Getting to Know the Disciples

Meeting the Disciples

Introduction and background

Mark 1:16-17

I remember as a child reading this scripture and thinking that Jesus just walked up to strangers whom he had never seen before and asked them to drop everything and follow him; and that they did so even though they did not know who he was.

If this verse is put in the context of history and the proper time frame, it becomes clear that this is not the case at all.

Timeline (Note that this time line is an approximation. It is often difficult to establish a timeline that is accurate to the month and date)

The baptism of Jesus - Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22

The wilderness temptation of Jesus - Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13

Jesus returns to John the Baptist’s camp - John 1:26, 29

What is the evidence that the events in John 1 occurred after the temptation?

    • Mark 1:12 - “Immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness.” (WEB)

    • John 1:32 - “I have seen [past tense] the Spirit descending like a dove out of heaven, and it remained on him.” (WEB)

John introduces two of his disciples to Jesus - John 1:35-39

First Meetings

Lets spend a few days with John the Baptist and Jesus in the wilderness near the Jordan river and the Dead Sea.

A typical first encounter: John 1:19-39

Seven day time line

Day One - verses 19-28

John is questioned by and responds to the representatives sent by the Pharisees.

John suggests that the Messiah is in their presence, but does not identify him. “. . . among you stands one whom you don't know, he who comes after me, whose sandal strap I'm not worthy to untie." (Verses 26-27 WEB)

Day Two - verses 29-34

John sees Jesus and, this time, specifically points him out as the messiah:

“Look, The Lamb of God. . . .” (verse 29)

“I have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God." (verse 34 WEB)

To whom is John speaking here? A small group of disciples? a larger crowd? The Bible does not say.

What evidence does John give as proof that Jesus is the one God has sent?

  • The descending dove - God had told him this would be the sign.


Day Three - verses 35-42

These two men were disciples of John the Baptist.

What does that tell us about their attitudes, beliefs?

They wanted to spend the day with Jesus.

Between john's testimony and the time they spent w Jesus, Andrew must have been impressed.

Verse 39 - About the tenth Hour (4:00 PM) When they went with Jesus? OR When Andrew went to Peter?

Who were these two and what did they do after the first encounter?

John 1:40-42 Andrew went and got his brother Simon (Peter).

What did Andrew say to his brother?

What can we learn from this about what Andrew believed at this point?

About what he was searching for?

Jesus immediate perception about Simon.

John 1:43-51 Was Philip the other disciple from the previous day? He went to get a friend of his to introduce him to Jesus.

What did they say to their brother/friend about Jesus?

What were the responses?

What was Jesus’ response to each of these new acquaintances?

Day Four - verses 43-51

Jesus wanted to leave for Galilee.

V43 Jesus to Phillip "follow me". "be my disciple" " come with me to Galilee" or both?

Why was Nathaniel skeptical of Nazareth?

V48 had Jesus been observing Nathaniel? Considering him as a potential disciple?

Days four through 6

Traveling to Galilee.

Day Seven - The wedding in Cana, Galilee (2:1-11

Full Time Disciples

Timeline: About a year passed from Jesus’ baptism until John’s arrest.

John 1:43-2:12 In Galilee

John 2:13-3:21 In Jerusalem and Judea

John 3:22-4:42 Through Samaria to Galilee

Matt. 4:12 In Galilee

(From Bible study notes by Dr. Thomas L Constable)


Jesus calls the four fishermen

Several months pass.

Read Luke 5:1-11 (Other references - Matt.4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20)

Peter, Andrew, James, John.

All fishermen, two sets of brothers, business partners.

Two significant details: reference to fishermen; the phrase “follow me”.

Old testament references:

Fishermen: Jeremiah16:14-18

God sent "fishermen" to take people of Israel into physical exile.

Now Jesus uses fishermen to announce the end of Israel's spiritual exile.

Follow me: 1 Kings 19:19-21 Elijah calls Elisha to be his assistant.

Jesus calls Matthew

This does not happen immediately after the call of the fishermen; probably at least a couple of months pass.

Read Luke 5:27-35 (Other references - Matt. 9:9-13; Mark 2:14-17)

What was Matthew doing when Jesus came to him?

He would have been sitting in a open air tax booth along the trade road on the edge of the city, most likely Capernaum.

“The tax booth was a booth located on the edge of a city or town to collect taxes for trade. There was a tax booth in Capernaum, which was on the trade route from Damascus to Galilee and the Mediterranean. The “taxes” were collected on produce and goods brought into the area for sale, and were a sort of “sales tax” paid by the seller but obviously passed on to the purchaser in the form of increased prices (L&N 57.183). It was here that Jesus met Levi (also named Matthew [see Matt 9:9]) who was ultimately employed by the Romans, though perhaps more directly responsible to Herod Antipas. It was his job to collect taxes for Rome and he was thus despised by Jews who undoubtedly regarded him as a traitor.”

- From NET Bible notes for Luke 5:27.

What did Matthew do for Jesus?

Because of Matthew, Jesus was able to meet and mingle with many other friends and associates of Matthew. These would be a totally different group of people from those who would be following Jesus around on a daily basis.

We have at least two distinct cultural groups here now:

  • The fishermen and their friends, families, and associates.

  • Matthew and his friends and acquaintances.

These were two distinct groups in the Galilean culture. They probably did not associate much with each other.

The Pharisees would consider themselves to be above and beyond both of these groups.

They criticized Jesus for his association with Matthew’s friends as well as for his life style. It was a two-pronged attack:

  • The type of people he associated with.

  • His failure to follow their religious rules and example in fasting.

Matthew and the fishermen

In both cases, they “left everything and followed them.”

They apparently went from part time to full time discipleship.

Naming the Apostles

Several months to a year or more after the call.

Luke 6:12-16

How did Jesus prepare for this task?

