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When Jesus became popular, he got disciples who followed him to listen to him and to witness the miracles he performed. Luke records that “a great crowd of his disciples” (Lk 6:17) followed him. The disciples of Jesus are a diverse group comprising the twelve apostles, the seventy-two (or seventy) disciples, and some women who followed and supported His ministry. The early Christian community had different roles for each group, and these roles offer important lessons for Christians today.


Jesus intentionally chose twelve men as apostles for significant reasons, both symbolic and practical. The number twelve holds significant symbolic meaning in Jewish tradition, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. By choosing twelve apostles, Jesus was symbolically reconstituting Israel around Himself, signaling the foundation of a new covenant community. Jesus spent a considerable amount of time teaching, mentoring, and living with the twelve apostles. This close-knit group allowed for deep relational bonds and intensive discipleship, preparing them for their future roles in leading the church.

These core disciples hold a special place in Christian tradition. Chosen by Jesus himself, they witnessed Jesus’ most intimate moments – his teachings, miracles, and even the emotional turmoil leading to his crucifixion. Their names, recorded in multiple Gospels reflect a variety of backgrounds – fishermen like Peter and Andrew, a tax collector like Matthew – demonstrating that Jesus called people from all walks of life. They weren’t simply passive observers; the Gospels portray them struggling to understand Jesus’ teachings, arguing amongst themselves, and even doubting him at times. Yet, they remained by his side, a testament to the transformative power of Jesus’ message.

After Jesus’ ascension, the apostles became the pillars of the early Church. Empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2), they boldly preached the Gospel, establishing churches throughout the Roman world. Their role wasn’t just about spreading the message; they also wrestled with theological questions and ensured the continuity of Jesus’ teachings as Christianity took root.

The apostles were chosen to be the foundational leaders of the early Christian church. As key witnesses to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, they were entrusted with preserving and spreading His teachings. Their number underscores the continuity and fulfillment of God’s promises to Israel.

The apostles are the following.
1. Peter (Simon Peter): A fisherman who became the leader of the apostles. Known for his boldness and later his role in leading the early church.
2. Andrew: Peter’s brother, also a fisherman. He was among the first to follow Jesus.
3. James (son of Zebedee): Brother of John, known for his zeal. He was part of Jesus’ inner circle.
4. John (son of Zebedee): The beloved disciple, known for his close relationship with Jesus and his authorship of several New Testament books.
5. Philip: Known for his questioning nature and his role in the early church.
6. Bartholomew (Nathanael): Recognized for his straightforwardness and integrity.
7. Matthew (Levi): A tax collector turned disciple, author of the Gospel of Matthew.
8. Thomas (Didymus): Famously doubted Jesus’ resurrection until he saw Him, hence “Doubting Thomas.”
9. James (son of Alphaeus): Often called “James the Less.”
10. Thaddeus (Jude, son of James): Sometimes referred to as Judas Thaddeus, author of the Epistle of Jude.
11. Simon the Zealot: Known for his zeal for Jewish law and traditions.
12. Judas Iscariot: The disciple who betrayed Jesus, leading to His arrest and crucifixion.


While the Twelve Apostles hold a prominent place, the Gospel of Luke (10:1-24) introduces another group – the Seventy (or Seventy-Two) disciples. They were sent out in pairs before Jesus to prepare the towns for his arrival, preaching and healing the sick. While less information is available about them in comparison to the Twelve, their mission holds great importance. They exemplify the larger movement ignited by Jesus, giving ordinary individuals the power to communicate his message and actions.

Jesus endowed the seventy-two disciples with authority to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God. This act demonstrated that the power and authority of Jesus extended beyond the inner circle of the twelve apostles, empowering a broader group of followers to participate in His mission.

The sending of the seventy-two disciples in pairs (Lk 10:1-24) was a strategic move to expand Jesus’ ministry. Their assignment was to make sure the towns and places Jesus was about to visit were prepared, effectively broadening His reach. This method of sending them in pairs ensured mutual support and accountability. The exact names of these disciples are not provided in the Scriptures, but they represent a larger group of Jesus’ followers entrusted with spreading His message.

The numbers 72 or 70 does have significance in the Old Testament.

In Exodus 24:1 and Numbers 11:16-25, Moses appoints seventy elders to assist him in governing the Israelites. It presents a broader perspective on leadership and representation, drawing from the church’s redefined role as a renewed Israel.

In Genesis 10, a list of seventy (or seventy-two, depending on textual variants) nations is presented, each descending from one of Noah’s sons. This chapter serves as a genealogy of the nations, symbolizing the diversity of humanity. The number seventy (or seventy-two) may therefore represent the totality of human civilization, echoing the universal mission of the gospel.

