Posted by: mikenicholsblog | September 13, 2015

will we?

Across time and history, quiet heroes have helped shape the world in meaningful ways.  We all like to unearth the stories of those “less than known” men and women who never made big headlines but were amazingly distinctive.  It’s interesting that most of us refuse to admit that we, too, can make contributions to our families, churches, communities and world that are amazingly distinctive. We may never make headlines (and that is not the point), but we can make a difference.

Last week, I had the privilege of reading about the three least known of the twelve apostles who walked with and learned from Jesus. On each occurrence of the list of apostles, they appear in the third group of four. If you were asked to name them, it may be a stretch for you to recite the three “lessor known” of the twelve. When we think of the apostles, Peter, Andrew, James and John quickly come to mind, and there are others we could readily recall. What then do we know about these “lessor known” of the twelve? I submit that what they accomplished was used to change the world, and in my mind they were amazingly distinctive.

James, Son of Alphaeus: Obscure would be a nice way to describe this apostle. We do know from Scripture that his mother was named Mary. In the same verse that relates to his mother, some versions call him “James the Less.” I could spend time looking at opinions of the name, but let’s just focus on what he did. In Twelve Ordinary Men (John MacArthur), we find these words about James: “There is some evidence that James the Less took the gospel to Syria and Persia. Accounts of his death differ. Some say he was stoned; others say he was beaten to death; still others say he was crucified like his Lord.” We know little, but we do know he was chosen by the Lord and helped carry the gospel to the world.

Simon, called the Zealot:  He is the second Simon of the apostles and at one time must have been a member of the sect some called Zealots. Again from Twelve Ordinary Men we read these words: “But he was a man of fierce loyalties, amazing passion, courage, and zeal. Simon had believed the truth and embraced Christ as his Lord. The fiery enthusiasm he once had for Israel was now expressed in his devotion to Christ. Several early sources say that after the destruction of Jerusalem, Simon took the gospel north and preached in the British Isles.” It is believed he was killed for preaching the gospel.

Judas, Son of James: He is known from John 14:22, as Judas (not Iscariot). In Matthew 10:3, he is called Thaddaeus. The New King James version uses the wording for this verse as Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.  In John 14:22, we see a tender-hearted servant when he says to Jesus: Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?  Why would Jesus manifest himself to a group of eleven, and not the world? That shows me a caring apostle. Jesus answered him perfectly in the next verse, but I am struck by this man Judas Lebbaeus Thaddaeus’ words to the Savior. Again, in my study, the words of Twelve Ordinary Men suggest he took the gospel north in the region of Turkey, and that tradition says he may have been clubbed to death.

I wanted to give some facts about these “lessor known” apostles, and I am thankful for books like the one by John MacArthur which provides such information. I am fairly certain a week from now most reading this won’t be able to recite much from our article, but never forget these men were mightily used of God, and for that I call them amazingly distinctive.  Most Christ-followers are in the larger family of “lessor knowns,” and I trust that our legacy will be one of intentionally carrying the gospel to our world. You and I can also leave a testimony that is amazingly distinctive. The question is, will we?


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