The Thirteen Apostles

The Thirteen Apostles

by J. Ellsworth Kalas

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In this engaging book from popular author J. Ellsworth Kalas, a portrait of each apostle as a servant in ministry, a human being, and individual are drawn from Scripture as well as historical writings and tradition. A chapter is also devoted to Mathias, the successor to Judas Iscariot.

Each chapter features a key passage of Scripture. At the end of the book…  See more details below


In this engaging book from popular author J. Ellsworth Kalas, a portrait of each apostle as a servant in ministry, a human being, and individual are drawn from Scripture as well as historical writings and tradition. A chapter is also devoted to Mathias, the successor to Judas Iscariot.

Each chapter features a key passage of Scripture. At the end of the book is a 16-page study guide.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Kalas, a professor at the Asbury Theological Seminary and an extremely busy writer (30 books and counting), has written just the book one might have anticipated from the author of The Thirteen Apostlesand the "Back Side" series. Kalas's latest celebrates, from a Methodist perspective, 11 women who feature prominently in the New Testament. The author here takes for granted the absolute facticity of the New Testament accounts, so these are little thumbnail biographies of women about whom very little can be known, tailored for the modern nonacademic reader. For most collections.

—Graham Christian

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The Thirteen Apostles

By J. Ellsworth Kalas

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4267-5982-6


Andrew, a Brother

Read John 1:35-42.

I would like to have had Andrew for a brother. If I had known the apostles, I would have chosen John for stimulating conversation, and Matthew for financial counsel. And Peter, of course, for outrageous talk, those remarks that push the boundaries of conversation. But for a friend and brother, I would choose Andrew.

Is that reason enough to use Andrew as the starting point for a book on the apostles? Not just of itself, perhaps, although when I look back on the patterns of my life, people who classify as friends and brothers and sisters rank very high in my catalog of value.

But of course the best reason for starting with Andrew is because Jesus did. According to the New Testament records, Andrew was the first of the Twelve whom Jesus called. Early church writings frequently refer to Andrew by the Greek title Protokletos, which means "first-called."

You and I might want to argue that Andrew was the first called. As far as I can see, he had little obvious claim to greatness. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke mention him only to list his name among the Twelve. This is also the way he is mentioned in the book of Acts, and there just once. It is only John's Gospel that brings Andrew out of the background, even momentarily.

In the language of a dramatist, Andrew appears in the first three Gospels and in Acts as someone listed in the crowd scenes. In the Gospel of John, he emerges three times as a supporting actor. But never, never does Andrew play a leading role. He is part of a larger group, or he is a supporting player, and that's it.

But a significant, beautiful word is almost always connected with the name of Andrew, and that word shows how great a soul he was: Brother. Andrew, a brother. As I've already said, Andrew is mentioned only a few times in the New Testament, and in a good share of these citings he is designated in this fashion: "Andrew, Simon Peter's brother." It's as if the writers were saying, "If you want to identify Andrew, here's the point of reference: He's a brother of the great Simon Peter."

With that statement I have probably demonstrated more clearly than ever that Andrew isn't the proper starting point for an apostolic study. If his only achievement is that he was a brother to a great man—well, unless you are a student of sibling rivalries you will figure that history is full of its Andrews. And most of them, of course, are unknown to us.

As you know, we use the word brother primarily in two ways. Sometimes it indicates a family relationship, to describe two persons who have the same parents or who are joined by adoption. If Andrew's only claim to the "brother" title were his blood tie with Simon Peter, the whole thing would be worth no more than a passing reference. But we also use the term in an emotional or a poetic sense, to describe someone with certain qualities of loyalty, compassion, and concern. Thus we say of some persons, "I tell you, when I was in trouble he was a real brother to me." Or we make an adjective of the quality and praise someone by saying, "He's a very brotherly sort."

