4/14/13, "Follow Me"

Acts: 5:25-32, 40-41  Revelation 5:14-14  John 21: 1-19


This is the 3rd Sunday of Easter.  The First Reading from Acts tells a story of an arrest of Peter and the apostles by the Sanhedrin.  The apostles are interrogated, reprimand, flogged and dismissed.  Afterward they left the temple filled with joy for having been judged worthy to suffer shame for the sake of the Name.

The Second Reading from Revelation describes a vision by the Apostle John while exiled on the Isle of Patmos.  All the angels are  rejoicing.   Thousands and tens of thousands of the creatures on the earth and the sea, are crying out with joy.

Christ has risen, and his ministry is being passed to the Apostles who are being groomed for what is ahead. The Gospel tells of another miraculous post-resurrection appearance by Jesus while the apostles are fishing.  He prepares Peter to assume leadership of the others, and to take care of His flock.


Many of the readings of this season are about the apostles. Jesus himself  is commissioning them to take on the responsibility of his ministry. 

I have realized for some time that I knew very little about these men. So I decided to Google them up.  A lot is written, but there is also quite a bit of confusion and information gaps.  For instance, in Jesus’ day, it appears that everyone wanted to name their son James.  There were too many James.  ...and Judes.  And there were an awful lot of Marys.  That’s only one problem.  

Anyway, my Google quest made me very much more appreciative of the work of the Church Fathers, historians, and scholars.  They have ceaselessly sifted through mountains of information.  They’ve organized it, annotated it, debated it, and made it possible for people like myself to discover what we want to know. Thanks to them, I can now appreciate the lives of the apostles more fully.  Their immense accomplishment brought out the inner poet in me.  I will now inflict the result of that upon you... 

We place our feet

upon weathered imprints

on trails you traveled

so long ago...

Looking for clues you left behind

 in crevices and holes

 through misty ages

and days gone by...

Pondering calligraphed fragments

of ancient scrolls

hidden away in desert caves

and on shelves of silent monasteries...


Puzzling the secrets,

 of sacred myths

composed by anonymous saints

  in languages dead, with dialects forgotten...

 Reverently, opening the reliquary doors,

Reaching inside with the tips of our fingers,

 holding our breath,

 we touch your ancient bones.


Simon Peter was born in the year 1 bc, in Bethsadia.  He and his brother Andrew were sons of Jona and fishemen by trade. Peter was married, and according to some of the church fathers, had children. But nothing else could be found about them.  Both Peter and Andrew had been disciples of John the Baptist.  In fact, it was John who identified Jesus to them as the “Lamb of God”.  The brothers then followed Jesus.  Jesus gave Simon his new name, Peter.  Peter, James and John comprised a small group within the circle of apostles who were particularly close to Jesus and who witnessed most of the healings, miracles, teachings and other events of Jesus’ ministry.  In today’s gospel reading which takes place after the resurrection, Jesus reaffirmed Peter as leader of all the other apostles and charged him with the care of his flock. After Pentecost, Peter remained in Jerusalem for awhile, and in the area of Galilee preaching the gospel, gaining converts, working miracles, before traveling on to Antioch, Corinth and eventually to Rome.  As foretold, he was martyred, crucified head down, in Rome on October 13, 64 AD, during the reign of Nero. His bones are said to rest in St. Peter’s Basilica today.

Two epistles which are attributed to Peter are included in the New Testament.


Andrew was the brother of Peter.  Eventually he and Peter left their fishing business to follow Jesus.  It was Andrew who brought forth the five loaves of bread from a boy at the miraculous feeding of 5,000.  

After Pentecost, Andrew preached in Ethiopia, Greece, and areas around present day Ukraine.  Andrew was considered to be the founder of the church at Byzantium.  In the latter part of the first century, he was crucified by the Romans on an X-shaped cross and buried in Patras in Greece        


James the Greater, along with his brother John, was on the seashore when Jesus called them.   They were sons of Zebedee and Salome who, some Church Fathers consider to be the sister of Mary, the mother of Jesus.  This, of course, would make James and his brother John cousins of Jesus.  Both James and John are reputed to have had fiery dispositions.  Jesus nicknamed them Sons of Thunder.

James was witness to the Transfiguration, and is recorded to have been the first of the twelve apostles martyred for his faith.  Herod had him beheaded in 44 ad.  It is said that his bones are presently housed in a reliquary in Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Some believe that James the Greater authored the Epistle of James in the Bible.  However there is disagreement about that. It s believed that the epistle was written by neither James the Greater, nor James of Alpheas (both Apostles).  It is thought to have been actually written by another James, James the Just, a close relative of Jesus, who was the first Bishop of Jerusalem.


John, the younger brother, also known as John the Evangelist, the Beloved Disciple, or John of Patmos, outlived all of the other apostles.  John was at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of Jesus.  You recall that Jesus asked John to take her into his care.  He, together with Peter, played a prominent part in the founding and guidance of the church in Judea.  Tradition states that he, Mary Magdaline, and Mary the mother of Jesus, lived in Ephesus until Mary, the mother of Jesus, died (or was assumed into heaven) in the year 54 AD. Some traditions say that Lazeras, whom Jesus raised from the dead, may also have been with them.  

