TEEN TREE      OF LIFE

THE TWELVE APOSTLES

Part 8

November 12, 2017

 

BEFORE we begin, if you are a believer in Jesus Christ, take a moment to name your sins to God the Father. This will allow you to be filled with the power of The Holy Spirit as you read this booklet (EPH 5:18 & 1JO 1:9). IF YOU HAVE never believed in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you have that opportunity right now. Simply tell God the Father that you are believing on His Son Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. If you make that decision, you are now a believer and will always be a child of God! When you die, you will spend eternity with Him forever in heaven! (JOH 3:16 & ACT 16:31).

 

As we continue learning about the apostle Thomas, we’ll point out that unfortunately, he is infamously known for his act of doubt in JOH 20:24-25, rather than for his courage as seen in JOH 11:16.

 

Here is JOH 20:24-25: But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus [Thomas], was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” And here is JOH 11:16: Therefore Thomas, who is called Didymus, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” These two verses show two very strong emotions and reflect a huge contradiction in Thomas’ character. In one verse, he is doubtful and distrustful; in the other, he is fervent and faithful! This happens in life and no one is immune from doubting. It’s very interesting to see that even an apostle can have his faith shaken.

 

When Jesus appeared to the first group, after His Resurrection, Thomas, for some reason, was absent. The others told him: “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas broke forth into an exclamation that conveys to us at once the vehemence of his doubt. But before you judge him, imagine what he saw: the vivid picture of Our Lord’s body, lifeless on The Cross. Thomas’ doubt (or rather his need for further proof) was not unlike that of the other disciples who also were invited to touch Our Lord and did not believe until our Lord ate something: See My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself; touch Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. While they still could not believe it because of their joy and amazement, He said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?” They gave Him a piece of a broiled fish; and He took it and ate it before them. (LUK 24:39-43) Because of Thomas’ absence at the first appearance, he was singled out, which has given him an unfortunate legacy.

 

Reading further, we see that unlike the others, Thomas, once given proof, immediately praises The Lord in JOH 20:28, “My Lord and my God!” The Words of Our Lord with regard to his initial disbelief were: Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” (JOH 20:29) These words were really directed at all of the disciples. The lesson was to demonstrate the difference between empiricism and faith. Empiricism is simply the philosophy, doctrine, or belief that all knowledge is based on experience, especially of the senses. Faith is not based on experience or the senses.

 

Peter and Paul are said to have brought the fledgling Christianity to Greece and Rome; Mark brought it to Egypt; and John to Syria and Asia Minor. Thomas is often said to have taken it eastwards as far as India.

 

“Foxes Book of Martyrs” tells us that Thomas’ martyrdom is said to have come from a lance (a spear-like weapon with a long shaft and pointed metal head, used by mounted troops). Thomas preached the Gospel in Parthia and India, where he enraged the pagan priests; this led to his being martyred by a group of wise men in Chennai (formerly Madras) India where there is a Palace called Saint Thomas Mount. According to the Roman Martyrology, his remains were brought from India and buried in Edessa, then moved to Ortona in Italy during the Crusades; however, in Clement of Alexandria’s “Stromateis,” it is written that he died of natural causes.

 

 

Our next apostle is Matthew whose name means, “the gift of Yahweh or Jehovah” or “Gift of God.” It was a common Jewish name after the Exile. Before his apostolic call, the Gospels refer to Matthew by his Hebrew surname Levi: As He passed by, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting in the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” And he got up and followed Him. (MAR 2:14) Whether Jesus gave him the additional name of Matthew as He did in the case of several other disciples, we do not know. But some speculate that The Lord changed his name in recognition to the gift he was to Our Lord and His ministry, and to the Church as the writer of the Gospel.

 

Mark calls him “the son of Alphaeus” in MAR 2:14.  It is not known whether his father was the same as the Alphaeus named as the father of James the Less but it is improbable that Matthew was the brother of James the Less since this fact would have been mentioned in Scripture, as it is in the cases of Peter and Andrew and the sons of Zebedee. So, it is unlikely that they were brothers and more likely that their fathers had the same name.

 

Matthew’s lived in Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee and he was a tax collector in the territory of Herod Antipas. There was, at that time, a large population surrounding the Sea of Galilee. The Romans established what we could call today a local IRS office at Capernaum and this is where Matthew was a tax collector.

 

The tax officials were usually Romans of rank and wealth who collected the land and poll taxes and farmed out the business of collecting taxes on transported goods to local resident deputies called portitors. Matthew was one of these. His office was located on the main highway, the Great West road that ran from Damascus, down the Jordan Valley to Capernaum, then westward to Acco to join the coastal road to Egypt or southward to Jerusalem. He was situated well to collect taxes from local merchants, fisheries, and farmers carrying their goods to market, as well as distant caravans passing through Galilee.

 

The tax officials were the middlemen in collecting Roman taxes. They paid an agreed sum in advance to the Roman officials for the right to collect taxes in an area. Their profit came from the excess they could squeeze from the people. As such, Matthew knew the value of goods of all description: wool, flax, linen, pottery, brass, silver, gold, barley, wheat, olives, figs, wheat. He knew the value of local and foreign monetary systems. He spoke the local Aramaic language, as well as Greek, so he was well-equipped to run a profitable collection. As a tax collector, Matthew may have been a man of wealth, but this occupation also made him to be despised by the Jews and considered among the lowest of people. The Pharisees consistently spoke of tax collectors in the same breath with sinners: The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Behold, a gluttonous man and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.” (MAT 11:19)

 

Because of his profession, his fellow Jews most likely hated him. Not only for his profession, but also because he worked for and with the despised Romans. Tax collectors were ranked with murderers and robbers and a Jew was permitted to lie to them if necessary. They were as offensive to the Jews as lepers were for their uncleanness. The Gospels show a similar attitude towards them, lumping them with sinners, Gentiles and harlots: If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as [a]a Gentile and [b]a tax collector. (MAT 18:17) This shows us another ironic choice of an apostle by our Lord.

 

{to be continued}

 

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