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The Apostles: St. Matthew

posted Oct 27, 2018, 9:48 AM by Allen Bergstrazer

The Apostles

St. Matthew



Name:  Matthew is a Hebrew name which means ‘Gift of God.”  He is also known as “Levi, son of Alpheus” (Mark 2:14 and Luke 5:27).


Who was he? 

    Among the early followers and apostles of Jesus, Matthew is mentioned in

Mt 9:9 and Mt 10:3 as a former tax collector from Capernaum who was called into the circle of the Twelve by Jesus. He is also named among the number of the Twelve in Mk 3:18, Lk 6:15 and Acts 1:13, but without identification of his background.  According to the New Testament he was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension.  Because he is a son of Alpheus he is a brother to another apostle, James the less.

    Matthew was a Galilean.  During the Roman occupation (which began in 63 BC with the conquest of Pompey), Matthew collected taxes from the Hebrew people for Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee. His tax office was located in Capernaum.  The common practice was to gather more than the government asked for, and keep the excess for themselves. Jews who became rich in such a fashion were despised and considered outcasts, counted among thieves and other sinners. However, as a tax collector he would have been literate in Aramaic and Greek.

     It was in this setting, near what is modern day Almagor, that Jesus called Matthew to be one of the Twelve Disciples. After his call, Matthew invited Jesus home for a feast (Luke 5:29-32). On seeing this, the Scribes and the Pharisees criticized Jesus for eating with tax collectors and sinners. This prompted Jesus to answer, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) This narrative tells us that in all likelihood none of the twelve were as notorious a sinner as Matthew.  Matthew invited the undesirable people no doubt because those were the only kind of people he knew or was allowed to associate with. Because of his occupation he was cut off from his own people and God. Because he was forbidden from the synagogue and the Temple he was worse off than a Gentile.  We often forget that when the Pharisees and other religious rulers confronted Jesus or his disciples, they would have known who Matthew was, and what he had done this would have surely been a factor in their opinion of Jesus’ choices for students. 

    Once Matthew left his work as a tax collector he would not have been able to go back.  Why did he follow Jesus?  Whatever Matthew’s tortured soul may have experienced deep down he was a Jew who knew and loved the Old Testament. He was spiritually hungry and had no way of being fed.  We know that he knew his Old Testament well because he quotes the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms 99 times in his gospel, more than Mark, Luke and John combined.


His discipleship under Jesus.

     When Matthew is mentioned in the New Testament, he is sometimes found paired with Thomas. The New Testament records that as a disciple; he followed Jesus, and was one of the witnesses of the Resurrection and the Ascension. Afterwards, the disciples withdrew to an upper room (Acts 1:10-14) (traditionally the Cenacle) in Jerusalem praying with Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren (Acts 1:10 and 1:14). The disciples remained in and about Jerusalem and proclaimed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.


After Pentecost:

     God used Matthew to provide His Church with one of the four Gospels, often called ‘the chief Gospel.’  Matthew’s Gospel portrays Christ as the new and greater Moses, fulfilling the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). In Matthew’s Gospel, we are given the account of the visit of the Magi, the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, the beloved text of the Our Father used throughout English speaking Christendom, and the most explicit reference to the Holy Trinity in the narrative by which our Lord commissions and institutes the Gospel ministry of the Church (Matthew 28:16-20).  It is thought that Matthew’s Gospel was written to Jewish converts to Christianity, telling them of how Christ fulfilled all of the Old Testament prophesies of the Messiah.  Matthew wrote about Jesus’ Incarnation and his Gospel makes clear that Jesus was true God and true man. Anyone who reads Matthew’s Gospel knows that money was no longer important to him. What was important was believing in and living as a follower of Christ. Matthew helps us to remember that it is our faith in Jesus that makes us truly rich!

     Although the first of the Synoptic Gospels is technically anonymous, traditionally has been held to be written by Matthew.  As previously mentioned, a government official in Capernaum, in "Galilee of the Gentiles" a tax-collector would probably have been literate in both Greek and Aramaic.  Greek was the language used in the market-place.   Some early church fathers recorded that Matthew originally wrote in Hebrew, but still regarded the Greek text as canonical. Of Matthew's subsequent career we have only inaccurate or legendary data.


Lore/Church Tradition:

     Later Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Clement of Alexandria claim that Matthew, for 15 years, preached the Gospel in Hebrew to the Jewish community in Judea, before going to other countries. Ancient writers are not agreed as to what these other countries are.  Eusebius maintains that, before going into other countries, he gave them his Gospel in the mother tongue of Hebrew this cannot be substantiated, and some say this means it was in Aramaic however all of the earliest extant texts are in Greek. Almost all ancient mention Ethiopia to the south of the Caspian Sea (not Ethiopia in Africa), as a country evangelized by Matthew.  Some list Persia and the kingdom of the Parthians, Macedonia, and Syria.  The Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church each hold the tradition that Matthew died as a martyr.  It is said he was crucified on a tau cross (shaped like a T) and beheaded in Ethiopia.  His believed to be buried next door to the Cathedral in Salerno Italy. 