St. Jerome recounts that John was then brought to Rome during the reign of the Emperor Domitian, and he was thrown into a vat of boiling oil from which he was miraculously preserved unharmed. It is said that the entire Colosseum audience was converted to Christianity upon witnessing this miracle.  The Romans, having failed to kill John, and not being of a mind to set off any more humiliating conversion events, decided to exile John to the Greek island of Patmos.  There he lived to a ripe old age and finally died a natural death in the year 100 ad.

The Fourth Gospel, three epistles, and the book of Revelations are attributed to John, though actual authorship  of some of these writings is disputed, and some of them may have been penned by scribes or disciples of John.  

5 & 6

Phillip was from Bethsadia, the, same town as Peter and Andrew.  He introduced Bartholomew, (sometimes known as Nathaniel), to Jesus.  He also became an apostle, to Jesus.  After Pentecost, Phillip and Bartholomew were sent out to preach the gospel in Greece, Phrygia and Syria.  Through his message and a miraculous healing Phillip converted the wife of the proconsul of the city of Hierapolis.  This enraged the proconsul, and in 80 ad he had both Phillip and Bartholomew tortured and then crucified upside down. From his cross, Phillip preached to a crowd of onlookers.  As a result, the crowd released Bartholomew.  They would have released Phillip too, but he insisted that they leave him where he was.  

In July of 2011, it was reported that archeologists had unearthed the Tomb of Saint Phillip during excavations in Hierapolis.

Bartholomew continued on to preach the gospel in Syria, India and also Armenia where he was ultimately martyred in a most gruesome way by being flayed alive and then crucified, head downward.


Before he was called into the circle of Apostles, Matthew or Levi,

 as he was sometimes called, was from Capernaum in Galilee, and he was a tax collector for Herod Antipas.  He was literate in both Greek and Hebrew, and the writing of the first gospel is attributed to him.  Church Fathers say that he preached the gospel to the Jewish community in Judea before going to other countries, but these writers were not agreed as to what those countries were.  However, tradition holds that Matthew was so bold as to rebuke an Ethiopian king who, in retaliation, ordered Matthew to be killed. Nothing is known about the date, but his martyrdom happened near Hierapolis.  Another tradition has him dying in Ethiopia.


There is much confusion about James the son of Alpheus otherwise known as James the Lesser.  He is one of three called the “brother of the Lord” in scripture along with Simon and Jude. The Catholic Encyclopedia suggest he may be the son of Mary of Clopas, who was a sister of Mary, mother of Jesus. So, he may have been a cousin of Jesus.  Others believe he may have been a brother of Matthew.  However, there is no definitive proof in either case.  Tradition maintains that he was crucified at Ostrakine in Lower Egypt where he was preaching the gospel.


There is also much confusion about the Apostle Jude or Thaddeus. Sometimes he is called Jude of James, or Jude the Zealot.  He is likely to have been a brother of James the son of Alpheus, Jude is also called the “brother of the Lord” in scripture.   

Tradition holds that Jude preached the gospel in Judea, Samaria, Armenia, Syria, Mesopotamia and Lybia.  

Jude suffered martyrdom about 65 ad in Syria, along with the apostle Simon with whom he is usually associated.  He was clubbed to insensibility and then killed with an axe.  Another tradition says that he lived to the age of 80 in Armenia where he was crucified on a cross and pierced with arrows.  His remains are located in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Another tradition that some of his remains may be located in an Armenian monastery in Kyrgyzstan.  Then in the 15th century, his bones were removed to a yet more desolate stronghold in the Pamir Mountains.

Jude is known as the patron saint of lost causes. The Epistle of Jude in the new testament is attributed to the apostle, but again, the authorship disputed.   


Simon the Zealot is also mysterious.  He also may have been one of the three called “brother of the Lord”.  An Eastern Orthodox Church tradition holds that it was Simon’s wedding that Christ and his disciples attended in Cana of Galilee where Jesus turned water to wine. It is possible that he was the second bishop of Jerusalem after James the Just. Also he may have preached in Mauretania, Africa.  There are a number of stories concerning Simon’s martyrdom.  The one most told has him at Suanir, Persia, where he was sawn in half.


Tradition says that Thomas preached the gospel from the Caspian Sea to the Persian Gulf. 

At the dispersion of the ministries for the apostles, India fell to the lot of Thomas. Thomas declined saying that he was unable to go to India.  As the story goes, Jesus himself then appeared to Abban, the envoy of Gundafor, an Indian King.  Jesus arranged the sale of Thomas as a slave to Abban for the purpose of serving Gundafor as his carpenter.  Abban and Thomas then sailed to the west coast of India. More strange occurrences followed.  St. Thomas undertook to build a palace for Gundafor, but was imprisoned after spending the money entrusted to him for the palace on the poor.  He escaped, and resumed preaching the gospel.  But Thomas got in trouble with the king again, was condemned to death, and was led out of the city to a hill where he was martyred by being pierced with spears.  He was buried in a tomb there, but eventually his remains were returned to the West, namely to Edessa in Syria, where a church was built to house his relics.

I have not included Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, in this list.  Nor have I included Mary Magdeline, considered by many today to have been an apostle.  Also missing is Matthias, who the apostles brought into their circle to complete their number after Judas committed suicide, and I have left out Paul because he was not among the original apostles called by Jesus.

To conclude, the last two words in the Gospel reading today were said by Jesus to the apostle Peter.  He said, “Follow me.”  Peter did, ...as did they all...  

by Marcia Lee