Suggested Emphasis: Follow Jesus.
Memory Work: Name the 12 Original Apostles: Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, Bartholomew, James (the less), Simon, Thaddeus, Judas
Many people followed Jesus. These followers were called disciples. There were many disciples but Jesus chose twelve men to be His special followers. These men were granted special abilities and they were called Apostles.
After spending forty days in the wilderness after his baptism, Jesus returned to the area around the Jordan River. John the Baptist was still in the area preaching and many people had become his disciples, or pupils, of John. Disciples liked to spend lots of time with their teacher because they wanted to be like the teacher.
John the Baptist was not concerned about his own popularity. He wanted the people he taught to follow Jesus. John pointed Andrew and Peter to Jesus. They began to follow him but might have gone back to fishing for a while before it was time to begin travelling with Jesus.
Andrew and Simon were the first disciples called by Jesus. Andrew heard about Jesus first and then went to get his brother, Simon (John 1:40-41). They were fishermen. Simon was already known by the name “Peter” which was a Greek name. Jesus tells him that he will be known as “Cephas” which is the Aramaic translation of Peter and means “rock”. This will have more meaning later when Jesus uses Peter’s name to teach a lesson about the kingdom (Matthew 16:18). Peter is mentioned in the Gospels and Acts more than any other apostle. He preached the first Gospel Sermon (Acts 2) and wrote two New Testament books.
The disciples must have had very tender hearts to follow Jesus so quickly. They immediately left their careers (fishermen, tax collector, etc.) to travel with Jesus. It was not their education or talent that made them special – it was their commitment to Jesus.
All followers of Jesus who try to be like him are his disciples in the general sense (including you and me). In the early church, disciples were eventually called “Christians” (Acts 11:26). In the ministry of Jesus there were many disciples but twelve of them had a particular role. These were sometimes referred to as “The 12 Apostles”, “The Apostles”, or even “The Twelve”. The word “apostle” can also have a more general meaning of one sent on a mission. We are more familiar with the particular use as in today’s lesson.
Just before the crucifixion, Judas betrayed Jesus for thirty pieces of silver and then hung himself. He was replaced by Matthias in Acts 1:12-26. So Matthias then became one of the twelve. Later, Jesus came to Paul and named him as a special apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9 – especially verse 15).
The names of the apostles can be confusing. Some have the same name. There was Simon Peter (Cephas) and also Simon the Zealot. A Zealot was a member of a Jewish revolutionary group that was trying to overthrow the Roman government and free the Jews.
There was James the son of Alpheus (sometimes called “James the Less because he was younger than the other James). James, the son of Zebedee, was the brother of the Apostle John. They worked together in their father’s fishing business before following Jesus. They were known as the “sons of thunder” because of their tempers. John was one of Jesus’ closest friends. Later, when Jesus was dying on the cross, Jesus asked John to take care of Mary. John later wrote the Gospel of John, 1-3 John and Revelation.
Bartholomew’s other name was “Nathanael”. Thaddeus is called “Judas” in Luke 6:16 and he is sometimes referred to as “Judas not Iscariot”. Judas Iscariot was the one who later betrayed Jesus.
- What happened before this story?
- What happens after this story?
- List of all Bible stories and themes on this website.
Way to Introduce the Story:
Before class today write the names of the 12 Apostles on the chalk/white board or on a paper.
Play a game of “follow the leader” and lead the children around the church building or outside. Talk about what it means to lead and what it means to follow. “Who should be the leader in our lives? (Jesus) What does it mean to follow Jesus? (Do what He did. Act the way He did. Do what He wants because He is the leader.)
In our story today we are going to learn about some men who followed Jesus. Some of them used to be fishermen but they decided to leave their fishing and follow Jesus. Jesus told them that they would not be fishing for fish any more. They would be fishing for men. Jesus would make them fishers of men. Here are the names of the men who became fishers of men (show the children the names of the apostles).
How many of you can make “fish lips”? Today, as I tell the story I want you to make fish lips every time I say the name of one of the men on this list.”
While walking by the Sea of Galilee one day, Jesus saw two brothers who were fishermen casting their nets into the sea. He called to the brothers, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” That means you will not go fishing for fish any more. Fishers of men go fishing for men. You will teach people all about God. Peter and Andrew left their fishing immediately and followed Jesus.