I say all of this cautiously, since I'm a man, and these remarks may be seen as sexist prejudice. I'm not sure why "sisterly" has never gotten the same standing as "brotherly"; in truth, it may be because of a male-dominated culture. Or perhaps it's because we men (at least we're told) don't form intimate bonds as easily as women, so "brotherly" is a stronger term because it is a more unlikely one. Yet I think of a woman who said of a faithful friend, "I suppose it's an oxymoron, but the only way I can rightly describe her is to say that she's been brotherly when I've needed her."

In any event, this is what I'd like to say of Andrew. He was, of course, Simon Peter's brother. But far more important, he possessed the spirit of a brother. His spiritual bloodline was exceedingly large.

Let me give you something of Andrew's background. He was a native of Bethsaida, a village on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. He was a son of Jonas and the brother of Simon, who came to be called Peter. Since Andrew lived in a fishing town on the shore of his country's main body of water, it was natural for him to take up the life of a fisherman. Apparently he was in partnership with his father and brother. Perhaps the sign read "Jonas and Sons, fishermen." Or perhaps the three had been associated long enough that the sign read: "Jonas and Simon and Andrew, sons of Jonas, fishermen."

Theirs was a rugged life, but rewarding in its own way. They would fish all night, struggling with a boat that was often playfully tossed about by wind and waves, and wrestling with great nets that had to repeatedly be thrown down into the water. After a night of fishing, the men would take their fish to the marketplace; perhaps more often than not they would return to the seaside to repair their nets. Andrew probably knew little of the outside world. It's likely that he had never traveled a dozen milesfrom Bethsaida and the Sea of Galilee, except for feast day trips to Jerusalem.

But Andrew was a person of spiritual hunger. His soul was on the search. When he heard about a peculiar preacher out in the wilderness, John the Baptist, Andrew went to hear his message of repentance and to see him baptize converts. He became something of a disciple of the wilderness prophet. It's likely that he saw John as God's key person, but the Baptist himself continually advised the crowds that a greater one was coming, one who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

And one day Jesus of Nazareth came. John the Baptist pointed him out, calling him the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. Immediately Andrew and another fisherman, John, followed Jesus. When Jesus sensed that they were trailing him, he turned and asked, "What do you seek?" Andrew and John—perhaps feeling a little like small boys who have been caught off-bounds—replied, "Rabbi, where are you staying?" "Come and see," Jesus said. And they did; they followed Jesus to his lodging place and stayed with him all through that day, questioning, listening, drawing upon the ceaseless depths that were in the Christ (John 1:35-42).

Then Andrew did something wonderfully characteristic of him: "He first found his brother Simon and said to him, 'We have found the Messiah'" (John 1:41). This is the Andrew who was a brother not simply in blood, but in spirit. Having found the Eternal Answer, the One for whom he had himself been seeking, Andrew first—first!—found his brother Simon to tell him the news.

Why do I think that's so significant and, as a matter of fact, wonderful? Because when we find a great thing our natural inclination is to sit and savor the excellence of it for a time, while we think of ways we can make more of what we have found. I'll concede that it ought really to be most natural of us to share our good fortune with those closest to us, but it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes, in fact, it's more difficult to be brotherly or sisterly with our relatives than with anyone else. Perhaps that would be especially true if your brother were a Simon Peter—a dynamic, vigorous person who so easily put you in the shade. I doubt that Andrew could remember many occasions in his life when the spotlight focused on him—and when it did, Simon probably adjusted the lens as quickly as possible. Not that Simon was a bad person; as a matter of fact, one could hardly keep from liking him. But he must sometimes have become a little tiresome as a day-in, day-out brother. When people said to Andrew, "It must be fun to live around Simon," Andrew must sometimes have answered with mock excitement, "Yeah, a real ball. Just a load of laughs."

But Andrew was better than that. He first found his brother Simon, because he was a brother, a great-hearted soul who wanted, as soon as he had a good thing, to share it with someone else. Especially with Simon!