The Sanhedrin was a council of seventy elders in ancient Judaism, responsible for religious and legal matters. It reflects a tradition of leadership and governance that may have influenced the symbolic use of seventy-two in the New Testament.

In Jewish numerology, certain numbers are associated with specific meanings. For example, the number seven represents completion or perfection. By combining seven (a symbol of completeness) with ten (a symbol of totality or fullness), the number seventy (or seventy-two) may symbolize a comprehensive or complete mission.

The connections imply that its usage in the New Testament may be influenced by wider biblical themes of leadership, representation, and universality. Jesus sending out the seventy-two disciples emphasizes the worldwide nature of His mission and the call for all nations to be part of God’s kingdom.


In addition to the usual crowd, Jesus was often accompanied by specific groups, including the twelve apostles, the 72 disciples, and certain women followers. Luke reports, “Accompanying him were the Twelve and some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities, Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and many others who provided for them out of their resources” (Lk 8:1-3).

In the Gospels, the role of women disciples is highlighted as they followed Jesus, listened to his teachings, and provided support for his ministry. They weren’t left out. The Gospels portray them as being present at the cross, witnessing the resurrection, and actively involved in spreading the news. Their presence challenges traditional gender roles of the time and emphasizes that faith in Jesus transcends social constructs.

1. Mary Magdalene: Exorcised of seven demons, she followed Jesus faithfully. She witnessed His death and resurrection.
2. Mary (mother of James and Joses): Provided for Jesus’ ministry financially and witnessed His death and likely His resurrection.
3. Mary (wife of Clopas): Mentioned as being present at the crucifixion.
4. Martha and Mary of Bethany: Sisters who hosted Jesus in their home; Martha is known for her service, and Mary for her devotion.
5. Joanna: The wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, who supported Jesus’ ministry financially.
6. Susanna: Another woman who supported Jesus’ ministry.
7. Salome (mother of James and John): Asked for her sons’ places of honor in God’s kingdom. Witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection.
8. Many more women followed Jesus, and they were present at His crucifixion and resurrection.


The lives and actions of the disciples offer a powerful and multifaceted message for Christians today: The disciples left their lives behind to follow Jesus, exemplifying the importance of commitment and prioritizing faith. Jesus’ core mission for them—to share the Gospel with the world—remains a central responsibility for Christians, which can manifest through personal witnessing, acts of charity, and social justice. Despite their different backgrounds and personalities, the disciples functioned as a unified group, demonstrating the value of Christian fellowship and the richness that comes from a diverse community of believers.

The Gospels present the disciples as imperfect individuals who dealt with doubt and occasionally erred. Christians find comfort in the fact that faith is a continuous journey of growth. By studying their lives, we gain valuable understandings of Jesus’ teachings and how to apply them in our own lives.

The selection of the twelve apostles and seventy-two disciples underscores the importance of unity and diversity within the Christian community. The apostles represent foundational leadership, while the seventy-two symbolize the church’s diverse and widespread mission. Jesus’ instructions to the seventy-two disciples highlight the importance of evangelism and outreach, calling Christians to spread the Gospel beyond their immediate circles to various communities and cultures.

The close relationship Jesus had with the twelve apostles models a deeply relational and servanthood-rooted leadership style. Christian leaders are encouraged to mentor closely and lead by serving. The empowerment of the seventy-two disciples indicates that Jesus’ mission involves broader participation, inviting all Christians to engage in kingdom work.

The symbolic numbers used by Jesus connect His ministry to the broader narrative of God’s work in history, providing continuity and fulfillment of biblical promises. Christians are reminded of the deep roots of their faith and the continuity of God’s plan.

The disciples’ diverse backgrounds and social statuses highlight that Jesus’ message is for everyone, calling Christians to embrace diversity within their communities. The emphasis on service rather than mere leadership underscores the importance of servant leadership. Figures like Peter and Thomas, who struggled with faith, show that imperfection is part of the faith journey, encouraging persistence despite struggles.

The significant roles of women in Jesus’ ministry underscore the importance of acknowledging and supporting women’s contributions in the church. The sending of the seventy-two disciples emphasizes the importance of missionary work and spreading the Christian message.

Finally, Judas Iscariot’s betrayal and Peter’s denial, followed by his redemption, highlight themes of forgiveness and the possibility of redemption. By reflecting on the lives of the disciples, Christians gain a deeper understanding of living out Jesus’ core teachings in their own lives.


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