Twelve Witnesses

Jesus and his students returned from Jerusalem to the area around Lake Galilee (82).

Word had spread about his miracles & his message, so crowds of people came to Jesus from all over Israel & Judea. Because Jesus had already healed many people, these crowds included many other sick people who were coming to be healed, too. As the number of people kept increasing, Jesus decided to have his students get a boat ready to use in preaching God’s message.

Stich, Abbildung, engraving, gravure : 1863.

Sometimes when people who were tormented by evil spirits came to Jesus, the evil spirits would make those people fall down before him and scream, “You are God’s son!” Sternly & consistently, Jesus ordered the evil spirits to stop telling people who he was.

Then, in the midst of all the commotion, Jesus knew that it was time to involve his students in his ministry. So, instead of going down to the boat, Jesus first went up the hill — taking twelve of his students.

“I have chosen you to stay with me,” Jesus told them. “But I also intend to send you out as my witnesses — to preach God’s message to people, and to expel evil spirits from people!”

Twelve

These are the twelve he chose:

  • Peter (originally named Simon),
  • Andrew (Peter’s brother),
  • James (a son of Zebedee),
  • John (James’ brother, another son of Zebedee),
  • Philip,
  • Bartholomew (also called Nathanael),
  • Matthew (the tax collector, also called Levi),
  • Thomas,
  • James (son of Alphaeus),
  • Thaddaeus (also known sometimes as Lebbaeus & sometimes as Judas),
  • Simon (the Patriot from Canaan), and
  • Judas Iscariot (who would eventually betray Jesus).

Over the next three years, Jesus would spend the largest portion of his time & energy in training these twelve witnesses.

Then, when Jesus came down the hill with the twelve, they were again surrounded by a large crowd of people from all over Judea & Israel & the surrounding areas. Some people had come to hear Jesus teach. Other people had come to be healed of their diseases, including people who had evil spirits in them.

Jesus healed them all! Some were healed as Jesus spoke to them; others were healed simply by touching Jesus.

Sovereign God, please help me to love going wherever You send me.

(82) Matthew 10:2-4, Mark 3:7-21, Luke 6:12-19

John The Witness

Various traditions suggest that all but one of the thirteen principal witnesses were eventually executed for serving Jesus, by taking the good news about him to the ends of the earth, as Jesus had commanded them.

Their obedience to this command is indicated by the supposed places of their physical deaths:

  • Israel (James)
  • Italy (Peter & Paul)
  • Turkey (Philip)
  • Greece (Andrew)
  • Armenia (Bartholomew or Nathanael)
  • Ethiopia (Matthew)
  • India (Thomas)
  • Egypt (James, son of Alphaeus)
  • Iran (Thaddaeus or Lebbaeus or Judas, and Simon the Patriot)
  • Georgia (Matthias)

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Only John is believed to have died from natural causes, in Greece.  During the last 10 years of his very long life, perhaps 60 or 70 years after Jesus had returned to heaven, John wrote his personal account of the life & ministry of Jesus, three letters to Christian friends, and the visionary revelation of the end of the world which he received from Jesus.

John’s testimony of the good news of Jesus (339) is quite different from the other three gospel testimonies.

  • John’s gospel has a deeply spiritual tone, expressly aimed at inspiring faith in the divine power of Jesus.
  • John places more emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.

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  • And he places more emphasis on the idea that we are called to show our love for God by loving each other.

God, please help me to love You by loving specific people.

(339) John’s testimony about Jesus is incorporated in previous posts on this site.

Lake Tiberias

Sometime after this, Jesus met with seven of his closest friends at Lake Tiberias in Galilee (224).

Peter, Thomas, Bartholomew (also called Nathanael), James & John (the sons of Zebedee), and two other friends of Jesus had gone out fishing together.  They fished all night, but they didn’t catch a thing.

As the sun was rising, Jesus stood at the water’s edge, but his friends didn’t recognize him. He asked if they had caught any fish, and he was told they hadn’t.

“Throw your net out on the right side of the boat, and you’ll catch some,” Jesus said.  So they threw the net out, but they couldn’t pull it back in because they had caught so many fish!

Then John, remembering that Jesus had done this before, said to Peter, “It’s Jesus!”  When Peter heard that, he jumped into the water to swim to shore, about a hundred yards away.

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The others came to shore in the boat, pulling the net full of fish. When they were all ashore, they saw a charcoal fire there with fish on it and some bread.

