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The term apostle originates from Apostolos, a Greek word meaning “person sent”. It means a person sent as a delegate to another in a distant place or country. Out of the 72 disciples Jesus had previously chosen, he selected 12 whom he wanted to accompany him full-time (Lk 8:1), to learn from him, to become eyewitnesses of his miracles of mercy and glory, to gain personal experience through practical training to preach, heal, and cast out demons (Mt 10:1-15, Mk 6:7-13), and later to continue his mission throughout the world. So, this was a second selection and direct call after the primary training and evaluation. Hence, the apostles became his ambassadors to the general public for the extension and continuation of his mission. The early Church later applied the term apostle to other prominent leaders of the Church, like Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14; Gal 1:1).


Jesus had appointed seventy[-two] disciples “whom he sent ahead of him in pairs to every town and place he intended to visit” (Lk 10:1). Out of these primarily trained disciples, Jesus selected and appointed 12 as a special group. Though Jesus sent the apostles to preach and to perform miracles during his public ministry, it was for their pastoral training under his supervision. “The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught” (Mk 6:30). Thus, they gave feedback to Jesus and received corrections from him.

The apostolic vocation was a call from Jesus, followed by consent and commitment from the apostles. Though 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.

Though others might have wished for such a position, the selection was of Jesus’ choosing and not of the disciples “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you” (Jn 15:16). So, a ministry in the Church is God’s call and not one’s own selection of a profession for a means of living.

The ordination of the apostles took place only after Judas dropped out of the College of Apostles and shortly after the resurrection of Jesus. On the day of his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the apostles and said to them, “‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’ ‘Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain, they are retained’” (Jn 20:21-23).


1. Jesus’ fame had spread even to faraway places. So, he wanted to share his power with some select disciples, which enabled them to reach out to distant places, extending Jesus’ ministry like preaching and healing the sick.

2. Considering that Jesus’ enemies were plotting to kill him, the period of his public ministry was not to exceed three years and a few months. In fact, Jesus knew that the appointed time of his self-sacrifice was imminent (Jn 12:23). There was no print or broadcast media during those days for easy transmission of the Gospel. So, he needed helpers to complete his programme. He could achieve that only through the apostles, who were full- time disciples.

3. Jesus had a succession plan in place, too. He wanted to reconstitute the chosen people of God. Instead of the Israelites who rejected him as the Messiah, Jesus was going to establish the Church to follow up his mission until his Second Coming. He had to train and prepare the initial leaders of the Church to receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. So, his selection of the apostles was followed by training and hands on experience.


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 simple, ordinary, traditionally perfidious, and mostly illiterate people. He selected the weak and the open-minded, trained them in theory and practice, and shared his miraculous power with them. Matthew was a tax-collector and so an outlaw. Simon the Zealot was a member of a revolutionary group that was fighting for the nationalism of the Israelites. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. The apostles had weaknesses and failures and competed for higher positions before they received the Holy Spirit. Judas Iscariot became selfish and betrayed Jesus.

The apostles were open-minded and held 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.

When Jesus selected the 12 from among his disciples, they responded positively to their call by leaving others behind and reaching towards him. They had vast scopes for worldly achievements to lose by opting to follow the master. Like Jesus, they left homes, families, and sources of income (Mt 19:27, Lk 18:28). Having given up their houses, Jesus and his apostles had no place of residence of their own. When a Scribe approached Jesus and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go,” Jesus answered him, “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head” (Mt 8:19- 20, Lk 9:57-58). Because of giving up their professions, they had to depend on the largesse of others, including devoted women, for food and other means (Lk 8:3).

Once selected, the apostles became a family of Jesus. Unlike other disciples who used to come as observers and listeners for a while only, the apostles left behind everything they had, travelled with Jesus, and stayed with him full-time. During that formation period, they learned firsthand how Jesus lived, behaved, preached, and showed compassion to the people in need. Jesus shared private instructions and secrets with them (Mt 13:11, Mk 4:11). After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to them often, and gave them further training. Thus, the apostles had the privilege of being with Jesus until he ascended to Heaven.

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.