    St. Matthew's day is celebrated on 21 September in the Western church and 16 November in the Eastern. He is also commemorated by the Orthodox, together with the other Apostles, on 30 June (13 July)- the Synaxis of the Holy Apostles. His relics are said to be preserved in the Salerno Cathedral in Italy.  Like the other evangelists, Matthew is often depicted in Christian art with one of the four living creatures of Revelation 4:7. The one that accompanies him is in the form of a winged man.

    Various writings that are now considered apocryphal have been attributed to St. Matthew. In the "Evangelia apocrypha" (Leipzig, 1876), Tischendorf reproduced a Latin document entitled: "De Ortu beatæ Mariæ et infantia Salvatoris", supposedly written in Hebrew by St. Matthew the Evangelist, and translated into Latin by Jerome, the priest. It is an abridged adaptation of the "Protoevangelium" of St. James, which was a Greek apocryphal of the second century. This pseudo-Matthew dates from the middle or the end of the sixth century.

   The Quran does not mention the disciples, but Muslim exegesis and Qur'an commentary, however does name them and includes Matthew amongst the disciples. Muslim exegesis preserves the tradition that Matthew and Andrew, went to Ethiopia to preach the message of God.



  1. Notice the shield of St. Matthew at the beginning of this lesson, and read Matthew 25:14-30.  Given Matthew’s previous occupation, what do you think the impact of the parable of the Talents had on him?  If you had your own shield, how would what God has given you be represented?  How would what God has forgiven and taken from you be represented?


  1. Read Matthew 5:1-12.  Consider what these words of Christ might have meant to the man who had gained his wealth by cheating his neighbors. Which of the eight beatitudes might have applied most to Matthew? 


  1. In what way was Matthew ideally suited to be the disciple who brought the good news to the Jews, and to write a Gospel specifically for the Jewish hearer? 



Prayer: O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen



Sent Away: Introduction to the Apostles

posted Oct 18, 2018, 8:06 AM by Allen Bergstrazer

Sent away;











                                                                                  let go




                                                                                                                      sent away


Our English synonyms don’t always help us in understanding one single word;



1.   Apostles:   ἀπόστολος (apóstolos), meaning "one who is sent away", from στέλλω ("stello", "send") + από (apo, "away from")


2.   In English an Apostle is an emissary, someone whose duty is to convey messages. in the case of the Christian apostles, the message they were sent away to convey was the message of the "good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ", and they were sent away by Jesus to the Jews in Matthew 10:1 - 7

“Who is sent and why?”



3.   The 12 Disciples: 

a.  The original apostles are listed four times in Mark 3:16-19, Matthew 10:2-4, Luke 6:14-16 and Acts 1:13 (where Matthias is appointed as a replacement for Judas). 

b.  What do you notice about their occupations?

c.  What do we notice about their names? 


4.  Training of the twelve:  The Lord knew that his mission  must be entrusted to the hands of those who would carry on after he had ascended. For that reason he devoted a great deal of time and attention to the training of the disciples. 


a.  How did Jesus teach in public?


b.  How did Jesus teach in private?

Matthew 13:10-13, 36.  Mark 4:10-20, 34. Luke 8:9-15.  Mark 16:21.Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34; 14:62. Luke 9:21-22, 26. Also John 5:24-30, John 13:13


c.  What title is used of Jesus more than any other? 

Matthew 8:19, 12:38, 17:24. Mark 4:38, 12:14, 19, 32. Luke 7:40, 10:25. John 3:2


5. The qualifications of the twelve:

a.  Acts 1:12-22

b.  John 19:20

c. Acts 2:24, & 32, 4:10, 5:30-32, 13:3

6.  The authority of the Apostles:

a.  What had they seen?

b.  Who had chosen them? (Luke 6:12-13, John 13:18, 15:16, 19. Acts 1:2, 10:41)

c.  What gifts did they have?  (Acts 1:8)

7.  Next week; Simon Peter, the man with the foot shaped mouth.

In our study we will consider the apostles as individuals, and what that means for us.  We will find that there is quite a bit known about a few of the disciples, and not so much about others. There are things that we can know about them and the early church that are found in other historical sources, and some things fall simply under the category of ‘lore.’ That is, stories that were handed down through the millennia that cannot be corroborated but do not detract from what do know about them as written in the New Testament.

The Apostles, St. Matthias

posted Oct 18, 2018, 7:51 AM by Allen Bergstrazer   [ updated Oct 18, 2018, 7:58 AM ]

The Apostles,
St. Matthias



Name:   Matthias is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew

name Matthew which means “Gift from Yahweh.”


