|And He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils: and Simon He surnamed Peter; and James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and them He surnamed Boanerges, which is, Sons of thunder; and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeaus, and Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot which also betrayed Him.| MARK 3:14-19 (R.V.)
THE pictures of the Twelve, then, are drawn from a living group. And when they are examined in detail, this appearance of vitality is strengthened, by the richest and most vivid indications of individual character, such indeed as in several cases to throw light upon the choice of Jesus. To invent such touches is the last attainment of dramatic genius, and the artist rarely succeeds except by deliberate and palpable character-painting. The whole story of Hamlet and of Lear is constructed with this end in view, but no one has ever conjectured that the Gospels were psychological studies. If, them, we can discover several well-defined characters, harmoniously drawn by various writers, as natural as the central figure is supernatural, and to be recognized equally in the common and the miraculous narratives, this will be an evidence of the utmost value.
We are all familiar with the impetuous vigor of St. Peter, a quality which betrayed him into grave and well-nigh fatal errors, but when chastened by suffering made him a noble and formidable leader of the Twelve. We recognize it when he says, |Thou shalt never wash my feet,| |Though all men should deny Thee, yet will I never deny Thee,| |Lord, to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of everlasting life,| |Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God,| and in his rebuke of Jesus for self-sacrifice, and in his rash blow in the garden. Does this, the best established mental quality of any apostle, fail or grow faint in the miraculous stories which are condemned as the accretions of a later time? In such stories he is related to have cried out, |Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,| he would walk upon the sea to Jesus, he proposed to shelter Moses and Elijah from the night air in booths (a notion so natural to a bewildered man, so exquisite in its officious well-meaning absurdity as to prove itself, for who could have invented it?), he ventured into the empty sepulcher while John stood awe-stricken at the portal, he plunged into the lake to seek his risen Master on the shore, and he was presently the first to draw the net to land. Observe the restless curiosity which beckoned to John to ask who was the traitor, and compare it with his question, |Lord, and what shall this man do?| But the second of these was after the resurrection, and in answer to a prophecy. Everywhere we find a real person and the same, and the vehemence is everywhere that of a warm heart, which could fail signally but could weep bitterly as well, which could learn not to claim, though twice invited, greater love than that of others, but when asked |Lovest thou Me| at all, broke out into the passionate appeal, |Lord, Thou knowest all things, Thou knowest that I love Thee.| Dull is the ear of the critic which fails to recognize here the voice of Simon. Yet the story implies the resurrection.
The mind of Jesus was too lofty and grave for epigram; but He put the willful self-reliance which Peter had to subdue even to crucifixion, into one delicate and subtle phrase: |When thou wast young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest.| That self-willed stride, with the loins girded, is the natural gait of Peter, when he was young.
St. James, the first apostolic martyr, seems to have over-topped for a while his greater brother St. John, before whom he is usually named, and who is once distinguished as |the brother of James.| He shares with him the title of a Son of Thunder (Mark iii.17). They were together in desiring to rival the fiery and avenging miracle of Elijah, and to partake of the profound baptism and bitter cup of Christ. It is an undesigned coincidence in character, that while the latter of these events is recorded by St. Matthew and St. Mark, the former, which, it will be observed implies perfect confidence in the supernatural power of Christ, is found in St. Luke alone, who has not mentioned the title it justifies so curiously (Matt. xx.20; Mark x.35; Luke ix.54). It is more remarkable that he whom Christ bade to share his distinctive title with another, should not once be named as having acted or spoken by himself. With a fire like that of Peter, but no such power of initiative and of chieftainship, how natural it is that his appointed task was martyrdom. Is it objected that his brother also, the great apostle St. John, received only a share in that divided title? But the family trait is quite as palpable in him. The deeds of John were seldom wrought upon his own responsibility, never if we except the bringing of Peter into the palace of the high priest. He is a keen observer and a deep thinker. But he cannot, like his Master, combine the quality of leader with those of student and sage. In company with Andrew he found the Messiah. We have seen James leading him for a time. It was in obedience to a sign from Peter that he asked who was the traitor. With Peter, when Jesus was arrested, he followed afar off. It is very characteristic that he shrank from entering the sepulcher until Peter, coming up behind, when in first, although it was John who thereupon |saw and believed.|
With like discernment, he was the first to recognize Jesus beside the lake, but then it was equally natural that he should tell Peter, and follow in the ship, dragging the net to land, as that Peter should gird himself and plunge into the lake. Peter, when Jesus drew him aside, turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following, with the same silent, gentle, and sociable affection, which had so recently joined him with the saddest and tenderest of all companions underneath the cross. At this point there is a delicate and suggestive turn of phrase. By what incident would any pen except his own have chosen to describe the beloved disciple as Peter then beheld him? Assuredly we should have written, The disciple whom Jesus loved, who also followed Him to Calvary, and to whom He confided His mother. But from St. John himself there would have been a trace of boastfulness in such a phrase. Now the author of the Fourth Gospel, choosing rather to speak of privilege than service, wrote |The disciple whom Jesus loved, which also leaned back on His breast at the supper, and said, Lord, who is he that betrayeth Thee?|
St. John was again with St. Peter at the Beautiful Gate, and although it was not he who healed the cripple, yet his cooperation is implied in the words, |Peter, fastening his eyes on him, with John.| And when the Council would fain have silence them, the boldness which spoke in Peter's reply was |the boldness of Peter and John.|
Could any series of events justify more perfectly a title which implied much zeal, yet zeal that did not demand a specific unshared epithet? But these events are interwoven with the miraculous narratives.
