Commentary

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles

By Joe David

The Last Supper, an 1896 work by Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret.

The Lord Jesus Christ and His Apostles

The Lord left his apostles with instructions and with great gifts. The instructions are listed in several distinct places, but the the gifts are more scattered, both in the four gospels and in the book of Acts later, being given as the apostles needed them.

First, about the apostles... just to clarify, here I'm referring to "the disciples" as including anyone who has followed along to hear the Lord, and "the apostles" to mean the twelve men that the Lord recruited specifically, as listed in Matthew 10, Mark 3, and Luke 6.

Who were the apostles? From the lists in Matthew and Mark, which are the same, we have: Simon (Peter), James and John the sons of Zebedee, Andrew (Peter’s brother), Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew (the publican), Thomas, James the son of Alpheus, (as is Matthew, so they are brothers, too), Thaddeus, (also known as Libbeus), Simon the Canaanite (also called Simon the Zealot), and Judas Iscariot. Bartholomew is almost undoubtedly another name for Nathaniel, see John 1. The list in Luke includes another Judas, "Judas the brother of James" and doesn’t have Thaddeus.

The stories of how they were individually chosen differ, especially in the gospel of John, but that these twelve were appointed by the Lord is clear. A point of interest is that - other than Simon the Canaanite and Judas Iscariot they are all from towns around the sea of Galilee - and perhaps those two are as well. These twelve have their names inscribed on the twelve foundations of the walls of the holy city New Jerusalem, in Revelation 21:14 in which there are also the twelve gates. These men were chosen to represent all the different states of the natural human being that can be receptive of the Lord. They are from Galilee because Galilee represents that natural state of the human mind. The number twelve in the Word represents all possible states of mankind.

What is indicated here is that all people, everywhere, can be saved or regenerated if they repent and turn to the Lord in their lives. No one is "outside" of His reach. We are born natural, everyone is, but we are so formed that our minds can be raised to what is higher, called spiritual for our conceptions of Divine truth, or Celestial for our perceptions of Divine good. But we all start in a natural state and can only move upward by listening to the Lord’s teachings in His Word, and following Him as those Apostles did.

Not all of our natural states are states of good; they can be selfish, domineering, and cruel. But the Lord said that He came "not to save the just but to call sinners to repentance". Perhaps this is why Simon the Canaanite and Judas were two that He called. Simon is little known, but in some places in the Word, "Canaan signifies an external worship without a true internal worship". (See Arcana Coelestia 1060). Can the Lord work with that - with external worship that's internally barren? Yes, as a starting point. And, even Judas, who betrayed the Lord so terribly, we are told, repented of his betrayal of the Lord. (Matthew 27:3-5)

The Lord's Instructions to the Apostles

The two most comprehensive sets of instructions are in Luke 10:1-17 where seventy Disciples are sent out two by two, apparently to a specified list of cities that Jesus intends to visit, and then in Matthew 20:1-19 where the chosen twelve Apostles are sent out to all Israel. Later, as recorded in different epistles, the Apostles go out further, through a wide region.

The basic instructions were to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near, that all should be led to repent of their sins, and that all who wish should be baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles should not take any money or extra clothing along, and they were to depend entirely on the Lord’s providence with no doubt that they shall be welcomed, fed, and sheltered. If they were welcomed, they should stay and preach the good news about the risen Lord and His teachings, and if they were not, they should shake from their feet the dust of that place and go on to a place where they were welcome. See Matthew 10, 28, Mark 13, 16, Luke 9, 10:24.

There are several assurances for the twelve. The Lord has told them to stay in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit is sent to strengthen them, and in John 20 where the ten are gathered it is said that He breathed on them and said, "Receive ye the Holy Spirit". Also, in his long talk with them in John 14, 15, 16) He assures them that his crucifixion and death are necessary to his mission and they should even rejoice that it is coming. He shows them from scripture that it has all been prophesied from long ago, (see Mark 4:34) and that what seems to them a tragedy, is truly His glorification and the end of the work He came to do. They, His twelve, are in the same steam of providence and will be protected. "Don’t be anxious," He tells them, "I will put into your mouths what you are to say, I will bring into your memories the incidents to tell to the people".