Who was he?  

     According to the Acts of the Apostles, Matthias was the apostle

 chosen by the remaining eleven apostles to replace Judas Iscariot following

 Judas' betrayal of Jesus and suicide.  His calling as an apostle is unique in that his appointment was not made personally by Jesus, who had already ascended to heaven, and, it was made before the descending of the Holy Spirit upon the early Church.

   There is no mention of a Matthias among the lists of disciples or followers of Jesus in the three synoptic gospels. According to Acts chapter 1, in the days following the Ascension of Jesus, the assembled disciples, who numbered about one hundred and twenty, nominated two men to replace Judas: Joseph called Barsabbas (also known as Justus) and Matthias. Then they prayed, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which of these two you have chosen to take over this apostolic ministry, which Judas left to go where he belongs." Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:23-26)

    It is apparent from Acts that Matthias, though not mentioned prior to his calling to replace Judas was indeed one of the men who had witnessed the teachings of Jesus ‘from the time he was baptized by John.” (Acts 1:22)  Historian Eusebius thought that Matthias was one of the seventy sent out by Jesus (Luke 10:1).  This is entirely possible, and in this role he would have had opportunity to show qualities of leadership which impressed the eleven. 

   Matthias had apparently accompanied the twelve apostles on numerous occasions and very possibly may have been at first a disciple of John the Baptist like John and Andrew.  Since he was elected immediately after the ascension of Jesus he was therefore in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost and had an early and prominent part in the early days of Christianity’s expansion.  As a Jew he would have gone from Jerusalem to minister to the far flung diaspora of Israel.  There were colonies of Jews and other Hebrews to be found in practically every population center throughout the Middle East. 


 His discipleship after Pentecost:

     No further information about Matthias is to be found in the canonical New Testament.


Church tradition/Lore:

     Matthias is mentioned quite a lot in historical books about early Christianity.  Unfortunately there is also a great deal of confusion as well-even over his name.  The Syriac version of Eusebius does not call him Matthias but "Tolmai", not to be confused with Bartholomew (which means Son of Tolmai) who was originally one of the twelve Apostles.  Clement of Alexandria says some identified him with Zacchaeus; which is impossible as Zacchaeus was never a disciple in the sense that the others were.  The Clementine Recognitions identify him with Barnabas.  Hilgenfeld thinks he is the same as Nathanael in the Gospel of John.

    According to Nicephorus (Historia eccl., 2, 40), Matthias first preached the Gospel in Judea, then in what was called ‘Ethiopia’ but that name was a synonym for the region of Colchis, which is in modern-day Georgia.  In Biblical times there was probably two regions called Ethiopia, the one in Africa that we know today, and the other not identifiable today which seems to have been one of the provinces of Mesopotamia or Armenia.   He is believed to have been crucified in Colchis. A marker placed in the ruins of the Roman fortress at Gonio (Apsaros) in the modern Georgian region of Adjara claims that Matthias is buried at that site. An extant CopticActs of Andrew and Matthias,” places his activity similarly in "the city of the cannibals" in Ethiopia.   

    Matthias is one of the five apostles credited by Armenian tradition with evangelizing Armenia.  These five were Thaddeus, Bartholomew, Simon the Cananaean, Andrew and Matthias.  One can imagine Matthias returning to Jerusalem a battered witness of dangerous missionary experience. But upon his return he found a greater antagonism toward Christianity among the Jews than when he first had left-the antagonism proved to be fatal.   Most traditions hold that he was stoned to death by a crowd of hostile Jews around A.D. 51, which would probably make him the second of the twelve to die. Alternatively, another tradition maintains that Matthias was stoned at Jerusalem by the Jews, and then beheaded, this tradition is shown in the shield of St. Matthias which depicts an open Bible with a double bladed battle axe over it. 

    It is claimed that St Matthias the Apostle's remains are interred in the abbey of St. Matthias, Trier, Germany,  and were brought there through Empress Helena of Constantinople, the mother of Emperor Constantine I (the Great).

    The feast of Saint Matthias was included in the Roman calendar in the 11th century and celebrated on February 24.  Owing to the reform of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969, his feast was transferred to May 14, so as not to celebrate it in Lent but instead in Eastertide close to the Solemnity of the Ascension, the event after which the Acts of the Apostles recounts that Matthias was selected to be ranked with the Twelve Apostles. The Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast on August 9. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod and The Lutheran Church–Canada, retains this feast day on February 24.



Question 1:  What was the one criterion that Peter had for selecting a replacement for Judas and can that still be applied today in our consideration of leaders in the church? 


Question 2:  Why do you think the one particular criterion for a replacement of Judas mattered?


Question 3: Read Revelation 21:14.  Though Matthias was chosen to be an apostle after the Lord’s ascension, his name will be honored with the others.  In what way is he like latter day Christians?    


