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.

From Swedenborg's Works

Arcana Coelestia #1060

Arcana Coelestia (Elliott translation)

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1060. Verse 18 And Noah's sons who went out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth. And Ham was the father of Canaan.

'Noah's sons who went out of the ark' means those who constituted the Ancient Church, 'who went out of the ark' meaning those who had been regenerated. 'Shem' means the internal Church, 'Ham' the corrupted Church, 'Japheth' the external Church. 'Ham was the father of Canaan means that from the corrupted Church arose worship in external things devoid of internal, which worship is meant by Canaan.

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Canaan 1


Thanks to the Swedenborg Society for the permission to use this translation.

The Bible

Mark 4:34

English: King James Version

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← Mark 4:33    Full Chapter    Mark 4:35 →

34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

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  Stories and their meanings:


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Word/Phrase Explanations

parable
In Luke 8:5-8. Matthew 12:3-8 and Mark 4:3-8, 'the sower' is the Lord, and 'the seed' is His Word, and so, truth. 'The seed by...

spake
Like "say," the word "speak" refers to thoughts and feelings moving from our more internal spiritual levels to our more external ones – and ultimately...

disciples
When we read the Gospels and see Jesus addressing the disciples, we assume His words are meant for us as well. And indeed they are!...

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.


 Be A Peacemaker
Spiritual tasks offer a reflection on a Biblical story and suggest a task for spiritual growth.
Activity | Ages over 18

 Correspondences of the Vegetable Kingdom
Illustrations of three stories in the Word that talk about plants. (Quotations are the King James translation.)
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 Growing in Secret
The Lord gives us heavenly food as well as natural food.
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Listen! To the Lord's Word
Explore ways to help children and adults listen to the Lord's Word.
Activity | Ages over 4

 Memory Verse: The Lord's Fruitful Harvest
Activity | Ages 4 - 14

 Parable of the Sower Book
Illustrate the text (from Mark 4:1-9), cut out the pages, then bind them on the left side to make a book. 
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Parable of the Sower Cards for Exploring the Deeper Meaning
Sequence the story cards, then match them to the text and explanation. 
Activity | Ages over 11

 Parable of the Sower Experiment
An experiment designed to simulate the planting conditions in the parable of the sower.
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Parables
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

 Quotes: Seeds of Truth
Teaching Support | Ages over 15

 Secret Growth
Project | Ages 7 - 14

 Sequence the Parable of the Sower
Cut apart and sequence the pictures in the order given in the Lord's Word.
Activity | Ages 4 - 10

 Teaching with Parables
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 Thanksgiving for the Lord's Harvest
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Grain of Mustard Seed
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Calms the Sea
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Lord Makes All Things Grow
Just as the Lord causes flowers and trees to grow, so He causes us grow into people who can become angels in heaven. Make a picture with the Lord in the center of the page, a picture of child sleeping nearby, and a plant or tree growing.
Project | Ages 4 - 10

 The Lord's Greatest Gift
Worship Talk | Ages 4 - 6

 The Lord's Harvest
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Parable of the Sower
Family lessons provide a worship talk and a variety of activities for children and teens..
Religion Lesson | Ages 4 - 17

 The Parable of the Sower
Worship Talk | Ages over 18

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

 The Parable of the Sower
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 The Parable of the Sower and Your Life
Look at aspects of this parable and think about how they may apply to your life.
Activity | Ages 11 - 14

 The Sower
Coloring Page | Ages 7 - 14

 The Sower
Worship Talk | Ages 7 - 14

 The Wind and the Waves Obey Jesus
A lesson for younger children with discussion ideas and a project.
Sunday School Lesson | Ages 4 - 6

 Watch the Growth of a Plant
Suggestions for observing and reflecting on the growth of plants. Notice how the plant knows how to grow and seems to have a mind of its own. Yet it still needs nurturing with food and water to thrive. 
Activity | Ages up to 10

 What Do Plants Need?
What happens if a plant does not have water, warmth, or light? Who provides these for plants and for us? These are just some of the ways that the Lord helps plants grow. 
Activity | Ages 4 - 10


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