This is almost a trick question, as most think of the disciples in terms of a dozen. But when Judas betrayed Jesus and committed suicide, there were only 11 men who faithfully carried out the gospel message after the Savior died and rose again. Like a piper sharing his song, these 11 men faithfully and boldly shared the message of Jesus as he instructed them to do after he ascended back into heaven.
Here is a listing of those 11 men who carried out the Gospel message as listed in Luke 6:14-16: 1) Simon Peter, 2) Andrew, 3) James, 4) John, 5) Philip, 6) Bartholomew, 7) Matthew, 8) Thomas, 9) James bar Alphaeus, 10) Simon the Zealot, 11) Judas son of James.
While the Bible doesn’t tell us how all 11of these men died (only James the son of Zebedee, who was executed by Herod about 44 AD [Acts 12:]), ancient history tells us that all of them except for John died a martyr’s death for their faithful sharing of the Gospel. John died in exile on the island of Patmos (Revelation 1:9).
It is interesting to note that right after Luke records the listing of the Apostles, he records words similar to the Beatitudes which we looked at on day 8. Those words were part of Jesus’ training the disciples to carry out the Gospel after he was gone. Little did they realize what they would be asked to endure for the sake of the Gospel.
It is especially interesting to note what Jesus shares with these men in Luke 6:22: “Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.”
So how have those words played out in your life? Have you been treated hatefully because of your faith? Were you ever excluded or insulted because people knew you were a Christian and you had to suffer “because of the Son of Man”? A more painful question – have there been times when instead of standing up and perhaps suffering for the name of Christ, you’ve been like the 12th disciple, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Jesus?
While the 11 disciples are the ones alluded to on this 11th day of Christmas, it is a reminder of the many faithful Christians who have gone before us and faithfully and boldly shared the good news of Jesus even in the face of persecution or opposition. One that might quickly come to mind is Stephen (Acts 7:54-60), who was stoned to death for his faith. Maybe there was someone in your life whom you can think of who either shared Jesus with you or inspired you to boldly and faithfully live and share your faith.
Prayer: Gracious God, I thank you for those who have faithfully gone before me and shared the Gospel so that I could hear it and come to faith in Jesus as my Savior! Make me a faithful witness of your Gospel all my life so that many others may come to know and believe in you, the only Savior. Amen.