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Top 10

February 5, 2017
Statue of St. Andrew by Camillo Rusconi (c. 1714), Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Author Marie-Lan Nguyen (PD, Art-100; CC-BY 2.5 Generic)

Statue of St. Andrew by Camillo Rusconi (c. 1714), Archbasilica of St. John Lateran, Author Marie-Lan Nguyen (PD, Art-100; CC-BY 2.5 Generic)

Google has made it easy to compile lists.  Go online, and you can find all kinds.  The top 10 horror flicks, the top 10 gadgets in history, the top 10 songs of all times, the top 10 cities for liberals (!), the top 10 government boondoggles.  The lists go on and on.

One list that comes in countless varieties is that of the top 10 people who changed the world.  A few of the names that frequently come up include Leonardo da Vinci, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, and Mother Teresa.  And fine names they are.

Christians though have a top 10 of their own – a baker’s dozen, in fact.  At the very top of our list, of course, would be Jesus Christ.  That goes without saying.

But there were only 12 apostles, at the outset (11 after Judas Iscariot committed suicide).  Apart from John, all were martyred including Judas’ substitute, Matthias, and the 13th apostle, Paul.  Many Christians today do not so much as remember their names.

As a refresher, there were three sets of brothers:

Simon Peter and Andrew – These two, we know, were fishermen.  Andrew introduced Peter to Jesus.  It was Peter who stepped out of the boat on the Sea of Galilee, when Christ walked on the water (Matt. 14: 27: 30).  It was to Peter that Jesus said, “…and upon this rock I will build My church…” (Matt. 16: 18) [1].  Peter betrayed Jesus three times before the crucifixion.  But it was Peter whom Jesus instructed, “Feed my lambs…Feed my sheep” (John 21: 15-17).

The sons of Zebedee, James and John, whom Jesus called the Sons of Thunder for the hot-tempered disposition they shared – John, known as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13: 23), was one of the Gospel writers.  James was the first of the apostles to be put to death; John the last to die, in old age.

The sons of Alphaeus, James and Matthew – James is referred to as “the Less” to distinguish him from James, the son of Zebedee.  Matthew was a tax collector, therefore, considered a collaborator with the Romans.  He, too, was a Gospel writer.

The “other” Simon held political views diametrically opposed to Matthew’s.  Simon, referred to as “the zealot” or “the Canaanite”, believed the Romans had to be overthrown by force.

That leaves the final four:

Philip, originally a follower of John the Baptist’s, was from the same town as Peter and Andrew.  Philip was present at the wedding in Cana, and the feeding of the 5000.  Tradition holds that he went on to preach in Syria, Greece, and part of what is now Turkey [3].

It was Philip who told the son of Tolmai, Nathanael about the Messiah [2].  The two are often mentioned together in Scripture.  Tradition holds that Nathanael later preached in India and elsewhere.

Thomas is frequently called “doubting Thomas” for his demand to examine for himself the wounds of the resurrected Christ.

Jude a/k/a Thaddeus is often confused with Judas Iscariot, the apostle who betrayed Christ. Jude is said to be the patron saint of lost causes.  Jude and Nathanael are thought to have brought Christianity to Armenia.

Jesus entrusted the Good News of Salvation (and conversion of the world) to this handful of men.  He knew what the outcome would be, but they did not.

Yet, for all their efforts and all their suffering, not a man among them would be annoyed to learn his name has been forgotten…so long as Christ’s has not.

Their reasoning can be summed up in the words of John the Baptist, ” ‘He must increase, but I must decrease‘ ” (John 3: 30).  This reasoning is as different from the world’s as Simon’s politics were from Matthew’s.

To Peter and Paul, Andrew, James, John and the rest, fame and accolades were meaningless.  Wealth was a tool to be used for the spread of the Gospel and the benefit of the needy.

For us to make Christ’s “top 10” (or get anywhere remotely in vicinity), He must increase.  We must decrease.

[1]  In Aramaic, the same word – “kipha” – is used both for Peter and for rock.  In Greek, the word for Peter is “petros” which means pebble or little stone.  Christian denominations differ on whether Peter was the rock on which Christ, the Rock of Ages, meant His church to be built.

[2]  Nathanael is, also, referred to as Bartholomew.  However, “Bartholomew” is actually a surname meaning son of Tomai or possibly ploughman.

[3]  The Apostle Philip is not to be confused with Philip the Evangelist, mentioned in the Book of Acts.


  1. Ron Whited permalink

    Wonderful post Anna,for you have identified the heart of the matter for us all: if He is to increase,we must decrease. The question then becomes whether or not that is indeed our hearts desire. More than once I’ve had to stop and remind myself that I am not in charge.

    Thank you for a great start to my Sunday!

  2. gadolelohai permalink

    great catch…i liked the concept 13th apostle…

  3. Nice, Anna, nice. Good top “ten” list for sure.

  4. John the Baptist also said that we need to remind ourselves of as well, “He who has the bride is the Bridegroom and the friend of the Bridegroom rejoices when he hears His voice.” Our calling as friends of Christ is to point all His saints to their Bridegroom and away from ourselves, just as John did.
    I rejoice when I hear His voice through you, Anna. ⭐

  5. An excellent post.

  6. I LOVE this, Anna. I’d be happy if people forgot my name, but said often, “there was a woman I crossed paths with, once–she talked about Jesus like she Really KNEW Him, as though He lived in a room in her home…” God bless you abundantly this week! ❤

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