The apostolic vocation was a call from Jesus, followed by consent and commitment from the apostles. Jesus had many followers called disciples. They were admirers and followers of Jesus. Whereas the apostles were full-time companions of Jesus who learned from Jesus’ words and actions. They were also his messengers of the Kingdom of God during and after his public ministry.
There were some common features and differences among the twelve apostles that Jesus selected and appointed for his mission. All of them were ordinary Jews and not experts in the Law. They were open-minded and holding secular professions to support their families. Jesus avoided scribes who were experts in the Scripture, Pharisees who were conservative and separated from the public, and Sadducees who were predominantly priests. Jesus did not select none of the Sanhedrin members as an apostle, though some of them, like Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, were his friends. Jesus included sinner like Matthew and zealot like Simon among the apostles. All the twelve, except Judas Iscariot, were Galileans. All the apostles, including Matthew, the richest among them, left everything they had to follow Jesus and considered the Kingdom of God as their most valuable treasure. They left their family and formed a family unit with Jesus.
The apostles were not sure of what kind of kingdom Jesus was going to establish. In fact, they were confused on that issue. They were fighting for positions because of their misunderstanding that Jesus was going to establish an earthly kingdom. It was not their fault because such was the common belief in the Messiah. Within the three years of training, Jesus reformatted the mind of the apostles according to his vision. They were open to receive the message of Jesus and his Messiahship different from the ordinary understanding of the time. All of them (Matthias in the place of Judas) received the Holy Spirit and continued the mission of Jesus. They all faced challenges and persecution because they continued the mission of Jesus. They felt joy and satisfaction in their mission than in their previous way of life. All of them, except John the Evangelist, became martyrs.
APOSTLES’ COMMON FEATURES
Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Thomas, Nathaniel, and Philip were also engaged in fishing (John 21:2-8).
Peter, James, and John were the inner circle of Jesus.
Three sets of apostles had the same first names: (1) James son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus; (2) Judas Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot; and (3) Simon Peter and Simon the Cananean.
Peter, Nathaniel (Bartholomew), and Thomas professed their faith in Jesus.
Mathew and John wrote the gospels. The other evangelists, Mark and Luke, were not from the initial apostles.
There were three sets of brothers. (1) Peter and Andrew, (2) James and John who were sons of Zebedee, and (3) James the son of Alphaeus, Judas Thaddeus the brother of James, and Simon the Canaanite or Zealot.
Simon, Judas Thaddeus, and James the Less were brothers and cousins of Jesus.
Peter, John, James, and Jude wrote epistles.
Andrew and Philip were disciples of John the Baptist.
Peter and John accompanied Jesus to the high priest’s residence during the trial of Jesus.
Jesus nicknamed James and John, the sons of Zebedee as Boanerges (sons of thunder).
Though Philip and James died on different dates at separate locations, their feast is celebrated on the same day because their bodies were moved and were buried together in the Church of the Twelve Apostles in Rome.
APOSTLES, FEAST DAYS
Peter & Paul – June 29
St. James the Greater – July 25
St. John the Evangelist – December 27
St. Andrew – November 30
St. Philip – May 3
St. Bartholomew – August 24
St. Matthew – September 21
St. Thomas – July 3
St. James the Less – May 3
St. Judas Thaddeus – October 28
St. Simon the Cananean – October 28
St. Matthias – May 14
APOSTLES, KIND OF DEATH OR MARTYRDOM
(Some of these are based on traditions or common beliefs only)
St. Peter was crucified upside down at Vatican Hills in Rome in 67 A.D.
St. James the Great was beheaded in Jerusalem in 42 A.D.
St. John the Evangelist had a natural death at Ephesus in 100 A.D.
St. Andrew was crucified on an X-shaped Cross in Achaia at Patras in 61 A.D.
St. Philip was crucified upside down at Hierapolis in Persia in 62 A.D.
St. Bartholomew was martyred by skinning alive in Armenia in 72 A.D.
St. Matthew was killed with a spear in Ethiopia in 65 A.D.
St. Thomas was stabbed to death by a spear in Mylapore in India in 72 A.D.
St. James the Less was crucified and then sawed to pieces in Egypt in 62 A.D.
St. Judas Thaddeus was clubbed to death at Ararat about 65 A.D.
St. Simon the Cananean was crucified at Caistor (Lincolnshire) England in 74 A.D.
Judas Iscariot hanged himself (Matthew 27:5) at Aceldama in Jerusalem in 30 A.D.
Though Jesus had many disciples, why did he limit the number of apostles to twelve? Twelve was a perfect number of administrations. Number three signifies the divinity (Trinity) and four stands for earth (four corners). Twelve is the product of three and four and thus a combination of heaven and earth.
According to the divine plan, Israel was divided into twelve tribes under the names of the sons of Jacob (Gen 49:28). Tribal leaders were selected to represent these tribes for efficient administration under King David (1 Chr 27:16-22). When Jesus started his public ministry as Son of David, he reestablished the rule of the twelve princes through the twelve apostles he selected on the mountain. This showed the reestablishment of the old Israel in a new form. These twelve were not representatives of the twelve tribes originated from Jacob. Though they were Jews, they were to represent all nations whom God promised to bless when he made a covenant with Abraham. God had told Abraham, “in your descendants all the nations of the earth will find blessing” (Gen 26:4).
Besides number twelve, 3, 7, and 10 are perfect numbers. Moses sent twelve spies to Canaan, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Since Jesus considered his church as the new Israel, he said of his apostles, “Amen, I say to you that you who have followed me, in the new age, when the Son of Man is seated on his throne of glory, will yourselves sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Mt 19:28).
After the death of Judas, the college of the apostles was very particular to maintain the twelve by selecting Mathias substituting Judas.
Matthew was a tax collector for Rome and so was a public sinner.
Simon was a zealot.
Andrew was the first called by Christ to be his disciple.
Jesus entrusted the keys of heaven only to Peter (Mt 16:19).
Only Thomas was absent when Jesus first appeared to the apostles.
Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and is not a saint.
Only John was at the foot of the cross.
James was the first martyr among the apostles and the only martyrdom of an apostle recorded in the Bible (Acts 12:1-3).
Unlike other apostles, Jesus found Philip.
Among the apostles, only Peter had the privilege of Jesus changing the name.
Only Judas Iscariot was from Judea. Others were from Galilee.
Peter denied Jesus three times during the trial of Jesus.
John authored the book of Revelation.
The New Testament records Peter’s name and activities more than any other apostle.
Jesus selected twelve apostles to be his full-time partners and successors. Other disciples respected them and cooperated with them. The bishops are the successors of the apostles. Let us cooperate with them and their representatives in the parishes on the mission to build and maintain the kingdom of God here.