The primary goal of the apostles was to preach the Word of God, revealed through Jesus. The miracles the disciples performed were to strengthen the believers and to continue the works of mercy initiated by Jesus. During his public ministry, Jesus sent the disciples only to nearby places. After Pentecost, he sent them out from Jerusalem to all over the world (Lk 24:47).

Jesus wished to continue his miracles of mercy through his apostles so that people would receive them in his name and those suffering would benefit from God’s favors. They were casting out demons in Jesus’ name with the authority he had given them.


When Jesus sent out the 12 to preach during his public ministry, he gave them the power even to raise the dead (Mt 10:8). However, the gospels do not record any raising of the dead by the apostles during the public ministry of Jesus. There was no such need at that period. So, some manuscripts exclude these words.

However, after Pentecost, the apostles raised the dead. Peter raised Tabitha (Dorcas) in Joppa (Acts 9:36-42). Paul restored the life of Eutychus, who fell from the third story of a building where Paul was preaching until midnight (Acts 20:7-12).


The Bible lists the apostles in four places (Mt 10:2-4; Mk 3:16-19; Lk 6:13-16; Acts 1:13). The following are the common features of the apostles:
1. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen and Jesus called them while they were fishing in the Sea of Galilee (Mt 4:18-22).
2. Thomas, Nathanael, and Philip were also engaged in fishing (Jn 21:2-8).
3. Peter, James, and John were the innermost circle of Jesus. They were with Jesus when he healed Jairus’ daughter (Mk 5:37), when he was Transfigured high up a mountain (Mt 17:1), and during his agony in Gethsemane (Mt 26:37).
4. There were three pairs with the same first names: James son of Zebedee and James the son of Alphaeus, Judas Thaddeus and Judas Iscariot, and Simon Peter and Simon the Canaanean.
5. Peter, Nathanael (Bartholomew), and Thomas professed their faith in Jesus.
6. Matthew and John wrote the gospels. Mark and Luke were not among the twelve apostles.
7. 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, and Simon the Canaanite who were also cousins of Jesus.
8. Peter, John, James, and Jude wrote epistles.
9. Andrew and Philip were disciples of John the Baptist before they followed Jesus.
10. Peter and John accompanied Jesus to the high priest’s residence during the trial of Jesus.
11. Jesus nicknamed James and John, the sons of Zebedee as Boanerges (sons of thunder).
first, Simon called Peter,


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

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.

(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? According to Biblical numerology, 12 is a perfect number like 3, 7, 10, 50 and 100. God established Israel as 12 tribes under the names of the sons of Jacob (Gen 49:28). Moses sent 12 spies to Canaan, representing the 12 tribes of Israel. King David selected 12 tribal leaders to represent these tribes for efficient administration (1 Chr 27:16-22). When Jesus started his public ministry as the Son of David, he reestablished the rule of the 12 tribal representatives through the 12 apostles he selected on the mountain. This showed the reestablishment of the old Israel in a new format. These 12 were not representatives of the 12 tribes originating from Jacob. However, they would “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk 22:30) at his Second Coming. Though the apostles were Jews, they were to represent all nations whom God promised to bless when He made a covenant with Abraham, emphatically stating: “In your descendants all the nations of the Earth will find blessing” (Gen 26:4). 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).

Biblically speaking, while 12 is considered the perfect number of administration and symbolizes universality, 3 signifies the triune God and four – the four corners of the Earth. Twelve is the product of three and four and thus a combination of heaven and earth.

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. The other disciples held them in high regard and worked together with them. The bishops are the successors of the apostles. We should work together with them and their representatives in the parishes to build and uphold the kingdom of God here.

Jesus chose the twelve Apostles through a divine call, and they responded with unwavering commitment. They were selected for their openness and willingness to follow Jesus, despite coming from ordinary backgrounds as fishermen, a tax collector, and a zealot. Their choice was not influenced by earthly credentials, but by the divine will of Jesus (Jn 15:16). This serves as a reminder that serving in the Church is a divine calling, not simply a career.

It is our duty as modern-day disciples to pattern our lives after the Apostles. Jesus is calling us to be open and willing to give up worldly pursuits in order to serve His Kingdom. We should embrace humility, seek transformation through Christ, and persevere in faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit to carry out Jesus’ mission. May we, like the Apostles, be faithful messengers of Christ, spreading His love and truth to all corners of the world.

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