The 12 were ordinary men, all would have learnt scripture in school but none had been selected by a rabbi as an exceptional student to carry on their studies.
There were no volunteers, Jesus chose these 12, which suggests there was more.
The number 12 is so key in Jewish symbolism that after Judas died the apostles felt compelled to replace him.
While most would have been seen as poor in their Jewish devotions, others were noticeably devote.
Many had strong social, political, and religious views and expectations when they came to Jesus.
It’s believed many were teenagers, young and impulsive, malleable to new ideas but headstrong and stubborn in accepting them.
Names you need to know
Peter (Simon) – Probably the most vocal, impulsive, emotional and well known disciples, Simon is renamed Peter (the rock) by Jesus and goes onto be the sort of leader of the pack.
James & John – These brothers are called the sons of thunder by Jesus, over excitable and fiery they form the inner circle with Peter and seem glued to Jesus’s side.
Andrew – Leaving John the Baptist, Andrew seeks greater truth in Jesus, while brother to Simon-Peter, Andrew is much less impulsive and outspoken than his fellow Galilean fishermen.
Philip – Is clearly a seeker and will pull people into the discussion, inviting Nathaniel into the crowd. Not to be confused with Philip the deacon who met the eunuch.
Thomas – Is a man of declarations, be they boldly supportive, deeply theological, or famously doubtful, he’s the first to grasp that Jesus is fully God.
Nathaniel – Is a devout Israelite, a true Jew whose faith is very much alive and makes him able to see Jesus for who is really is, the messiah, right from the beginning.
Matthew – Longs to be accepted and loved, something he would never get being a tax collector, he sees an opportunity in Jesus’ invitation and doesn’t hesitate to leave it all behind.
Little James – James the less or the little is probably the most obscure of all the disciples, but Jesus did not always choose the dramatic and some stories are untold.
Simon – Another man of strong convictions, a Zealot defending tradition and Jewishness, to be in a crowd with the tax collector Matthew shows how Jesus would include all in his kingdom.
Jude – Sometimes called Judas or Thaddeus, he wasn’t very outspoken but may have shared some of Simons strong beliefs. Some people believe he wrote the epistle Jude.
Judas – The money keeper and betrayer, it’s the 30 pieces of silver and kiss Judas will always be remembered for, the only disciple not to see Jesus resurrected.
These 12 brash, uncouth, foolish, brave, but importantly ordinary men were chosen by Jesus himself as his top team. The number 12 was hugely significant, signalling completeness in scriptures. The 12 tribes of Israel represented the whole of God’s chosen people, and so for Jesus to chose only 12 of his crowd was to symbolically show he was there for the whole of the Jewish nation. In acts Judas is replaced with Matthias to continue this idea.
Unlike some other biblical heroes, the Apostles stories are usually a bi-product, a means to illustrating a greater lesson, and for some their presence in the list is the greatest fact we can verify about them. For evangelicals the titbits of information can’t be bumped out with church tradition, though whatever your perspective on the validity of the non-biblical accounts it’s usually worth taking a look at.
These 12 men were chosen, there were no volunteers and their status as chosen lead to persecution for many. They accepted a role with no security, no pay, and often involving abandoning family. While the risks were great, and the sacrifice total, in return these 12 had an intensive discipleship course, at times having hidden meaning revealed to them while the rest of the crowd were left to ponder. As well as being sent out as part of the 70, and commissioned by the resurrected Christ, they were witness to countless miracles and the arrival of Pentecost. Many were martyred and some went on to write scripture.
Taking a closer look at the list reveals that they were neither all Galilean, nor all fishermen as they are often portrayed. Rather than gormless teens looking for something to do, most had careers they abandoned and were actively searching for a deeper truth. Many came to Jesus with a strong faith and firm opinions. The world they lived in was in turmoil, the religious groups torn between appeasing the empire that detested their religion, and fighting against it. Some were part of these groups, some on opposite sides. While elements of the Roman world shaped the early church, they met Jesus as an oppressed people dreaming of a ‘Messiah’, a great warrior who would rescue his people from it’s clutches. Jesus turned their dreams on their heads and seemed to spend significant time confusing their preconceived ideas.
| Hugely inspired by Mina’s flexagons over on Flame Creative Kids, this craft (a Tetra-tetra Flexagon) uses the same folding out idea to tell a story in 3 pictures.
This one piece of paper construction is lovely and tactile to play with. I’ve left the back plain so you can add a child s name or any other info onto it.
This is a worksheet for older children, I’d recommend not trying to do it with those under the age of 7. There is a mathematical problem, a personal testimony and some passages to look up. It’s quite a heavy worksheet when done alone but would work well in pairs or small groups.
To complete this worksheet the children need need pens or pencils and bibles… they may also appreciate some scrap paper.
The PDF can be downloaded by clicking on the images.
For younger children I’d recommend a simple exercise called ‘still Jesus loves him’. You need one actor to play Matthew. Tell the children that whatever the actor says they must reply ‘still Jesus Loves Matthew’. Using the graphic as inspiration start to try and convince the children that Matthew is too bad for Jesus, stopping every few seconds to ask what they think. At the end of the discussion time say the exercise is over and remind them that whatever they do Jesus will still want to be their friend and welcome them to follow him. Click on the image for higher quality.Pin It
Matthew is a wonderfully simple character, he lives a bad life and turns it around when he meets Jesus. Any games that involve maths, discovery, or following links well, as do games linking to the idea of sickness and health. If you have a relevant favourite game already, do consider using that first.
Count up – this popular drama game involves counting as a group. Players call out ever increasing numbers, anyone can call the next number but if 2 people call at the same time then you must restart. Surprisingly difficult. Link to counting is easy but working with people can be hard.
Coin Hunt – a hide the thimble / egg hunt style game using real coins of a very low value or cardboard coins. Hide at least 2 coins per child and let them keep what they find. At the end of the game ask if the effort was worth the reward. Link to finding the biggest reward in discovering Jesus.
Each hero set contains a high quality graphic of the character, a take home bible card and a colouring page.
The images are displayed small here, click on the image you wish to have, then save the image that loads.
(Please note : these images have no watermark but are not copyright free, they are only intended for classroom use.)
If you want the teachers page then please click on the image for the pdf.
Today’s hero is Matthew (Matthew 9) because he shows us the gift of An Outcast
Essential Teachers notes:
Matthew, also called Levi, is described by Jesus as part of a crowd who is sick and in need to a doctor. There is no need to sugar coat this character. Like the Pharisee Saul becomes the Apostle Saul, Matthew shows a great transformation. In typical gospel style the shortcoming turns itself into a blessing and gives us a way of warning the children about money worship. As always this story is provided as a guide, do use the idea and specifics woven into your own words.
Main Passage : Matthew 9
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