It has been about a year and a half since John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God. As Jesus began his public ministry, a number of sincere men became his disciples, such as Andrew, Simon Peter, John, perhaps James (John’s brother), Philip, and Bartholomew (also called Nathanael). In time, many others joined in following Christ.
Now Jesus is ready to select his apostles. These will be his close associates and will receive special training. But before selecting them, Jesus goes out to a mountain, perhaps one near the Sea of Galilee not far from Capernaum. He spends a whole night in prayer, likely asking for wisdom and God’s blessing. The next day he calls his disciples to him and chooses 12 of his disciples as apostles.
Jesus selects the six named at the outset, as well as Matthew, whom Jesus called from the tax office. The other five chosen are Judas (also called Thaddaeus and “the son of James”), Simon the Cananaean, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Judas Iscariot.
By now these 12 have traveled with Jesus, and he knows them well. A number of them are his relatives. The brothers James and John are evidently Jesus’ first cousins. And if, as some think, Alphaeus was the brother of Joseph, Jesus’ adoptive father, then Alphaeus’ son, the apostle James, would be a cousin of Jesus.
Jesus, of course, has no problem remembering his apostles’ names. But can you remember them? One help is to remember that there are two named Simon, two named James, and two named Judas. Simon (Peter) has a brother Andrew, and James (son of Zebedee) has a brother John. That is a key to remembering the names of eight apostles. The other four include a tax collector (Matthew), one who later doubts (Thomas), one called from under a tree (Nathanael), and Nathanael’s friend (Philip).
Eleven of the apostles are from Galilee, Jesus’ home territory. Nathanael is from Cana. Philip, Peter, and Andrew are originally from Bethsaida. Peter and Andrew in time move to Capernaum, where Matthew apparently lived. James and John also live in or close to Capernaum, and they had a fishing business nearby. Judas Iscariot, who later betrays Jesus, seems to be the only apostle from Judea.