The 12 Apostles – Thugs, Punks, and Outcasts


I love that whenever anyone conjures up the 12 Apostles of Christ, that we get this image of these great godly men that floated around and never did anything wrong.  Like they were some kind of super-humans that were perfect.  I remember growing up thinking I could never be perfect like these guys and follow Jesus.  As I got older I realized that my perception is far from the truth, as is the perception of most people I believe.  What really makes me laugh is that some “religious orders” put these guys on such a high pedestal that no one can touch them.  This could not be further than the truth.

Here is a riddle, what do a murderous zealot, a money embezzler, a traitor, a second guesser, and a bunch of fisherman have in common?  If you can’t guess, these are the backgrounds of the 12 Apostles.  Not glamorous or lofty by any means.  But that is how God works, calling the sinners from among us to be his greatest followers.  Let’s take a look at and dissect Matthew 6:12-16

“Now it came to pass in those days that He (Jesus) went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.  And when it was day, He called the disciples to Himself; and from them He Chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, who He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Phillip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.”

In this scripture we find that Jesus has recently been tempted by Satan, and that he is now beginning his ministry.  He is calling the Apostles to himself, and instead of Jesus choosing the Apostles, he prays to the Father in Heaven.   Even Jesus – God Himself – prays, spending time with God and asking what to do and to show guidance on this important decision that would help set the course of His message throughout time.  When Jesus got done praying and the father helped to reveal the Apostles to Him, do you think he looked at the bunch of ragtag men and asked God if he was joking?  Seriously, if we take a closer look at the some of the Apostles, we see there is hope for us to be great teachers of Christ’s word.

Thomas – aka “The Doubter”

This was the guy that when Christ had risen and presented himself to the Apostles after his resurrection, he still was not sure it was him.  Here is Jesus, walking through walls in rooms then being whole in the flesh, and this guy says, “I’m not sure it is really you.”  and Christ has to present the nail holes in his hands and the cut in his side to show Thomas that he is in fact Jesus.  Oops.

Simon – aka “The Zealot”

Simon is probably one of my favorite Apostles because this guys was hardcore.  We need to look at what a zealot is to really get a feel for this guy. Zealots (or Zelotes) were Jewish nationalists that hated the Roman occupation of Israel.  They were known to start riots and revolts against the Romans, resulting in many deaths and damage to the city.  They were known to carry daggers and stab Roman citizens and soldiers stealthily and slip away.  These guys loved the Jews and hated the Romans, plain and simple, they were hardcore Jewish.

The Fishermen – Andrew, Peter, James (The Elder), Johnapostles-fishing

Fishing in ancient Israel was not an easy occupation.  Fishermen used nets to catch fish in the Sea of Galilee, they would cast their nets and haul them from their wooded row boats.  It was hard and dangerous work, you have to understand that fishermen both loved and feared the sea at the same time (I don’t think they were good swimmers).  Fishermen were probably not very educated either.  Why would Jesus select fishermen as Apostles?  Simple, He wanted to show that He (God) could take the least from us and make them a teacher of God.  Jesus took these four men and made them “fishers of men.”

Bartholomew (aka Nathaniel)  and Phillip, James “the Son of Alphaeus” (aka James the Lesser) – The Unknown Apostles

Bartholomew who was also known as Nathaniel is really only mentioned once in the New Testament.  Bartholomew was the Apostle that said of Jesus “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.”   Jesus was from Nazareth, and from what I know about ancient Nazareth, it as a horrible place, or perhaps a small unimportant place.  Either way, Bartholomew was questioning the Messianic claims of Jesus, how could someone so important come from somewhere like Nazareth?  But that is what is cool about God, using the least of us to make the most impact.  Bart (as I like to call him) is also mentioned with Phillip quite a bit.  Phillip in fact introduced Bart to Jesus the Christ.

Not much is known about James the Lesser.  He is only mentioned a few times in the New Testament.  It has been speculated that James the Less may have actually been the brother of Jesus, but has never actually been clarified.

Matthew – The Tax Collector

Much is to be said about tax  collectors in ancient Israel. Nobody likes tax collectors, not even today (although the bible commands we pay our taxes to our governments).  But in ancient Israel, tax collectors were despised.  In short, they were Jews who where collecting taxes for the Romans.  They were crooked, they collected more than the Roman government required and kept the rest.  They were hated, because the Israel people felt they had sold out to the Romans and were not true to their Jewish heritage.  Matthew was a tax collector, perfect for Jesus to use as an Apostle.  He would illustrate that anyone can become a follower of Jesus the Christ.

Judas the son of James (aka Thaddaeus)

Not to be confused with the other Judas.  Another Apostle that we do not know much about.  It is thought that Judas the Son of James may be from Caesarea Philippi and may have been a farmer, or grown up in a family of farmers

Judas Iscariot – “The Traitor”judas-betrays-jesus

Maybe the most well known of the Apostles.  I find it kind of ironic that the guy who betrayed Jesus is probably the most recognizable of the Apostles.  Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus and gave him to the Jewish religious leaders for 30 pieces of silver.  Amazing that Jesus knew of the betrayal, He broke bread with Judas, He even fingered Judas Iscariot as His betrayer at the last supper.  Judas Iscariot ridden with guilt hung himself outside of  the city after he betrayed Jesus.


