The Apostles of Jesus

Jesus Christ, the central figure of Christianity, chose twelve men as his closest disciples during his earthly ministry. These men became known as the Twelve Apostles, entrusted with spreading the Gospel message after his death and resurrection. The original twelve were chosen in succession at a very early period of Jesus’ ministry. First came Andrew and his brother Simon (Peter); James and John [the sons of Zebedee] (Matthew 4:18-22; 10:2,3; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 6:14; John 1:35-42); then Philip and Nathaniel [named also Bartholomew] (John 1:43-51). Subsequently, there came Matthew [also known as Levi] (Matthew 9:9-13; Mark 2:14-17; Luke 5:27-32); Thomas, James (the son of Alphaeus), Simon the Zealot (or Cananaean), Thaddaeus, the brother of James the Less, and Judas Iscariot–Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13.

The resurrection of Jesus marked a pivotal shift in the lives of the apostles. Initially devastated by his crucifixion, they received confirmation of his victory over death. This renewed their spirits and propelled them into action, initiating a phase of intense ministry that shaped the foundation of Christianity.

Initially, the apostles gathered together, likely in Jerusalem. The period following Jesus’ ascension was marked by prayer and fellowship. During this time, they elected Matthias to replace Judas Iscariot, restoring the number of apostles to twelve. Then came the crucial event of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended upon them with power. This supernatural empowerment fueled their boldness and eloquence in proclaiming the Gospel message.

The apostles burst onto the scene with renewed zeal. They began preaching openly in Jerusalem, their message centered on the resurrected Christ. Peter’s powerful sermon on the day of Pentecost resulted in three thousand people accepting the message of salvation and being baptized. The apostles performed miracles, further testifying to the truth of their claims and attracting more followers. [Note: the number of those converted is questioned as historians place the number of Jewish converts by the end of the first century at fewer than ten thousand Christians in the Roman Empire.”]

Initial Evangelical Focus on Jews

During his earthly ministry, Jesus primarily focused on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24), fulfilling the Jewish prophecies of the Messiah. The earliest apostles inherited this focus, spreading the Gospel primarily within Jewish communities of the Roman Empire and its surroundings.

The conversion of Cornelius, a Roman centurion (Acts 10), marks a watershed moment. Peter was initially hesitant to interact with a Gentile, but a direct vision from God and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Cornelius’ household convinced him that God intended the Gospel for all.

Missionary Trips and Dangers

The Apostles played a foundational role in the development of early Christianity. They witnessed Jesus’ ministry, learned from his teachings, and were entrusted with carrying the good news of salvation to the world. Despite facing persecution and martyrdom, their dedication laid the groundwork for the church’s growth.

While no two missionary trips by the apostles would have been exactly alike, a ‘typical’ missionary journey required traveling by foot over the Roman roads and local paths with occasional sea voyages across the Mediterranean Sea.  They relied on the hospitality of others as they moved from town to town, typically staying in homes of early Christian converts or sympathetic individuals. They normally stayed a couple of days at a single location, depending on the reception of the local audience or severe opposition or threats. They sometimes stayed longer in larger cities, using them as temporary bases to proselytize the smaller surrounding communities. Missionary journeys often include retracing their trips to reinforce new communities of faith established on their earlier visit.

As itinerant preachers, they visited local synagogues (if they were welcomed), preached in marketplaces or in the open near the sea, lakes, and rivers, or in the homes of converts. typical apostolic missionary journey was unpredictable and demanding. It required great faith, resilience, and a willingness to endure hardship- physical discomfort, persecution, rejection, loneliness, and doubt – for the sake of spreading the Gospel. Yet, it was through these travels that Christianity spread from its Jewish origins to become a global faith.