Prayer:  Almighty God, You chose Your servant Matthias to be numbered among the Twelve.  Grant that Your Church, ever preserved from false teachers, may be taught and guided by faithful and true pastors; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.


Study on the Apostles: St. Jude

posted Aug 5, 2017, 6:06 AM by Web Admin   [ updated Oct 18, 2018, 8:07 AM by Allen Bergstrazer ]


The Apostles

St. Jude

Name: The last name on the list of faithful disciples is “Judas the son of

James.” The name Judas in itself is a fine Hebrew name that means “Yahweh

leads.” But because of the treachery of Judas Iscariot the name Judas will forever have a negative connotation. And so the English form of the name Judas, “Jude’ is used in order to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot. is in In Matthew 10:3 he is listed as Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddeus.” Because of these three St. Jerome called him “Trinominus’ or the man with three names.” Judas was probably the name given him at birth. Lebbaeus and Thaddeus were probably nicknames.

Who was he?

There is some dispute as to whether Jude the Apostle is the same Jude who wrote the epistle of Jude. It is generally agreed that the Jude referred to in Jude 1 was the brother of James the half-brother of Jesus (see Mark 3:31 ).

Mark 3:13-19 The name Thaddeus means ‘breast child’ evoking the idea of a nursing baby. It almost has a derisive tone to it, like ‘mamma’s boy.’ Perhaps he was the youngest in his family and therefore the baby among the other siblings.

Matthew 10:3 (please use KJV) His other name Lebbaeus is similar to Thaddeus, it is from a Hebrew root that refers to the heart, and so other nickname means ‘heart child,’ or ‘man of heart.’

Both names suggest he had a tender childlike heart. It is interesting to think of a tender soul hanging around with Simon the Zealot or the ‘sons of thunder.’ But the Lord uses all kinds. Zealots make good preachers, and so do tender-hearted, compassionate gentle sweet spirited people as well. Together they make up a complex and intriguing group of disciples. Like the other three members of the third apostolic group, Jude is more or less shrouded in obscurity. But that obscurity should not could our respect for him.

His discipleship under Jesus.

John 14:21-22. The New Testament records one incident involving Jude. In St. John’s description of Jesus’ upper room discourse you see the heart of this apostle. He doesn’t say anything brash or overconfident. He doesn’t rebuke the Lord the way Simon Peter did. His question is full of gentleness and meekness and certainly devoid of pride. He couldn’t believe that Jesus would manifest Himself to this rag-tag group of eleven, and not to the whole world.

Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jude’s question reveals a pious believing disciple. This was a man who loved his Lord and who felt the power of salvation in his own life. He was full of hope for the world, and in his own tender hearted way wanted to know why Jesus wasn’t going to make himself known to everyone. He was obviously still hoping to see the kingdom come to earth. We certainly can’t fault him for that; that is how Jesus taught his disciples to pray (Luke 11:2)

John 14:23 Jesus gave Jude a marvelous answer, and the answer was as gentle as the question. Christ would manifest himself to anyone who loves Him. Jude however was still thinking of the material and political realm; Jesus’ answer meant that he wasn’t going to take over the world externally but one heart at a time.

What we know after Pentecost.

There is no Biblical account of St. Jude after Pentecost.

Lore/Church tradition.

Legend has Jude working in Syria, Arabia, Mesopotamia and Persia. Most of the early tradition regarding St. Jude suggests that a few years after Pentecost he took the gospel north to Edessa, a Royal City in Mesopotamia, in the region of modern day Turkey. There are numerous accounts of how he miraculously healed the Prince of Osorene (a tiny kingdom between the Tigris and Euphrates River) a man named Abgar the Black. In the 4th century Eusebius the historian said that the archives at Edessa (now destroyed) contained the full account of Jude’s healing and visit of Abgar. If there is a grain of truth to the Abgar legend Jude became one of the first apostles to witness directly to a Gentile King.

St. Jude is also associated with the Armenian Church as one of five apostles who visited Armenia and evangelized there. Armenia became one of the first Christian nations in the world. Christianity was officially proclaimed there in 301 AD as the national religion.

We have a mixture of traditions about the death and burial places associate with Jude. Assyrian church leaders state that the tomb of Jude is was in a small village called Kara Kelisa near the Caspian Sea about 40 miles from Tabriz. This is in Iran, and could likely be the site of the original tomb of St. Jude even though it is likely that to keep the relics safe from the invasion of Genghis Khan, there were moved westward and scattered from Rome to Spain. The tremendous tomb which is built for those relics in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome attests to the firm belief among Catholic authorities that some of the genuine relics of Jude are indeed to be found there today.