Going on, they saw two other brothers, James and John, mending nets with their father, Zebedee. Jesus called them to follow Him also. They left their boat and their father and went with them. Now Jesus had four apostles – Peter, Andrew, James and John.
On His way to Galilee, Jesus found Philip and invited him to come along too. Philip was from Bethesda, the same town as Andrew and Peter.
Philip found his friend Nathanael and told him about Jesus. When Nathanael met Jesus he was very surprised. He had never met Jesus before but Jesus knew all about him. Because of this Nathanael knew that Jesus was the Son of God. He started following Jesus too. You might know Nathanael by his other name. His other name was Bartholomew.
Have you ever heard of Thomas? Thomas was another man who followed Jesus. He was a very good follower.
Jesus found Matthew, the tax collector in Capernaum, and went to his house to eat. Some people thought that Matthew could never be like Jesus because Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were often cheaters. But Jesus knew that Matthew had a good heart. Matthew started following Jesus too.
Now Jesus met another man named James. He was younger than the other apostle with the name of James so sometimes people called him “James the Less”.
Two other men who followed Jesus and became apostles were called Simon and Thaddeus.
The last of the original twelve apostles was called Judas Iscariot. Judas followed Jesus but we are going to find out later that Judas was not always a good friend to Jesus.
Now there were lots of people following Jesus. People liked to hear Jesus preach. Everything he said was right. They followed Jesus because they wanted to be like him.
The 12 Apostles followed Jesus wherever he went. They listened to him and tried to do what was right. Today we can follow Jesus by reading his words in the bible and by trying to do what is right.
Do you follow Jesus?
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
This slideshow and set of illustrations cannot be viewed here on this website but can be downloaded directly from http://www.freebibleimages.org/photos/lumo-jesus-disciples/
The photo is from www.LumoProject.com via www.freebibleimages.org
- What kind of fishermen did Jesus tell the apostles that they would be? Fishers of men.
- How many original apostles were there? 12
- Name the twelve apostles. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, Bartholomew, James the Less, Simon, Thaddeus, Judas.
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Sing: The Apostle Song (Jesus Called Them One by One) to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me” and The Books of the New Testament.
- To take the above song a step further, write the lyrics to The Apostle Song on a wipe board or piece of paper big enough for your class to see. As you go through the song, have the students identify the names of the apostles and circle them for them to see.
- Play “Apostle Bingo.” Make a bingo grid and put the names of the apostles (instead of numbers) in the squares. Play like normal bingo but use names instead of numbers.
- Play “Apostle Concentration.” Make up 12 matching pairs of cards (2 with Andrew written on them, 2 Peters, 2 Johns, etc.). Mix up the 24 cards and lay them face down on the table. Children take turns turning two cards over. If the two cards they turn over match, then they get a point for the matching pair – and also win an extra turn. Keep playing until all cards have been matched. The child who has won the most pairs wins.
- Write the apostles’ names on 12 separate cards. Hide the cards before class and let the children find them.
- Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
- Find other ideas on the Pinterest Board “Jesus- Birth & Early Ministry”
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring pages and worksheets about Jesus calling his first disciples from calvarycurriculum.com
- Colouring pages and worksheets about Jesus calling the apostles “fishers of men” from calvarycurriculum.com
- Visual aids and songs. This one is really good!from kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.nz
- Colouring pages (The Twelve Disciples)
- Chart: “Interesting Facts about the Apostles” from biblecharts.org
- Craft: Fishnet out of recycled mesh net for Fishers of Men from scrapreusedandrecycledartprojects.blogspot.co.nz
- Craft: Wreath about following Jesus from sundayschoolcrafts.net
- Craft: Illustrated instructions to make a paper boat can be found from kirstymcallister.blogspot.co.nz
- Craft: Video clip (2 minutes and 30 seconds) on how to make paper people chains from simplekidscrafts.com
- Craft: Patterns and instructions for a boat and people from sundayschoolkids.com
- Craft: Printable pattern form simple apostle finger puppets toddler-activities-at-home.com
- Craft: Cute fish mobile made from toilet paper or paper towel tubes from catholicicing.com
- Craft: “Teach a man to fish” craft from a handprint busybeekidscrafts.com
- Lesson plan and activities: Great visuals and fun egg carton activity that students could easily make on their own during class or in groups found from kidsbibledebjackson.blogspot.co.nz
- A good selection of both online and printable puzzles, activities and story words covering the apostles, Mary and Martha from gardenofpraise.com