And you know what happened next? Very shortly Simon Peter, the vociferous one, was part of the inner circle of three who were closest to Jesus. Then, with still more time, Simon was the foremost of the Twelve, always the first to speak, usually the loudest, sometimes the erratic one, but nevertheless, the acknowledged leader of the group. As for Andrew, who had brought Simon Peter to Jesus, he was back in the crowd, taking his place as a supporting player.

I can't help wondering if Andrew ever got bitter over this development. I wonder if he said, "If it weren't for me, Simon would never have had a chance. Now look at him! He's the whole show, always having something to say." Andrew might have said that, and if he had, I, for one, would understand. But if I'm reading Andrew rightly, he would have answered my speculation with bewilderment. "Resent him? He's my brother."

John's Gospel tells a second story about Andrew, the brother (John 6:1-14). Five thousand people and more had followed Jesus into the wilderness, and now it was time to eat. Past time, in fact. Jesus asked Philip what should be done for the crowd, and Philip gave a sensible answer. It would take six months' wages, he said, to buy bread for a crowd like this. Then Andrew made his contribution. "There's a boy here who has a lunch of five loaves and two fish." That was a stupid thing to say, wasn't it? Five loaves and two fish— enough to feed a boy, but an absurdity where an army of five thousand is waiting. So on further thought, Andrew added, apologetically, "But what are they among so many?"

It was like Andrew, of course, to notice the small boy. Your grandparents or great-grandparents had a phrase: "Children should be seen, and not heard." They talked that way in the first century, too. But Andrew was the kind of person a little boy could approach. While the other disciples were busy with bigger things, Andrew was chatting with a boy, patting him on the head, asking him where he had caught the fish—or did his mother buy them at market? A scruffy lad of no special promise, but Andrew—the brotherly type—visits with him and somewhat ridiculously thinks that his lunchbox will interest the Master.

Murillo, the seventeenth-century Spanish artist, painted a picture of Andrew suffering martyrdom on a cross. In his picture, Murillo has a little boy in the foreground, head turned away weeping, an arm across his eyes. I don't want to make too much of the matter, because Murillo liked to include children in his paintings; some critics have accused him of sentimentalism. But this is not a group of children, it's a boy, and I can't help thinking that Murillo is portraying the boy with the lunchbox, even if it is something of an anachronism to show him still as a boy years later.

The New Testament gives us just one more story about Andrew, and again it seems to me to be typical (John 12:20-22). Some Gentiles had come to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover, and they had heard about Jesus. They were curious, perhaps even hopeful. So they approached Philip, probably because he had a Gentile name, and they reasoned he might be their most likely point of entrance. So what did Philip do? He went to Andrew. Why? I think it's because Andrew was a brother, a helpful human being, the kind of person you go to when there's an errand to be run, an appeal to be made, a cause to be furthered. So Andrew joined Philip in bringing the Gentiles to Jesus.

There you have the three New Testament stories about Andrew, the only stories the Bible tells of him with any specificity, and all from the Gospel of John. And in each one, he is being a brother to someone, because this is who he was: Andrew, a brother. And see how broad are his sympathies. In the first story he is brother to a relative, Simon. Sometimes, as I said, it's hard to be attentive to those close to us. Next, he's a brother to a little boy. Often it is easier to ignore those who are judged by our culture to be inconsequential. Finally, he is brother to the Gentiles. A person's sympathies must be very large to stretch arms around other nations, other races, and other social groups. Andrew was that kind of person.

Someone has said that Andrew was both the first home missionary and the first foreign missionary. He was a home missionary in the winning of his brother Simon, and a foreign missionary when he brought the Greeks to Jesus. We don't often use these designations in our day, but the point remains a valid one, and Andrew demonstrates it.