According to the “Apostolic History of Abdas,” Simon and Jude were opposed in their ministry by Zaroes and Arfaxat, the same to warlocks who had been forced to leave Mesopotamia by the preaching of Matthew. Despite the fierce opposition these men encountered some sixty thousand people converted to Christianity in and around the city of Babylon before Simon and Jude moved on to the city of Suanir. It was in Suanir that the sorcerers who dogged the apostles’ footsteps persuaded local rulers to force Simon and Jude to sacrifice to the local deities. Just as the demonic presence allegedly fled the temple when exorcised by Bartholomew, two black figures were seen fleeing the Persian temple howling furiously on account of the exorcism of Simon and Jude. This enraged the sorcerers further. They stirred up a mob which converged on the two elderly men. Jude turned to Simon and said ‘I see that the Lord is calling us.” The crowd pelted them with stones; Jude was run through with a spear. Simon was seized and sawn into pieces.

The feast of St. Jude is October 28th. The theme is ‘The Apostles as foundation stones of our faith.’ He is the Patron of Hopeless causes and hospitals. The shield of St. Jude depicts a small sailing ship symbolizing his missionary journeys. This tender hearted soul followed his Lord faithfully to the end. His testimony was as powerful and as far-reaching as that of the better-known and more outspoken disciples. He, like them is proof of how God uses perfectly ordinary people in remarkable ways.

Question 1: Gentleness is a fine attribute for a person to have. It’s needed in many aspects of life, caring for children-or anyone for that matter. It’s also an attribute that invites mistreatment, as gentleness is also mistaken for weakness, or passivity. How do we as Christians keep a tender heart in a sin darkened world?

Question 2: Jude’s question of Jesus in John 14 is prescient. Will the Lord manifest himself today in our community, and how will he do it?

Prayer: Almighty God, You chose Your servants Simon and Jude to be numbered among the glorious company of the apostles. As they were faithful and zealous in their mission, so may we with ardent devotion make known the love and mercy of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, one God now and forever. Amen.

Summer Bible Study on the Apostles: St. James son of Zebedee

posted Aug 5, 2017, 6:01 AM by Web Admin   [ updated Aug 5, 2017, 6:01 AM ]

The Apostles

James, son of Zebedee; aka “James the greater”

Name: The English name "James" comes from Italian "Giacomo", a variant of "Giacobo" derived from Iacobus (Jacob) in Latin, itself from the Greek Ἰάκωβος. Jacob was a common name among the men of his day. There are four men named James in the NT. All four are closely associated with Jesus. The first a younger son of Joseph and Mary, became an important leader in the early church, two are apostles, and the fourth the father of an apostle. He is often called “James the greater” or “James the great” to distinguish him from James the son of Alphaeus (James the less).

Who was he?

Luke 5:10 Mark 1:20 .

James was the eldest son of an apparently influential man named Zebedee, whose hometown was likely Capernaum, on the Sea of Galilee. It is known that James and his brother John were partners with Simon Peter in a fishing business. Typical of the era and culture it was a multigenerational business that was large enough to have hired men.

Luke 6:12-14. It was from fishing that Jesus called James to be his disciple. Later after praying all night Christ chose James to be numbered among his twelve apostles

Mark 3:17. In the list of the apostles in Mark 3 a nickname that Jesus gave to James and John is explained. They were called “boanerges” which means ‘sons of thunder.’

Luke 9:54. The nickname ‘sons of thunder’ is reflected in how James and John wanted to call down fire from heaven on a Samaritan village.

John 18:15-16 It is apparent that Zebedee’s family had enough status that John was ‘known to the high priest’

The character of James.

Matt 20:20-24 Along with being hot heads James and John were also ambitious and overconfident. Matthew recounts how they enlisted their mother to speak for them to ask for a high position. James wanted a crown of glory. James never appears as a solitary character in the gospels but is always paired with his younger brother John. He is an intense man who is zealous for the Lord, but this zeal is at times mixed with anger. Zeal is a virtue when it is for righteousness sake. Zeal divorced from knowledge is damning, zeal without wisdom is dangerous, zeal without sensitivity can be cruel.

James as a disciple under Jesus.

Mark 5:37 He is one of only three who are allowed to see the resurrection of Jairus’ daughter.

Matthew 17:1 He is one of three disciples to witness the Transfiguration.

Mark 13:3 He was one of four disciples who questions Jesus on the Mt. of Olives.

Mark 14:33 He is one of the disciples the Lord urged to ‘watch and pray.’

James saw Jesus’ power to raise the dead. He saw the Lord’s glory in the transfiguration. He saw Jesus’ sovereignty when He prophesied the future. And He saw Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Is there a place in the church for men and women like James?

James is quite a contrast to disciples like Andrew who were quietly bringing people to Jesus, while he wanted to call down God’s wrath. Despite all of his seeming flaws we must remember that he was also one of the Lord’s closest friends. James’ temperament is like that of Elijah, and indeed it is Elijah whom James is modeling himself after when he and his brother ask to punish the Samaritans. Unlike Elijah the motives of the sons of Zebedee are misguided.

