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

Matthew 20:1-19

English: King James Version

Study the Inner Meaning

← Matthew 19   Full Chapter   Matthew 21 →

1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.

2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.

3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,

4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.

5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.

6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle?

7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive.

8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first.

9 And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.

10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.

11 And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house,

12 Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.

13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?

14 Take that thine is, and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.

15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?

16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

17 And Jesus going up to Jerusalem took the twelve disciples apart in the way, and said unto them,

18 Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death,

19 And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.

← Matthew 19   Full Chapter   Matthew 21 →

   Study the Inner Meaning
From Swedenborg's Works

Explanations or references:

Arcana Coelestia 1069, 2027, 2788, 2813, 3417, 4538, 4539, ...

Apocalypse Revealed 463, 610, 650

Doctrine of the Lord 24

True Christian Religion 462, 708


References from Swedenborg's unpublished works:

Apocalypse Explained 194, 532, 655, 919

Other New Christian Commentary

  Stories and their meanings:


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Word/Phrase Explanations

kingdom
In the most general sense, a kingdom in the Bible represents a church. In a more specific sense, a kingdom represents a church in regards...

heaven
"Heaven" and "heavens" are used many times in the Bible, with a couple of variations of meaning. Sometimes it is relatively literal, including times when...

man
The relationship between men and women is deep and nuanced, and one entire book of the Writings – Conjugial Love or Love in Marriage –...

early
Since the sun represents the Lord, the early morning and sunrise represent a state of enlightenment, with a new and clear understanding coming after a...

morning
Morning comes with the rising of the sun, and the sun – which gives life to the earth with its warmth and light – represents...

Hire
'Hire,' as mentioned in Genesis 30:33, referring to the Lord, signifies His proprium, that is, what was acquired from His own proper ability.

vineyard
A vineyard signifies the church where the Word is, by which the Lord is known. (Apocalypse Revealed 650)

Penny
A penny,' as in Revelation 6, signifies something so small that it is barely anything.

Sent
'Being sent' everywhere signifies, in an internal sense, going forth, as in John 17:8. In similar manner, it is said of the holy of the...

third
The Writings talk about many aspects of life using the philosophical terms "end," "cause" and "effect." The "end" is someone’s goal or purpose, the ultimate...

hour
The Writings tell us that time and space are aspects of the physical world, but do not exist as we know them in the spiritual...

saw
The symbolic meaning of "seeing" is "understanding," which is obvious enough that it has become part of common language (think about it; you might see...

said
As with many common verbs, the meaning of “to say” in the Bible is highly dependent on context. Who is speaking? Who is hearing? What...

go
In the physical world, the places we inhabit and the distances between them are physical realities, and we have to get our physical bodies through...

give
Like other common verbs, the meaning of "give" in the Bible is affected by context: who is giving what to whom? In general, though, giving...

Way
'To set a way,' as in Genesis 30:36, signifies being separated.

sixth
Like most numbers in the Bible, "six" can have various meanings depending on context, but has a couple that are primary. When used in relation...

stand
'To sit before Jehovah' is to be with Him, and so, it also means willing and acting from Him. 'To stand before Him,' is to...

Us
Because people are governed by angels and spirits, in Genesis 1:26 it says 'let us make man into our image.' But because the Lord alone...

the Lord
The Bible refers to the Lord in many different ways, which from the text seem indistinguishable and interchangeable. Understood in the internal sense, though, there...

call
To call someone or summon someone in the Bible represents a desire for conjunction between higher and lower states of life. For instance, imagine someone...

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...

Last
'The first and the last' signifies that the Lord is the only God.

the first
'Resurrection' signifies salvation and eternal life. 'The first,' mentioned in Revelation 20:5, 6, does not mean a first resurrection, but the essence and primary part...

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

Wrought
wrought (also entwined or entwisted) is predicated of the natural scientific principle, and in Isaiah 45:13, of divine natural truth.

one
A company might have executives setting policy and strategy, engineers designing products, line workers building them, managers handling personnel and others handling various functions. They...

Burden
A burden (Jer. 17:4) signifies that which is from the proprium of man.

Heat
Heat, as mentioned in Revelation 16:9, signifies the lust of evils which are contained in self-love and the delights of it.

friend
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own
In many cases, the spiritual meaning of "own," both as a verb and as an adjective, is relatively literal. When people are described as the...

eye
It’s common to say “I see” when we understand something. And indeed, “seeing” in the Bible represents grasping and understanding spiritual things. So it makes...

good
It seems rather circular to say that “good” in the Bible represents good, but in a general sense it’s true! The case is this: The...

many
Intellectual things – ideas, knowledge, facts, even insight and understanding – are more separate and free-standing than emotional things, and it’s easier to imagine numbering...

twelve disciples
'The twelve disciples' of the Lord represent the whole church, regarding everything related to faith and charity, the same as the twelve tribes of Israel.

Twelve
'Twelve' signifies all aspects of faith. This has been unknown to the world until now. Nevertheless, this is the constant significance of 'twelve,' anywhere it...

disciples
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Go up
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Son
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son of man
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chief
On July 3, 1863, 12,500 Confederate troops attacked their Union foes during the Battle of Gettysburg, a turning point in the American Civil War. The...

Priests
Priests' represent the Lord regarding His divine good. When they do not acknowledge the Lord, they lose their signification of the Lord.

Scribes
'The chief priests and scribes,' as in Matthew 20:17, signify the adulterations of good and the falsifications of truth.

Mock
'To mock' or 'scorn' relates to people in truth but not in good.

Third day
'The third day' signifies the end of a state of preparation for reception, and so an end of purification, as in Exodus 19:16. 'The third...

rise again
'Resurrection' symbolizes salvation and eternal life. 'The first resurrection' does not mean a first resurrection but the primary and essential implication of resurrection, thus salvation...

rise
It is common in the Bible for people to "rise up," and it would be easy to pass over the phrase as simply describing a...

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.


 Joy, Sadness, and Joy
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

 Laborers in the Vineyard
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 No Thought Of Reward
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Overview of Five Parables of Heaven Levels A, B, C Ages 3-14
Overview of the Youth Journey Program Five Parables of Heaven featuring the parables of the Sower, Pearl of Great Price, Wise and Foolish Virgins, Workers in the Vineyard and The Great Supper. For ages 3-14, Levels A, B and C.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 3 - 14

 The First Shall Be Last
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Sense of Touch
Touch is an important aspect of relationships with others. When we touch another person we should keep in mind what's best for others as well as what's best for ourselves.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 11 - 17


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