Then Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you just caught.” Peter dragged the net ashore — full of big fish, over 150 in all.  But even though there were so many fish, the net didn’t tear!

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Jesus said to them, “Come and eat.” He took the bread & gave it to them; he did the same with the fish.

 

(224) John 21:1-13

Thomas

Thomas, one of the twelve chosen witnesses, was not there when Jesus came (222). When he joined them later the other witnesses told him, “We have seen Jesus!”

Thomas said to them, “Unless I put my finger on the scars of the nails in his hands & put my hand on the wound in his side, I will not believe.”

A week later the witnesses were together again behind locked doors; this time Thomas was with them. Again, Jesus appeared suddenly among them & said, “Be filled with peace.”

Jesus turned to Thomas & said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then put your hand in my side. Stop doubting & believe.” Then Thomas did believe & exclaimed, “My Master & my God!”

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Jesus replied with this promise: “Do you believe because you see me? Many people will believe without seeing me & they will be blessed by God for their faith.”

John the Witness wrote down many accounts of events in the life & ministry of Jesus.  He wanted his readers to believe that Jesus is the Messiah of God.  He wanted you to have new life by believing in Jesus.

At the end of his account of the life & ministry of Jesus, John also testified that Jesus did many other miracles which were not written down.

 

(222) John 20:24-31

The Way: The Only Way

Then Jesus asked his chosen witnesses a question (191).  “When I sent you out that time without money or clothes, did you lack anything?” “Not a thing,” they answered.

“But now the situation is different,” Jesus said. “Any of you who has money must take it.  And you should also take a sword this time. The inspired scriptures, which say, ‘He shared the fate of criminals,’ will now come true about me.” Some of the witnesses said, “Here are two swords, Master.” “Your obedience is sufficient,” Jesus replied.

“I don’t want you to worry about any of the coming challenges. Just keep believing in God & in me.  In God’s house there are many rooms; I’m going there to prepare a place for you. You know I wouldn’t tell you this, if it wasn’t true.

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“After all is prepared, I’ll come back for you.  Then I’ll take you with me & we’ll be together again. You already know the narrow way that leads to where I’m going.”

Thomas said to him, “Master, we don’t know where you’re going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus chided him gently, “After all this time, don’t you get it, Thomas?  I am the way, the truth, and the life; the only way to God is with me. Because you know me, you know God.”

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But Philip still didn’t quite get it, so he asked, “Master, won’t you please show God to us?” Jesus simply replied, “I am in God and God is in me, so if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen God!”

 

(191) Luke 22:35-38, John 14:1-14

Another Lazarus Dies

A friend of Jesus, named Lazarus, became very sick (147). Lazarus lived in Bethany, with his sisters, Martha & Mary, and Jesus loved them all dearly. The sisters sent Jesus a message: “Master, your dear friend is sick.” To this news, Jesus responded: “Lazarus will not die, but he will be used to bring glory to God.”

Jesus delayed going to Bethany for two more days. Then he told his students it was time to go back to Bethany in the region of Judea.  The students questioned Jesus: “Teacher, there are people in Judea who want to stone you to death!  Why go back now?”  Jesus replied, “Because the people need the light I bring.  Anyone who walks in the light doesn’t stumble, but if he walks in the darkness he will definitely stumble.”

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Then Jesus added, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I must go & wake him up.” The students answered, “If he’s only asleep, Master, he’ll be alright.” They thought he meant natural sleep, so then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, and I’m glad that I wasn’t with him when he died.  When we go to him, your faith will be strengthened.”

Thomas said to his fellow students, “Let’s go with the teacher.  Even if we die, it’s better to stay with him!”

When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had been buried four days earlier. The town of Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem; many Judeans had come from Jerusalem to see Martha & Mary and to comfort them about their brother’s death.

When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went outside the town to meet him.

Lazarus Martha

She said to Jesus, “If you had been here, Master, my brother wouldn’t have died! But I know that God will raise him, if you ask him.” “Yes, Lazarus will rise to life,” Jesus said.

Martha replied, “I know that he will rise to life on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “That’s not exactly what I mean.  I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who lives in me will live forever, even after his body dies.  Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Master,” she answered. “I believe that you are the promised Messiah who has come into the world.”  After Martha said this, she went back home and told her sister Mary, “The teacher is here and he is asking for you.”

When Mary heard this, she got up and hurried outside the town to meet him. Friends who were comforting Mary followed her when they saw her get up & hurry out; they thought she was going to the grave to weep there.

 

(147) John 11:1-31