James is ambitious but God tempers his ambition and turns it to himself.

After the disciples are sent.

Acts 12:1-2 James is the first of the apostles to die. The final mention of James in the New Testament is in regard to his death at the hands of King Herod Agrippa in AD 44. The only place James is mentioned alone is in his execution His is the only death of an apostle recorded in the Bible.

James wanted a crown of glory, Jesus gave him a cup of suffering. He wanted power, Jesus gave him servanthood. He wanted prominence and Jesus gave him a martyr’s grave. He wanted to rule but the sword would be the means of his execution. In his death he is still a man of passion, now under the Holy Spirit’s control. Ultimately his passions were tempered by love and grace, he learned to control his temper bridle his tongue and redirect his zeal, eliminate his thirst for revenge and completely lose his selfish ambition.

Lore/Church tradition.

Clement of Alexandria tells us that when the one who led James to the judgment seat heard his testimony and the manner James bore himself, he was moved to confess himself also as a Christian. They were both led away together and on the way he begged James to forgive him. James thought for a time, and then said ‘Peace be with thee,’ and kissed him. They were both beheaded at the same time.

Tradition has it that St. James preached the gospel to the Celts in the Iberian Peninsula (modern day Spain, Portugal and Andorra). According to ancient local tradition, on 2 January AD 40, the Virgin Mary appeared to James on the bank of the Ebro River at Caesaraugusta, while he was preaching the Gospel in Iberia. She appeared upon a pillar, Nuestra Señora del Pilar, and that pillar is conserved and venerated within the present Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza, Spain. Following that apparition, James allegedly returned to Jerusalem where he was martyred. However it is likely most of his evangelistic and apostolic efforts were in the region around Jerusalem. The connection to Spain is due to some of his relics ending up there.

His head allegedly is buried in the Cathedral of St. James in Jerusalem. It is also reputed that St. James is buried in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain. St. James the greater is the patron of laborers, Pharmacists, Pilgrims and rheumatism sufferers.

The feast of St. James the Elder is July 25th, the theme of the feast is ‘sharing Christ’s sufferings.’ His shield depicts three scalloped shells (or "cockle shell"), which symbolize the considerable amount of travelling he accomplished. There is a lesser used symbol/shield which has a scalloped shell and a sword. Pilgrims to his shrine often wore that symbol on their hats or clothes. The French for a scallop is coquille St. Jacques, which means "cockle of St James". The German word for a scallop is Jakobsmuschel, which means "mussel (or clam) of St. James"; the Dutch word is Jacobsschelp, meaning "shell of St James".

False teachings: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches that James has been resurrected and that in 1829 he—along with the resurrected Peter and the translated John—visited Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery and restored the priesthood authority with Apostolic succession to earth.

Prayer: O gracious God, Your servant and apostle James was the first among the Twelve to suffer martyrdom for the name of Jesus Christ. Pour out upon the leaders of Your Church that spirit of self-denying service that they may forsake all false and passing allurements and follow Christ alone, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Summer Bible Study on the Apostles: St. Bartholomew

posted Aug 5, 2017, 5:52 AM by Web Admin


The Apostles

St. Nathaniel/Bartholomew

1. Name: Bartholomew is an Aramaic name which means “son of Tolmai.” Tolmai, or more accurately in Hebrew “Telem,” which means ‘furrow.’ Nathaniel is listed as Bartholomew in all four lists of the twelve. In John he is always called Nathaniel, which means “God has given.” So he is Nathaniel son of Tolmai, or Nathaniel Bar-Tolmai.

2. Who was he?

a. John 21:2,

b. John 1:44-51 Who is his closest friend?

3. What does Nathaniel know? John 1:45ff

a. About the prophets? (Micah 5:2)

b. About the Messiah? Obviously, the truth of scriptures was something that mattered to Nathaniel.

c. What does vs. 46 gives another insight into his character.

d. How does Philip deal with Nathaniel’s ‘question?”

e. What is the most important aspect of Nathaniel’s character? Vs. 47

3. Discipleship under Jesus.

a. Contrast John 1:50-51 to Genesis 28:12.

b. Unfortunately there is little else about Nathaniel found in Scripture during the 3 year ministry of Jesus or after Pentecost.