He went to a secluded place and prayed all night. (Compare Exodus 24:12)

What did he pray about?

  • His decision as to whom to select - did he already know which ones?

  • Praying for them to be prepared for their new role?

Follow Jesus movements.

He went up to the secluded place alone overnight.

He came back down to get his larger group of disciples.

They all went back up to the secluded place where Jesus then made the selection from the larger group. “He called his disciples, and from them he chose twelve.”

They went back down to a “level place”, where a larger crowd of disciples and others were waiting.


Disciple: Greek mathetes, one who follows one’s teachings, that is, indicating thought accompanied by endeavor, thought followed by action.

Apostle: Greek apostolos, one sent forth. From apo, from and stello, to send.

  • These men were first Jesus’ disciples, followers of his teachings.

  • Then they were designated apostles, those sent out to proclaim Jesus’ teachings to others.

Why were they appointed? Mark 3:13-15

  • That they might be with him (they absorb his teaching).

  • That he might send them out to preach (they proclaim his teaching).

  • To have authority to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.

The “Sermon on the Mount” - Jesus’ first message to the apostles

Matthew 5 - 8

Luke 6:17-49

This message was actually intended for the disciples, and I believe specifically the twelve, probably to prepare them for what is ahead for them.

Matthew 5:1-2 “Seeing the crowds, he went up onto a mountain. When he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He opened his mouth and taught them, saying. . . .“

Luke 6:20 “Looking at his disciples, he said. . . .”

Secret Disciples among the Pharisees


When did this happen?

First Passover after Jesus’ baptism, first year of his public ministry.

What sparked Nicodemus to seek out Jesus? Perhaps the cleansing of the temple incident? 2:13-20,23

What do we learn about Nicodemus from these scriptures?

John 3:1-15

  • A Pharisee

  • A member of the Sanhedrin, the highest legal, legislative, and judicial body among the Jews at the time.

  • He was afraid of something (coming secretly at night).

  • He believes Jesus must be from God because of the miracles.

  • He was honestly seeking the truth, but was not prepared spiritually to understand the truth fully.

John 3:2 - Nicodemus uses the plural “we”: “. . .we know that you are a teacher who has come from God.”

Who do you think he meant by “We”?

  • Was there more than one Pharisee who was curious about Jesus?

  • Was Nicodemus sent as a representative of a group?

  • Was he a skeptical spy sent to see if he could get some statement out of Jesus that could be used against him?

John 3:3

Born “again” or “from above”? See NET bible note on verse 3.

What are some words with more than one possible meaning?

post in the ground - post the notice

work break - break the glass

rose from sleep - rose flower

Flat tire - kids tire me out

sea cost - coast to a stop

The Greek anwqen has two meanings - “again” or “from above”.

Compare John 3:31 and 19:11. In these two verses the meaning of the word is clear from the context.

But what about 3:3 and 3:7? Which meaning does Jesus intend and which meaning does Nicodemus understand?

Verse 4: Nicodemus clearly takes the meaning to be “again”, because he responds talking about a person being physically born a second time.

Verse 5-8: Jesus emphasis on the Spirit (sent down from God, above), and later in verse 13 where he speaks of himself as “the one who descended from heaven”, would seem to indicate that Jesus intends the meaning to be “from above”.

John 3:11 - In his response, Jesus continues the plural emphasis that Nicodemus began: “. . . we speak about what we know and testify about what we have seen, but you [plural] do not accept our testimony.”

John 3:12-16

Earthly things: spiritual things that happen to people on earth, such as repentance and spiritual renewal.

Heavenly things: Jesus being God in the flash, and being sent (voluntarily) by God as a sacrifice for our sins.

Nicodemus attempts to defend Jesus

When did this happen?

During the last year, feast of tabernacles (October), 6 months before the crucifixion.

John 7:25-32 - When a controversy arises among the people in the Temple area as to whether Jesus is the Messiah or not, the Sanhedrin sends “officers” to “arrest” Jesus. They are “Officers of the Court” or possibly “Temple police”. These were not roman soldiers.

John 7:45-52 - The officers return empty handed, and even impressed and overwhelmed by Jesus’ words. Most of the Pharisees have a nasty, bitter response. Nicodemus, however, tries to defend Jesus among his fellow Pharisees.

Nicodemus was basically saying, "By the law of Moses we cannot condemn someone without a trial - without due process.”

The Pharisees were wrong on two counts:

1. Pharisees did not want to know the proof - if they had investigated a little they would have seen that Jesus was indeed from Bethlehem.

2. Isaiah 9:1-2 and Matt. 4:14-16. The scripture does indicate that the Messiah would appear and begin to preach in Galilee.

Micah 5:2 Jesus from Bethlehem.

What was the difference between Nicodemus and the other Pharisees?

  • Nicodemus was searching for the truth with an open mind.

  • Most of the Pharisees wanted the status quo; they did not want the truth, or they thought they had the truth. Their minds were closed.

Joseph of Arimathea

Arimathea is a town near Jerusalem, in Judea.

What do we learn about Joseph from these scriptures?

Matthew 27:57-60

  • A disciple of Jesus

  • Joseph used his own tomb.

Mark 15:42-46

  • A highly regarded member of the council (Sanhedrin)

  • He was looking forward to the Kingdom of God.

  • Went boldly, apparently directly to Pilate.

Luke 23:50-53

  • A member of the council.

  • A good and righteous man.

  • He had not consented to the plan to arrest and kill Jesus.

John 19:38-42

  • A disciple of Jesus.

  • But secretly because he feared the other Pharisees.

  • Accompanied by Nicodemus.

What do we learn about the Sanhedrin?

About the Pharisees?

How are we like Nicodemus? Good traits? Bad traits?

How are YOU like Nicodemus?