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Those Other Apostles


Ask yourself as a Christian, who, in all history, would you most envy? Would it be one of the heroes of the Old Testament? Would it be a famous saint in the history of the church? Or would it be one of the people in the New Testament who was healed, or in some other way, touched by Christ himself?

Surely, the Twelve Apostles - those who lived and worked with Jesus on a daily basis for three whole years - must have been the most privileged people in all history, and the ones we would most like to have been.

Like the small handful of people who have walked on the moon, they alone would have had intimate knowledge of something that the rest of the human race could only dream of. There were multitudes of people who caught a glimpse of Jesus, who witnessed one or more of his miracles, who heard him preach on at least one occasion. Christians living today could certainly envy any one of them. But there are only twelve who were there with him through it all.

Twelve men were hand selected by Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God, the Creator of the Universe. They were picked from thousands who came to hear what Jesus was saying, at a time in history which he described as a spiritually "green tree".

These men were the "creme de la creme", the best of the best.

Amongst them were Simon Peter ("The Rock"), and several pairs of famous brothers. There were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Andrew and Phillip the fishermen, and Matthew the tax collector and his brother... the other James.

"The other James?" you might ask. It's true that, apart from being included in the lists of the Twelve Apostles, this other son of Alphaeus is never mentioned anywhere else in the Bible. And the same can be said for the other Simon (the Canaanite) and the other Judas... although some people think he may have been the Jude who wrote a one-page letter right near the end of the New Testament.

Nothing more is known of Bartholomew either. And men like Thomas, Phillip, and Matthew are only mentioned briefly in a couple of other places.

In Thomas' case, he is primarily remembered today as "doubting Thomas" because of his skepticism about the resurrection.

And yet Christ himself selected these men to sit as judges over the twelve tribes of Israel. He placed them above Noah, Moses, King David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Elijah. Imagine that! Bartholomew, someone we know almost nothing about, lecturing Elijah on how to be spiritual! But that's how it is.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews lists many of the heroes of faith in the Bible, but then concludes with a reference to others, "of whom the world is not worthy", who died without receiving deliverance, and without being recognised by the world in general for their faith and courage. These people, too, were considered greater in God's eyes than the big name heroes of the Old Testament.

Even now, few Christians realise, for example, that "Doubting Thomas" journeyed all the way to India, where he started a branch of Christianity that continues to this day. He died a martyr's death in a cave that he had been hiding in because of the persecution that his message had inspired amongst the local population.

Maybe you feel at times like Peter, James, and John are such superstars that they are out of your league. But don't forget that the Son of God had room in his tiny circle of favourite friends for some nondescripts like yourself as well.

And the list is not finished yet. The book that GOD is writing is still being written. And there's still room to have your name included amongst spiritual giants like Bartholomew and Simon the Canaanite, and James the Son of Alphaeus, and that other Judas... you know, the one no one remembers, because he did NOT betray Jesus!

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