Here is a listing of the chapters and verses in John where such things are said: John 14:1-3, 10, 16-18, 26-28, 15:11, 16, 26-27, 16:7, 13-15, 22, 26-27, 33. Or simply read the three chapters and pick out your favorites.

A marvelous gift is mentioned in Matthew 10:13, "But blessed are your eyes for they see and blessed are your ears, for they hear…".

In the book of Acts, the Lord vividly shows the apostles that when they speak in their Galileen dialect every listener will hear their words as his own language in his ears; not gibberish, but Arabic to the Arabs, Greek to the Greeks, and Latin to the Romans.

When Peter starts to preach to a gathering of sympathetic Jews he speaks clearly and unafraid, saying that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God and that people should worship Him openly and repent of how they might have felt earlier. Peter’s talk in Acts 3 and 4 is a bold and powerful one. No more hiding behind locked doors.

The early history of the Christian church shows just how well all this worked out. You know what? The Apostles preached to the peoples in the Near East 2000 years ago, and their preaching is just as relevant today as it was then: "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Being at hand has nothing to do with the date or the state of political history in the world, it has to do with the inside of your mind. The Lord is just as close to you now as He was then, and He never turns away, though we might turn away from him. Remember that He said "behold I stand at the door and knock and if anyone hears and opens the door He will come right in." This hasn’t changed nor will it ever change, but He leaves us in freedom to ignore His knocking, if that is what we want. We have to make the choice, but He is always ready if we choose to open the door.

The Bible

John 15:26-27

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

← John 14   Full Chapter   John 16 →

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:

27 And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.

← John 14   Full Chapter   John 16 →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 2397, 4577, 6788, 8302, 9503, 9818

Apocalypse Revealed 6, 490, 819, 962

A Brief Exposition of New Church Doctrine 120

Divine Love and Wisdom 149

Doctrine of the Lord 51

True Christian Religion 139, 153, 188, 323


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 27, 228, 635, 1232

Canons of the New Church 37, 39

Spiritual Experiences 509

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:



Word/Phrase Explanations

The Comforter
'The Comforter' signifies the divine truth proceeding from the Lord.

come
As with common verbs in general, the meaning of “come” in the Bible is highly dependent on context – its meaning is determined largely by...

Send
'To send' signifies revealing.

father
Father in the Word means what is most interior, and in those things that are following the Lord's order, it means what is good. In...

Spirit of truth
'The spirit of truth,' as in John 15:26, signifies truth itself proceeding from the Lord, which is why it says 'he will not speak from...

spirit
There are two aspects to the life of each person. We might call them "heart" and "mind," a part of us that wants and feels...

truth
There's a great deal of talk in Swedenborg about "truth" as a concept – it's how we learn the Lord's will, what we must seek...

bear
Like many verbs, the spiritual meaning of "bearing" something depends greatly on context – what it is that's being borne, and why. It is further...

beginning
In the Word, "beginning" doesn't just mean the beginning of something in time. In the inner sense, it means the initial phase of a spiritual...

Resources for parents and teachers

The items listed here are provided courtesy of our friends at the General Church of the New Jerusalem. You can search/browse their whole library at the New Church Vineyard website.


 Ask What You Desire Bookmark
Meditate on a verse from the Word and let it inspire you in a spiritual task. Cut out the color picture bookmark to keep or share.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Bearing Fruit
Project | Ages up to 6

 Bearing Good Fruit
Heaven is a kingdom of uses. Being useful is bearing good fruit.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Branches of the Vine
If the Lord is the Vine and we are the branches, how would you draw a branch showing the kinds of things you do to help other people.
Activity | Ages over 15

 Discipleship at Easter
The final events in Jesus' life unfolded quickly. The disciples responded to the changes in different ways. The twelve disciples picture qualities in us that follow the Lord. How do we respond when our faith is challenged?
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Elijah Calls Fire from Heaven - Level C
Complete lesson with activity choices: build an altar out of stones or a human pyramid, discuss what the prophets of Baal are in our lives, scripted story discussion, and a meditation and task on a verse from the Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 14