The New Testament tells us nothing more about Andrew, but tradition picks up the story just as it does for all of the disciples. This mass of tradition and legend should be viewed with a skeptical, and yet an appreciative, eye. According to fairly reliable tradition, Andrew preached in many lands, especially Scythia. In Andrew's time, "Scythian" was a synonym for any rough, uncouth, or savage person. Josephus said that the Scythians were "little different from wild beasts." It's appropriate, isn't it, that Andrew would be the missionary to the Scythians. He, the brotherly one, would reach out to this despised, apparently unattractive people.

And Scythia, as perhaps you know, is the country north of the Black Sea, between the River Danube and the River Tanais. That is, it is part of modern Russia. As a result, Andrew became known as the patron saint of Russia.

But because Andrew also preached in Greece, he became known as the patron saint of Greece. Furthermore, as golfers know, Andrew eventually became the patron saint of Scotland, and Scotland's greatest university is named for him. The Scots are proud of their Order of Saint Andrew, observing November 30, the traditional anniversary of Andrew's martyrdom, as their day of celebration.

Several years ago I looked up "Saint Andrew" in an urban telephone directory, that of Greater Cleveland, Ohio. I found in that area there were eight churches, an abbey, a church-related apartment building, and a neighborhood ministry that bore his name. The institutions ranged from Roman Catholic and a variety of Orthodox bodies to Baptist and Presbyterian. And as I've already indicated, Andrew has the rare distinction of being the patron saint for three countries. Not bad for a member of the crowd, a supporting actor!

It is said that Aegeas, governor of Patras in Greece, hated Andrew because Andrew had converted his wife and his brother to Christ, so he condemned Andrew to death. According to tradition, seven soldiers scourged Andrew with rods, then fastened him to a cross. It was an "X" type of cross, and is still known as a Saint Andrew's Cross. They did not nail him there, but sought to prolong his agony by binding him so that he would die slowly of hunger, thirst, and exposure.

Tradition further reports that Andrew suffered thus for several days, preaching to all who passed by, and praying. Legend says that his last words were, "Would, Father, that I had time to teach truth to my murderers...."

So he died as he had lived, a brother. That's who he was: Andrew, a brother.


Peter, Man of Action

Read Matthew 26:30-35, 69-75.

Simon Peter was a man of action. There was no predicting where the action might lead, but the action was guaranteed.

As a result, it's easy to find stories about Simon Peter. His was the kind of life that produced anecdotes. Let any four persons be involved in a given situation, with one of the four being Peter, and the stories that come out will center on Peter. If Peter had been a twenty-first-century athlete, it's at his locker that reporters would gather for a quote or a story. He was, as they say, "good press." Look at the passages in the four Gospels and the first twelve chapters of the book of Acts that tell of the apostles, and you'll find that some 60 percent focus in some measure on Simon Peter.

That's because Peter was always doing something. He was always in action. The action might be ridiculous or sublime, but there'd be action. While the others in the group were still pondering, Peter was usually speaking or doing.

Like several others of the apostles, Simon Peter was a fisherman. He made his home in Capernaum. Capernaum is a place you will almost surely visit if you make a trip to the Holy Land. The archaeological ruins in this area are among the most well documented. Jesus seems to have been especially well received in Capernaum; so much so, that when he returned to his hometown of Nazareth, the people said, "Do here also in your hometown the things that we have heard you did at Capernaum" (Luke 4:23). So this city became the headquarters of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, and it is quite possible that Jesus worked out of Peter's house while he was in that region.


Excerpted from The Thirteen Apostles by J. Ellsworth Kalas. Copyright © 2012 Abingdon Press. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

J. Ellsworth Kalas (1923-2015) was the author of over 35 books, including the popular Back Side series, A Faith of Her Own: Women of the Old Testament, Strong Was Her Faith: Women of the New Testament, I Bought a House on Gratitude Street, and the Christian Believer study, and was a presenter on DISCIPLE videos. He was part of the faculty of Asbury Theological Seminary since 1993, formerly serving as president and then as senior professor of homiletics. He was a United Methodist pastor for 38 years and also served five years in evangelism with the World Methodist Council. 

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