Add to this the keenness and deliberation which so much of his story exhibits, which at the beginning tendered no hasty homage, but followed Jesus to examine and to learn, which saw the meaning of the orderly arrangement of the graveclothes in the empty tomb, which was first to recognize the Lord upon the beach, which before this had felt something in Christ's regard for the least and weakest, inconsistent with the forbidding of any one to cast out devils, and we have the very qualities required to supplement those of Peter, without being discordant or uncongenial. And therefore it is with Peter, even more than with his brother, that we have seen John associated. In fact Christ, who sent out His apostles by two and two, joins these in such small matters as the tracking a man with a pitcher into the house where He would keep the Passover. And so, when Mary of Magdala would announce the resurrection, she found the penitent Simon in company with this loving John, comforted, and ready to seek the tomb where he met the Lord of all Pardons.
All this is not only coherent, and full of vital force, but it also strengthens powerfully the evidence for his authorship of the Gospel, written the last, looking deepest into sacred mysteries, and comparatively unconcerned for the mere flow of narrative, but tender with private and loving discourse, with thoughts of the protecting Shepherd, the sustaining Vine, the Friend Who wept by a grave, Who loved John, Who provided amid tortures for His mother, Who knew that Peter loved Him, and bade him feed the lambs -- and yet thunderous as becomes a Boanerges, with indignation half suppressed against |the Jews| (so called as if he had renounced his murderous nation), against the selfish high-priest of |that same year,| and against the son of perdition, for whom certain astute worldlings have surmised that his wrath was such as they best understand, personal, and perhaps a little spiteful. The temperament of John revealed throughout, was that of August, brooding and warm and hushed and fruitful, with low rumblings of tempest in the night.
It is remarkable that such another family resemblance as between James and John exists between Peter and Andrew. The directness and self-sacrifice of his greater brother may be discovered in the few incidents recorded of Andrew also. At the beginning, and after one interview with Jesus, when he finds his brother, and becomes the first of the Twelve to spread the gospel, he utters the short unhesitating announcement, |We have found the Messiah.| When Philip is uncertain about introducing the Greeks who would see Jesus, he consults Andrew, and there is no more hesitation, Andrew and Philip tell Jesus. And in just the same way, when Philip argues that two hundred pennyworth of bread are not enough for the multitude, Andrew intervenes with practical information about the five barley loaves and the two small fishes, insufficient although they seem. A man prompt and ready, and not blind to the resources that exist because they appear scanty.
Twice we have found Philip mentioned in conjunction with him. It was Philip, apparently accosted by the Greeks because of his Gentile name, who could not take upon himself the responsibility of telling Jesus of their wish. And it was he, when consulted about the feeding of the five thousand, who went off into a calculation of the price of the food required -- two hundred pennyworth, he says, would not suffice. Is it not highly consistent with this slow deliberation, that he should have accosted Nathanael with a statement so measured and explicit: |We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.| What a contrast to Andrew's terse announcement, |We have found the Messiah.| And how natural that Philip should answer the objection, |Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?| with the passionless reasonable invitation, |Come and see.| It was in the same unimaginative prosaic way that he said long after, |Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us.| To this comparatively sluggish temperament, therefore, Jesus Himself had to address the first demand He made on any. |Follow me, He said, and was obeyed. It would not be easy to compress into such brief and incidental notices a more graphic indication of character.
Of the others we know little except the names. The choice of Matthew, the man of business, is chiefly explained by the nature of his Gospel, so explicit, orderly, and methodical, and until it approaches the crucifixion, so devoid of fire.
But when we come to Thomas, we are once more aware of a defined and vivid personality, somewhat perplexed and melancholy, of little hope but settled loyalty.
All three saying reported of him belong to a dejected temperament: |Let us also go, that we may died with Him| -- as if there could be no brighter meaning than death in Christ's proposal to interrupt a dead man's sleep. |Lord, we know not whither Thou goest, and how can we know the way?| -- these words express exactly the same despondent failure to apprehend. And so it comes to pass that nothing short of tangible experience will convince him of the resurrection. And yet there is a warm and devoted heart to be recognized in the proposal to share Christ's death, in the yearning to know whither He went, and even in that agony of unbelief, which dwelt upon the cruel details of suffering, until it gave way to one glad cry of recognition and of worship; therefore his demand was granted, although a richer blessing was reserved for those who, not having seen, believed.