“The Last Supper” is one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s most iconic paintings. It depicts Jesus sitting at the center of a table surrounded by twelve other men. In the Bible, these men are referred to as Jesus’ disciples, or followers. There’s a lot of information in the Bible about Jesus, but details about his disciples can be harder to find.
Here are some interesting facts about the twelve men who were among the last to see Jesus before he was crucified:
- Peter was one of the first people to become a disciple of Jesus. He and his brother Andrew were discovered by Jesus while they were fishing, and Jesus invited them to come follow him and become “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:18-22).
- Peter’s given name was Simon. Jesus gave him the nickname Peter, after the Greek word petros, which means “rock” (Matthew 16:16-18). We often see him referred to in the Bible as Simon, Peter, and Simon Peter.
- Peter was married, and one of the first of Jesus’ miracles he witnessed was the healing of his mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31)
- Peter was the first of the disciples to call Jesus the Messiah (Matthew 16:16).
- Andrew was Peter’s brother, and the two were found by Jesus together (Matthew 4:18-22). He is often mentioned after Peter, which likely means he was his younger brother.
- Like Peter, Andrew was also a fisherman by trade.
- While Peter was the first to tell Jesus he believed he was the Messiah, Andrew may have been the first person ever to call Jesus the Messiah, period (John 1:41).
- In the account of Jesus feeding thousands of people with five loaves of bread and two fish, Andrew is the one who found the boy with the loaves and fishes (John 6:8-9).
- Like Peter and Andrew, James was a fisherman along with his brother, John. The two of them actually worked with Peter! (Luke 5:9-10)
- Jesus gave James and his brother John the nickname “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17).
- James was the first disciple to die for being a follower of Jesus (Acts 12:1-2).
- Of the twelve disciples, James was among a select few who were very close to Jesus. When Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray the night before he was crucified, only James, Peter, and John were brought with him (Matthew 26:36-46).
- John was James’s brother (Matthew 10:2-4), and the two were fishermen together (Luke 5:9-10).
- John wrote five books in the Bible: John, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation.
- Jesus asked John to take care of his mother, Mary, right before he died on the cross (John 19:26-27).
- John is believed to be the only disciple who died of natural causes – the rest were killed because of their faith in Jesus.
- Like Peter and Andrew, Philip was born in Bethsaida (John 1:44). However, Philip is a Greek name – so it’s possible Philip had Greek heritage and could likely speak Greek.
- The disciple Philip has often been mixed up with another Philip mentioned in Acts 6 known as Philip the Apostle.
- If you thought Peter’s names were a lot to keep up with, buckle up! Many believe that Bartholomew may have also been referred to as Nathanael. That’s because the Gospel of John is the only one to mention a man named Nathanael (John 1:43-51).
- We don’t know for sure how Bartholomew died, but based on paintings of him, many believe he was skinned alive.
- Thomas may have been a twin! He is often referred to as “Didymus,” which comes from the Greek word for twin (John 11:16).
- It’s Thomas who asks the question (John 14:5) that prompts Jesus to make a well-known declaration in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
- Thomas famously doubted Jesus’ resurrection in John 20:25, earning him the nickname “Doubting Thomas.”
- Matthew was a tax collector (Matthew 9:9). Tax collectors had a bad reputation because many were known for lying about how much people owed and keeping the difference for themselves.
- Jesus lumped Matthew and other tax collectors in with other sinners, making a powerful point that no one is too far gone for him to redeem (Matthew 9:12).
- Matthew was referred to as Levi in Mark 2:14 and Luke 2:5-27. This may have been because he was from the tribe of Levi, or it may have been the Greek name he went by. (It wasn’t uncommon for people to go by a Hebrew name and a Greek name in that time!)
- That's right, John’s brother James wasn’t the only James to follow Jesus! He is referred to inMark 15:40 as “James the less,” which likely means he was younger or shorter than the other James.
- James and Matthew may have been brothers. In Mark 2:14, Matthew (referred to as Levi) is called “son of Alphaeus.” The only other person we see called the son of Alphaeus is James (Matthew 10:3)!
- Jude, also called Judas, was occasionally referred to as Thaddeus (Mark 3:16-19, Matthew 10:2-4) – probably so he didn’t get confused with the other Judas in the bunch: Judas Iscariot.
- Simon is called “Simon the Zealot” when he is mentioned in the Bible.
- The Zealots were a violent group, and it’s possible Simon may have been associated with them before becoming a follower of Jesus.
- Simon was an extremely common name in the Bible – there are nine people named Simon in the New Testament! (John 6:71, Mark 6:3, Luke 7:40, Mark 14:3, Mark 15:21, Acts 8:9-24, Acts 9:43)
- Judas Iscariot is believed to be the only disciple from Judea.
- He was the designated treasurer of the disciples (John 13:29). Though Matthew, the tax collector, probably had more experience with money, tax collectors weren’t often trusted to handle money in an honest way. (Ironically, Judas was accused of stealing money from the group and keeping it for himself, as seen in John 12:4-6.)
- Judas is most well-known for betraying Jesus for thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14-16). He ultimately regretted it, throwing the money away and hanging himself after finding out that Jesus was sentenced to death (Matthew 27:3-5).
While we know more about some of Jesus’ disciples than we do about others, one thing is for certain: Jesus makes a challenging point just by the group he brings around him, as if he’s saying “You may have your pre-conditions for what makes someone worthy of taking a seat at the table – but not me.” Only Jesus could have brought together people with such diverse ideologies and backgrounds and equipped them all to share his story and message with others.
Interested in learning more about the events and people leading up to Jesus’ death on the cross? Here are some additional resources you may find helpful:
Was Jesus Done After Easter? How Am I Affected?
Step by Step: a Holy Week Bible Reading Plan
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