 Elijah Calls Fire from Heaven - Level D
Complete lesson with activity choices: look at the differences between mazes and labyrinths, explore how evil appears in the light of heaven, scripted story discussion, and a meditation and task on a verse from the Word.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 15 - 17

 Family Worship: Abide in Me
Religion Lesson | All Ages

 Friendships: Men and Women
Getting to know a variety of men or women helps us learn about the opposite sex and ultimately helps us learn what qualities we care about and will want in the person we marry.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Friendship: The Outward Expression of Love
How does the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Church define friendship and what do they say we should base it on?
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Fruit of the Vine
Talk about grapes and other fruit that grows on a vine. Consider making "a grape vine" of good deeds with "grape" beads to put on a green cord.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Greater Love Has No One Than This
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 I Am the Vine
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 I Am the Vine
Download and print this beautiful poster with words from John 15: 4-5. 
Picture | Ages over 7

 I Am the Vine
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine. Children may want to draw a branch for each member of the family while teens and adults may choose to draw a branch that represents their life, showing the fruit it is bringing forth.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 I Have Chosen You
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Illustrate the Lord as the Vine
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine. Children may want to draw a branch for each member of the family while teens and adults may choose to draw a branch that represents their life, showing the fruit it is bringing forth.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Imagine the Lord's Joy!
 Picture the Lord's joy each time we take a step toward heaven. 
Activity | Ages over 15

 Inspirational Quotation - Love One Another
Poster illustrating the Lord's commandment to love one another.
Picture | Ages over 8

 Living a Significant Life
The Lord tells us what we must do if we wish to live a significant life.
Worship Talk | Ages over 15

 Love
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Memory Verse: I Am the Vine
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Prayers for Adults: Dealing with Other People with True Charity
Activity | Ages over 18

 Prayers for Adults: Loving the Neighbor
Activity | Ages over 18

 Quotes: I Am the Vine
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Seeds Bearing Fruit Wreath or Ribbon Hanging
Make a wreath or ribbon hanging with various fruits, adding a piece of fruit each time you use the seeds of truth the Lord has given us.
Project | Ages 4 - 14

 The Importance of the Ten Commandments
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Lord's Example of Friendship
The Lord is able to see our true spiritual character, and He loves the good that He is able to see in us. He constantly seeks to build on that good. We must follow the Lord’s own example and seek out what is good in others.
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 The Parable of the Vine
A New Church Bible story explanation for teaching Sunday school. Includes lesson materials for Primary (3-8 years), Junior (9-11 years), Intermediate (12-14 years), Senior (15-17 years) and Adults.
Teaching Support | Ages over 3

 The Parable of the Vine
Lesson outline provides teaching ideas with questions for discussion, projects, and activities.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 7 - 10

 The Parable of the Vine (3-5 years)
Project | Ages 4 - 6

 The Parable of the Vine (6-8 years)
Project | Ages 7 - 10

 The Parable of the Vine (9-11 years)
Project | Ages 11 - 14

 The Purpose of Creation
Birth brings a person into the natural world, but God's ultimate purpose is that a person be born again into heavenly life, the life of the spirit.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 The Vine and the Branches
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Visible God
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 The Wonder of the Lord's Word
When we read the Word, we have to reflect on what we have read and try to live according to it. Only this will lead to our happiness, which is why the Word has been given.
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Treasure Hunt
Make a treasure hunt, starting at the Lord's Word and ending at a bowl of grapes. Discuss how the truths of the Word, such as the Golden Rule, can lead to good fruit.
Activity | Ages up to 10

 Unless We Acknowledge the Lord
Make a picture of the Lord as the Vine and people as the branches, bearing the fruit of useful activities.
Project | Ages over 15

 Vine and Branches
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 Vine and Branches
Explore the image of the vine and the branches, which illustrates our complete dependence on God.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 What Is Charity?
New Church teachings extend the idea of charity, making it more than compassionate actions towards others.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17

 Why Is the Word Holy?
Article | Ages 15 - 17

 Why Stay Connected?
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 You Are the Branches
It is important for people to be connected to each other and even more important to be connected to the Lord.
Worship Talk | Ages 11 - 14

 You Are the Vine (sheet music)
Song | Ages 4 - 14


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