4. Lore/Church tradition.

a. A later apocryphal gospel is wrongly attributed to him. Later Church tradition describes his missionary activities in Egypt, Persia, India, and Armenia where he was reportedly martyred by being flayed alive. Hence he is considered the patron saint of tanners, (or plasterer’s depending on the region). There is no reliable record of how he died. One tradition says he was tired up in a sack and thrown into the sea. Another tradition says he was crucified. By all accounts he died a martyr’s death.

b. What we do know is that Nathaniel was faithful to the end because he was faithful from the start. Everything he experienced with Christ and whatever he experienced after the birth of the New Testament church ultimately only made his faith stronger. And Nathaniel, like the other apostles, stands as proof that God can take the most common people from the most insignificant places and use them to His glory.

c. The feast of St. Bartholomew is celebrated on August 24th the theme of the day is loyal faith. The shield of St. Bartholomew shows a single knife to portray the horrible way in which he died.

Prayer: Almighty God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, chose Bartholomew to be an apostle to preach the blessed Gospel. Grant that Your Church may love what he believed and preach what he taught; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit one God, now and forever. Amen.

Summer Bible Study on the Apostles: St. James son of Alphaeus

posted Aug 5, 2017, 5:24 AM by Web Admin   [ updated Aug 5, 2017, 6:19 AM ]

The Apostles

James the son of Alphaeus aka "St. James the less”

Name: The English name "James" comes from Italian "Giacomo", a variant of "Giacobo" derived from Iacobus in Latin, which was itself derived from the Greek name Ἰάκωβος (Jacob). Jacob was a common Hebrew name among the men of his day, which means ‘heel gripper’ (Genesis 25:26). There are four men named James in the NT. All four are closely associated with Jesus. The first a younger son of Joseph and Mary, became an important leader in the early church, two are apostles, and the fourth the father of an apostle. He is often called “James the less” to distinguish him from James the son of Zebedee (James the greater).

Who was he?

Matthew 1:3, Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, and Acts 1:13

James appears in each of the four New Testament lists of the twelve.

In Matthew he is paired with Thaddeus.

Mark 15:40 and John 19:25; In Mark’s Gospel he is referred to as “James the less,” which could refer to his size, or height, but more likely means he is younger than the other apostle with the same name. This passage also calls James’ mother Mary. The parallel text in John can be interpreted as identifying the mother of James as the sister of Mary the Mother of our Lord. If that interpretation is correct then James the son of Alphaeus would have been one of Jesus’ cousins.

Mark 2:14 We know that James had a brother named Joses. This text from Mark reveals that Levi, or Matthew was ‘son of Alphaeus,’ makes it likely he and James were brothers or at the least two different men bore the surname of Alphaeus. We may also conclude that because Matthew was also called Levi, that his family was of that tribe, James the less was also a Levite.

His discipleship under Jesus:

Nothing is known with certainty about James the less. He is mentioned only in the lists of the Apostles. It may well be that James was simply not very influential. Perhaps he was a quiet person who stayed mostly in the background. We might say his most distinguishing mark is his obscurity. But that in itself is a significant fact. Apparently he sought no recognition as did James and John. He displayed no great leadership nor aspired to it as did Simon Peter. He asked no crucial questions at an important juncture. He demonstrated no unusual insight. Only his name remains, while his life and labors are unknown.

Hebrews 11:33-38. Yet James the less was one of the twelve. The Lord selected him for a reason, trained and empowered him like the others, and sent him out as a witness. He is rather reminiscent of those unnamed people in the book of Hebrews whose names and the testimonies the world barely remembers and knows nothing about but are eternally ensconced in heaven.

In any case, we can be certain that he became a powerful preacher like the others. He surely performed ‘the signs of an apostle… in signs and wonders and mighty deeds’ (2Corinthians 12:12). And his name will be inscribed on one of the gates of the heavenly city. (Revelation 21:14)

The stories for some of the disciples do seem inadequate at best. It should be pointed out that all of the disciples more or less disappear from the biblical narrative within a few years after Pentecost. In no case does Scripture give us a full biography. This is because Scripture’s purpose is to keep the focus on the power of Christ and the power of the Word, not the men who were instruments of that power. These men were sent out to obey the Lord’s commission, inspired by the Spirit they preached the Word. That is all we really need to know, the vessel is not the issue, the Master is. No one epitomizes this better than James the Less.

Lore/Church tradition:

Church tradition has unfortunately confused St. James the Less with James the brother of our Lord, the first bishop of Jerusalem, and so he is sometimes called “James the just.” Church tradition also erroneously attributes the Epistle of James to James the less.

A modern writer named A.S. Atiya in his book “History of Eastern Christianity,” affirms certain old traditions that James the less was the first Bishop of Syria. This probably would have placed him at Antioch. However other histories of Christianity state that the first bishop of Antioch was Euodius, who was ordained by St. Peter.

According to tradition, at the ripe age of 96, James was thrown from the topmost portion of the Temple and his mangled body sawn in two. However this is the same story that is told of James the Righteous the first Bishop of Jerusalem, the half-brother of Jesus. Other traditions state that James remained in Jerusalem and was stoned to death by a mob of angry Jews and buried in Jerusalem (this is probably the better conclusion). Allegedly James’ remains were re-interred in Constantinople in 332 AD at the church of the Holy Apostles. In 572 AD his remains were again exhumed and re interred in Rome by Pope John III at the Church of the apostles St. Philip and St. James the less which was later re-named the church of the Holy Apostles.

