Leader Bible Study
In the first century, rabbi was a title given to a respected expert in the law of Moses. A rabbi studied the Scriptures and taught through speaking and writing. Jews wanted to honor God in how they lived, and they looked to the rabbis to instruct them in their behavior.
The word rabbi translates “my master.” Jewish students would seek out a rabbi and ask to follow him. A rabbi would choose only a few highly-promising students to be his disciples. If a student was not accepted by the rabbi, he likely returned home to learn a trade. Those chosen to be a rabbi’s disciples followed him everywhere. They learned from the rabbi how to think and how to act. They trusted the rabbi, and the goal was to become just like him.
When Jesus chose His disciples, His strategy was unusual. Rather than waiting for students to come to Him, Jesus sought out His disciples among the people who followed Him. He found them working—fishing and repairing nets. Some of Jesus’ disciples were introduced to Him by their friends. He approached these ordinary men and said, “Follow Me.” Their response? “Immediately they left … and followed him” (Matt. 4:20,22).
The Twelve—Simon (Peter) and his brother Andrew; James and John; Philip; Bartholomew; Matthew; Thomas; James, son of Alphaeus; Thaddaeus; Simon; and Judas—spent time with Jesus during His ministry. Jesus taught them how to live in light of God’s coming kingdom. He commissioned them to teach others about Him. The good news about Jesus is too great to not share with the entire world.
The call to follow Jesus is not an easy one. Jesus said, “If anyone wants to follow after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me” (Matt. 16:24). Jesus calls us to do the same—to surrender our lives for His purposes and perhaps even to die. “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of me will find it” (Matt. 16:25)
The BIBLE Story
Jesus Called Disciples
Matthew 4; 9; Mark 1–3; Luke 5–6
Jesus’ ministry had begun. He traveled around, preaching about God and telling people to turn away from their sins. People started talking about Jesus and the things He was teaching. They were interested in what Jesus had to say. Large crowds followed Jesus around and listened to Him teach.
One day, Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee. He saw two brothers: Simon—who was called Peter—and Andrew. Peter and Andrew were fishermen. Jesus called out to them, “Follow Me, and I will teach you to fish for people!” Right away, Peter and Andrew dropped their nets and followed Jesus.
Later, He saw two more brothers. Their names were James and John. They were in a boat fixing nets with their father, Zebedee. Jesus called out to them, and right away they got up, left their father and the boat, and followed Jesus.
Jesus went on and saw a man named Matthew (who was also called Levi). Matthew was sitting at the tax office. Matthew was a tax collector. Many people didn’t like tax collectors because tax collectors were unfair. Jesus called out to him, “Follow Me!” So Matthew got up, left everything behind, and followed Jesus.
Matthew had a big feast for Jesus at his house. Many tax collectors and sinners came to eat with Jesus and His disciples. The religious leaders saw this, and they didn’t think Jesus should be friends with people who did wrong things. They complained to the disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?”
Jesus heard the religious leaders and said, “People who are healthy don’t need a doctor, but people who are sick do. I did not come to invite good people; I came to invite sinners to turn back to God.”
Later, Jesus gathered His followers together and chose twelve of them to be His apostles. Jesus’ apostles would work closely with Jesus and would go out to tell others about Him. These are the men Jesus chose: Simon (who was called Peter), Simon’s brother Andrew, James and John (who were called the “Sons of Thunder”), Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus (al FEE uhs), Thaddaeus (THAD ih uhs), Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot (iss KAR ih aht).
Christ Connection: Jesus came to earth to show what God is like and to save people from their sins. This is great news! Jesus told His disciples to tell others about Him, and we are Jesus’ disciples when we trust in Him. Everyone in the world needs to hear the good news about Jesus.
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