisherman and his friends to leave their lake lives behind and follow him. Instead of catching fish with nets, they would now catch people with God’s good news!
+ Why did Simon tell Jesus to go away from him? (vs. 8)
+ When Jesus said, “Follow me,” what did they do with their boats and nets? (vs. 11)
LUKE 5:27-32, NIrV
27 After this, Jesus left the house. He saw a tax collector sitting at the tax booth. The man’s name was Levi. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him. 28 Levi got up, left everything and followed him.
29 Then Levi gave a huge banquet for Jesus at his house. A large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. 30 But the Pharisees and their teachers of the law complained to Jesus’ disciples. They said, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
31 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor. Sick people do. 32 I have not come to get those who think they are right with God to follow me. I have come to get sinners to turn away from their sins.”
A tax collector's job was to gather money for the government. They became rich by collecting more coins than they needed to. As you can probably guess, people loathed rich tax collectors like Levi! But when Jesus said, “Follow me,” Levi the tax collector immediately left his coins behind to join Jesus. A group of Bible experts called Pharisees grumbled when Jesus shared supper with Levi's sinful tax collector buddies. But Jesus explained, “I’m like a doctor who has come to save people sick with sin. These tax collectors know they need a savior, but you pretend you’re perfectly fine!”
+ Read Matthew 9:9. What other name does the Bible use for Levi the tax collector?
+ After he followed Jesus, what did Levi do with him? Who else was there? (vs. 29)
JOHN 1:43-46, NIRV
43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip was from the town of Bethsaida. So were Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the Law. The prophets also wrote about him. He is Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When he found Philip, Jesus repeated the words he had already spoken to the fishermen (Simon Peter, James, and John) and to the tax collector (Levi): “Follow me.” An excited Philip rushed to share this exciting news with his good buddy, Nathanael. “Remember the special savior Moses and the prophets wrote about in the Bible?” Philip told his friend, “Guess what? I found him. It's Jesus from the town of Nazareth!” Was old Nate as excited as his friend Phil? Hardly! Nathanael chuckled at the idea of God’s special savior coming from a tiny, unimportant dump-of-a-town like Nazareth!
+ Philip was from Bethsaida. Who else was from that town? (vs. 44)
+ What did Nathanael say when Philip said Jesus was from Nazareth? (vs. 46)
JOHN 1:47-50, NIRV
47 Jesus saw Nathanael approaching. Here is what Jesus said about him. “He is a true Israelite. Nothing about him is false.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree. I saw you there before Philip called you.”
49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God. You are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.”
Nathanael laughed when his friend Philip called Jesus the Christ, the savior sent to rescue us from our sins. Why? Because Jesus came from a tiny, good-for-nothin’ town like Nazareth! But after he met Jesus, Nathanael quickly changed his tune. Jesus seemed to know everything about him, even though they'd never met! Jesus had even seen and heard Nathanael talking to Philip under the fig tree, though they were too far away to be heard! Was Jesus secretly spying using some top-secret gadgets? Nope! He knew everything about Nathanael because he was the all-knowing Son of God!
+ When he realized Jesus knew everything about him, what did Nathanael say? (vs. 49)
+ How could Jesus know what Nathanael was doing when he was under the fig tree?
LUKE 6:12-16, NIRV
12 On one of those days, Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray. He spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called for his disciples to come to him. He chose 12 of them and made them apostles. Here are their names.
14 Simon, whom Jesus named Peter, and his brother Andrew
James, son of Alphaeus
Simon who was called the Zealot
16 Judas, son of James
and Judas Iscariot who would later hand Jesus over to his enemies
Jesus spent an entire night praying to God on a mountainside. After hours of talking to God, Jesus selected some of his followers to become "disciples." In the Bible books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Acts, you can read a list of the twelve men he chose. Before we discuss the details of these dozen disciples, you’ll need to know what in the world a “disciple” was!
A disciple was a mix of two things. First, disciples were students. They learned lessons about God’s Word from special teachers. The word in Jesus’ language for these Bible teachers was “rabbi.”
Disciples were also followers. Wherever their rabbi went, they went also. Whatever their rabbi did, they tried to do, too. Disciples closely watched how their rabbi lived his life, then tried to follow his example.
Jesus chose twelve men to be his disciples. For three years, these men followed him as he traveled around the land of Israel. They listened to his teachings. They watched his amazing miracles. They ate meals with him, sailed in boats with him, and even snoozed by him! Each miraculous moment the disciples spent with Jesus made it more and more clear: Jesus was no ordinary rabbi. He was the Son of God!
So far, we’ve met six of Jesus’ disciples. First, there was Simon Peter and his two fishermen friends, James and John. Next came the rich tax collector, Levi (also called Matthew). And finally, we met Philip and his friend, Nathanael (also called Bartholomew), who made fun of Jesus for being from the tiny town of Nazareth! The six we didn’t meet were Andrew (Simon Peter’s brother), Thomas, James, Simon (a freedom fighter) and two guys named Judas.
Jesus’ twelve disciples were an interesting mix of humans. As we journey through the story of the New Testament, we’ll learn more about them. But there was one thing they all had in common: when Jesus said, “Follow me,” what did they do? They left all their stuff behind and followed him!
After he rose from the dead, Jesus gathered his disciples together. Knowing he was about to return to heaven, he gave them one final mission: “Go make brand new disciples all over the world!” But how does a disciple actually make another disciple?
Simple! Do what the twelve did: go share the good news that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead all over the world. If a person turns from their sins and believes in Jesus, congrats! You’ve made a new disciple! But the work isn’t over!
You must teach this new disciple about all Jesus said and did. Why? So they can join you in the work of making brand-new disciples, too! That’s what disciples do. They make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples who make disciples... well, you get the point!
+ Write down the names of the twelve disciples.