The feast of St. James the less is May 1st and is in conjunction with the Feast of St. Philip. Often James is depicted with a palm branch or a fuller’s staff. The theme of the day is witnessing to the risen Christ. The day recalls the founding of the church in the honor of Philip and James under Pope John III. In northern Europe, May Eve or Walpurgisnacht (St. Walpurga’s night) is a night for witches to meet on Broken Mountain and wait for the arrival of spring. Apparently the church elevated the feast of Philip and James on that same day to counter the appeal of the pagan festival even though St. Walpurga is a canonized saint.

The shield of St. James the Less depicts a saw, which was allegedly the means by which he was martyred. As previously stated, his life is often confused with that of James the Bishop of Jerusalem who was indeed martyred by being thrown from the roof of the Temple beaten by fullers and sawn in two. Even in death James’ life is obscured.

Question 1: Does it, or would it trouble you to know that the many things you do in your Christian vocation, in service to the church, to your neighbor, etc. will never be known or acknowledged by anyone? Though we know the right answer is ‘of course not,’ the reality is often quite different. Working in obscurity can be appealing to some, as the limelite does not appealing. Yet we as human beings and children of God need encouragement and recognition of our efforts or we become discouraged and wonder if there’s any point to what we’re doing. We begin to wonder ‘why?’

Question 2: In what way or circumstance can we see the life of James the less like that of Christs?

Question 3: It is customary to name Christian congregations after one of the Apostles. What if the namesake reflected the congregation’s personality? Is there a place and a ‘need’ if you will for a part of the bride of Christ to go through her entire existence as ‘St. Obscurity.’ Must the church be loud and popular because we live in a time that values loudness and popularity over service and humility?

Prayer: Almighty God, Your Son revealed Himself to Philip and James and gave them the knowledge of everlasting life. Grant us perfectly to know Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be the way the truth and the life, and steadfastly walk in the way that leads to eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God now and forever. Amen.

Important Church Update

posted Jun 3, 2017, 12:32 PM by Web Admin

Good Shepherd Lutheran church update:

May 27th 2017


  1. We have given notice to the Seventh Day Adventist Church that we will vacate at the end of July.  We are up to date on our payments to them.

  2. The Palms of Mt. Pleasant has us on their calendar to use their meeting room on Sundays starting August 6th, unless other arrangements have been made.

  3. The Franke at Seaside chapel is not available for our use on Sunday mornings or afternoons.

  4. Pastor has been in communication with the CCSD District 2 Facilities administrator.  We have asked to tour the  Mt. Pleasant Academy, Laing Middle school. Moultrie Middle school and Sullivan's Island Elementary to see if they have any rooms that would be suitable for worship and classes on a long term basis. Rental depends on the size of the room. Non- school organizations are expected to provide their own liability and property damage insurance, we are checking to see whether the church policy meets CCSD minimums. We also have to provide proof of 501c 3 status but that should not be a problem.

  5. We have not abandoned the possibility being in the West Ashley area, but as of yet most of the storefront locations are either too expensive, or are not feasible because of parking, location, or the facilities are not conducive to worship.

  6. Pastor and Carol are considering a change to their healthcare plan which would save the church money in monthly payments.  We will likely leave the Concordia plan for healthcare.

  7. We're in communication with Church Creek Presbyterian church on the use of the Charleston Christian School's chapel.  It wouldn't work for Sunday mornings but possibly Sunday afternoon or evening, and then we could have a Sunday morning service in Mt. Pleasant. 

New Bible Study Topic for September and October 2016 - “Promises, Promises, Promises”

posted Sep 20, 2016, 5:53 PM by Web Admin

On September 4th we began a brief Bible study entitled “Promises, Promises, Promises.”  In which we will spend the next 9 weeks, ending Lord willing, on Reformation Sunday. We will be considering the Prayers of St. Paul, each Sunday will be a different prayer or group of prayers from the Epistles.  We study the Lord’s Prayer so that we may understand what the content of our prayers ought to be, so too we consider the words of the Apostle, and his inspired words for the church. 

New adult Sunday School class

posted Sep 8, 2014, 1:20 PM by Web Admin

Our new pastor, the Rev. Allen Bergstrazer, is jumping in with both feet.
He began conducting an adult Bible class on the Divine Service on Sunday, Sept. 7.
The class is open ended but is expected to take 6 to 8 weeks. All are welcome to attend. You don't need extra materials. Bibles and hymnals will be provided.
This is a great opportunity for you to get to know Pastor Bergstrazer better and for him to get to know you better. Please join us for adult Bible study after church next Sunday.

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