We know that the real focus of the New Testament is Jesus, not the Apostles.  He (God/Jesus) chose the Apostles not based on their stature or accomplishments.  He chose them to teach them to glorify Himself.  To use them as instruments to teach the world.  First Corinthians 1:27 says “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.”  Christ demonstrates this with His Apostles.  Christ also said “Follow Me” in the New Testament (he is quoted 19 times).  My challenge to you is are you willing to follow Christ?  To put yourself aside and be an apostle of Christ?  If God can use the 12 apostles, then he can use any among us to accomplish great things here on Earth for the Kingdom of God.

Please understand that I am not formally trained in the bible.  If I got something wrong here, my apologies.  If you have information to add, please leave a comment.

10 comments to The 12 Apostles – Thugs, Punks, and Outcasts

  • Alan

    Right on, man. Check this out

    36.5 of the 66 books of the Bible are authored anonymously or by people for whom we have little to no biographical information. For those authors whose lives we do know a bit about, who wrote 29.5 books between them, it doesn’t look good.

    Moses murdered a man and fled to escape the punishment – 5 books

    David plotted Uriah’s death and took his wife – 1/2 book (about 73 of the Psalms)

    Solomon led Israel into idolatry and laid the foundations for its split into two nations – about 2 books

    Matthew was a tax collector: a sellout and traitor to God’s people – 1 book

    Peter, among his many other foibles, famously denied Jesus on the night of his trial – 2 books, and played a major part in the writing of a 3rd.

    Paul persecuted and killed Christians – 13 books.

    that’s 23.5 out of 29.5 books whose authors had very very sketchy backgrounds. That’s 80%, though obviously that figure doesn’t account for the length of the various books.

    As for the remaining 6 books: 5 were written by John of Zebedee, who though he never did anything radical like murder, still appears to have been a bit of a brown-noser. And, one was written by James the brother of Jesus.

    So it’s safe to say God chooses people with crap in their backgrounds. Those are the people who wrote the Bible.

  • Dave

    WHOOT!! Good stuff, good stuff! I never really thought of, or realized some of the things you pointed out. Basically though, it goes to show God chooses “the Misfits” to do His bidding! And that even the lowest, worst of us, can be called by God to be great, and powerful workers of the Kingdom of Heaven!!! God bless!

  • kristi

    good stuff. good stuff. I had a lot of doubts in myself when I decided to be a Christian. I thought, look at me, I’m all tatted up, i used to do this and that back in the day. I came to the conclusion that God does use us, even ME. Me, who has a blemished past. I know when I publicly declared that I was going to study the Word in Bible college, with hopes of maybe pursuing prison ministry one day,folks came out of the woodwork to pitch in their two cents about where I hung out, or what I looked like, etc.. People where saying, remember when you hung out at the Clubhouse or the Warehouse, in Cincinnati, my hometown or, you did this or that, or looked this way or that way. I still look this way, I still am ME. People like to call you (me) a sellout. Im still me, but my heart has changed, my life has changed. I imagine some of you can identify.

  • bunny

    please dont tell me u honestly think ur true punkz, cuz ur not. being a real punk has NOTHING 2 do w/ jesus. its all about anarchy and being ur own person, not being brainwashed by religion. please at least consider trying 2 be a non cristian punk, cuz ur ruining some good music.

  • Josh

    I think you have us confused with Church folk. We are completely anti-religion and anti-establishment. We are as punk as you my friend.

  • Sam

    Howdy Josh~ Came across your site here and found it very interesting. I am glad that God can and does choose to use us even with all our baggage scars and imperfections. I am preaching through a series of sermons right now on who and how God chooses to use and tommorrow will be dealing with the calling of the Apostles. I came to pretty much the same conclusions you did and it is sad that more folks don’t see those things as the Bible clearly lays them out. Keep up the good work pointing others to Christ.

    Please be careful though, Jesus didn’t call us to be “anti-religion and anti-establishment” anymore than he called us to be religious conformists to an establishment. When you label and bash “church” folk you only fall pray to the same sinful pride that causes them to bash and label “punks” like yourself. God bless you.

  • Josh

    Thanks for the comment. Jesus called us not to conform to the world. Although he does say that we should live in peace under government rule because all power comes through Him. As for “church folk” perhaps I should clarify a bit more. I am talking about the people that go to church every Sunday, wear their Sunday best, are “holy” and “spiritual” and go out and sin all week long, these people are wrapped up in the law and legalism. These are the same “Christians” that look down their nose at anyone who is not like them. It is unfortunate, but I think most of the people that frequent this site (Christian and non-Chrisitian) have had far to many encounters with these types of folks that reject (oh, you have tattoos, therefore you are going to hell), or just plain turn people off to Christianity because of their “better than you” attitudes.

    If we are all truly born again, then we should be able to get along here on earth, after all, we are going to be neighbors in heaven forever!

    May the God of Isaac, Jacob, and Abraham bless you too brother!


  • Joe Barry

    Great post. I 100% agree…we all have baggage, we all have skeletons in the closet…God isnt looking for perfect people He is looking for people who will walk with Him and love Him as He asked us too…its all in the heart…

  • Pat Allison

    I find it interesting that God takes people from where they are to where he wants them to be. We are all a work in progress. Church is not an institution. It is a group of people called out of the world and into a familial relationship. The 12 were called out, brought in and nurtured into a spiritual transformation that opened up a new vista of reality for them. We also are called out and born into a new reality. We are not perfect, however, our flaws are used by God to show his power. His strength is made evident through our weaknesses. Faith in Him is developed and we become empowered to witness and proclaim in ways we never imagined possible.

  • Patriot1

    You guys do look kind of like hard core, anti-social hoodlums. That’s all right though, I’m kind of a social misfit myself, so I can relate to it. Keep on rockin’ for Jesus!

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