Who were Jesus's followers?

Acts 1:12-26      After the death and resurrection of Jesus, his followers stay in Jerusalem until they are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. They meet together in the upper room (the guest room) "where they were staying" (Acts 1:12). The remaining eleven disciples pray together with some women followers and Jesus's close family. They choose Matthias to replace Judas as one of the 12 apostles (representing the 12 Tribes of Israel) (see Acts 1:21-26).


Who were Jesus’s followers?

Jesus had moved to Capernaum – the main fishing port on the Sea of Galilee – at the start of his teaching ministry (see Map 15, Matthew 4:12-13 & Mark 1:21 & 2:1). As Joseph, his earthly father, was a carpenter and builder based in Nazareth, Jesus had trained as a wood-worker, making household utensils, tables and chairs (see Mark 6:3).

When he moved to Capernaum, Jesus may have used his carpentry skills to construct and repair the many large wooden fishing boats that were based at Capernaum. As a result, he was probably a friend of the young fishermen of Capernaum long before he called them to be his disciples (see Mark 1:16-21). Simon (Peter), Andrew, James, John, Thomas (Didymus), Nathaniel and at least two other disciples were fishermen based at Capernaum (see John 21:2-3).


Map showing followers of Jesus

Map 15  Where Jesus's followers came from


Nathaniel (Bartholomew) came from Cana in Galilee (see John 21:2 and Map 15). As he was a fisherman, he probably lived in Capernaum. He joked about Jesus coming from a small Galilean village in the back of nowhere: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46).

Simeon Barjonah (Simon Peter) and his brother Andrew came from the lakeside town of Bethsaida (see John 1:44 and Map 15), but they lived in Capernaum where their father John (see John 1:42) had his family fishing business. Simon’s wife and mother-in-law lived in the family home in Capernaum (see Mark 1:29-30).

James and his brother John also lived in Capernaum where they worked with their father Zebedee in his fishing business, alongside hired men. Jesus gave them the nickname ‘Boanerges’ (‘Sons of Thunder’) (see Mark 3:17)

Philip was from Bethsaida. He was a friend of Nathaniel and may also have been a fisherman (see John 1:43-44).

Levi (Matthew), son of Alphaeus, was a tax collector (Latin, ‘publicanus’ or ‘publican’ – a public servant) who lived in Capernaum (see Mark 2:13-17). As he collected taxes on behalf of the Romans (and probably pocketed the profit), the Pharisees regarded him as a ‘sinner’ (see Matthew 9:9-13).



Capernaum - where Levi (Matthew) lived  (Mark 2:15)


Judas Iscariot was not a Galilean. ‘Is-Cariot’ probably signifies that he came from Kerioth in Peraea or from Kerioth-hezron in Judaea (see Map 15). He looked after the disciples’ finances, buying food and dispensing gifts to the poor (see John 13:29). He was not entirely honest, however, and sometimes helped himself from the common purse (see John 12:4-6).

Thomas (nicknamed ‘Didymus’, meaning a twin) was also a fisherman, and a courageous follower (see John 11:16), but he was slow to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead (see John 20:24-28).

The other close followers of Jesus (the twelve ‘apostles’) were James (the son of Alphaeus), Judas Thaddeus (the son of James) and Simon the Zealot (see Mark 3:13-19). ‘Zealots’ were Jewish nationalists who were ‘zealous’ in opposing the Romans who had taken over the direct rule of Judaea in 6AD (see the feature on Jewish Nationalists in Section 21).

Jesus had many other disciples. A number of wealthy women whom Jesus healed also become followers, and helped to support Jesus out of their own income (see Luke 8:1-3).

They included Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus had cast seven demons. She came from Magdala on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee, just north of Herod Antipas’s capital at Tiberias (see Map 15 and the feature on The Jesus Boat at Magdala in Section 4). Mary Magdalene was one of the first to see the risen Lord Jesus (see Mark16:9). She may have been a member of the court of Herod Antipas as her circle of friends included Joanna, the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household who lived in Tiberias. Susanna – another wealthy follower of Jesus – was also probably a member of Herod’s court at Tiberias (see the feature on Tiberias in Section 6).


Roman hot springs at Hammath Tiberius

Roman hot springs at Tiberias - where Joanna lived  (Luke 8:3)


Mary and Martha lived at Bethany, near Jerusalem, with their brother Lazarus (see Luke 10:38-42, John 11:1-2 & Map 15). While Martha tended to be fully occupied with the household tasks expected of women in contemporary Jewish society, Mary often sat and listened to Jesus’s teaching (an activity which was usually confined to men at that time).

It was Mary who, quite unusually, poured expensive fragrant oil on Jesus’s feet (it was usually poured on someone’s head), then, despite the custom that forbade respectable women to untie their hair in public, wiped his feet with her long hair (see John 12:1-8). Mary’s humility was demonstrated by this act of foot washing that was usually performed by servants (see John 13:12-15).

Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem


Joseph, a respected member of the Sanhedrin – the Jewish council – came from Arimathea in Judaea (see Map 15). He was a secret follower of Jesus and opposed the chief priests’ actions in arresting Jesus. He asked Pilate for the body of Jesus, and laid it in his own new tomb (see Luke 23:50-54).

Nicodemus – another member of the Sanhedrin – who came to Jesus secretly by night (see John 3:1-21), also lived in Jerusalem. He cautioned the members of the Jewish council (the Sanhedrin) when they attempted to condemn Jesus (see John 7:50). Nicodemus helped Joseph of Arimathea to bury Jesus’s body after the crucifixion (see John 19:38-42).

Nicodemus lived in Jerusalem  (John 3:1)


John Mark lived with his mother Mary in their large family home in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:12). Mark (or ‘Marcus’) was a Roman name, so his father was probably a Roman citizen. They were a wealthy Jewish family with servants including Rhoda. The house was used for meetings by the early church, and may well have been the location of the upper guest room used by Jesus and his disciples for the ‘Last Supper’ (see Luke 22:8-12) and also after Jesus’s death and resurrection (see Luke 24:33-43 & Acts 1:13).

Mark may well be the ‘young man’, mentioned in Mark’s own account, who slipped away when Jesus was arrested (see Mark 14:51). As a young man, he accompanied Paul and Barnabas (who was his uncle) on the first leg of their first missionary journey (see Acts 12:25 & 13:13), and later stayed with Paul and with Peter in Rome (see Colossians 4:10 & 1 Peter 5:13).

St Mark’s Church, which can be visited in the Armenian Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem, was built in the 12th century on the foundations of an earlier Byzantine church believed to occupy the site of the home of John Mark and his family.

Joseph Barsabbas (meaning ‘Son of the Sabbath’), who was also nicknamed Justus (meaning ‘honest’), and Matthias were followers of Jesus from the beginning of his ministry and were also witnesses of his death and resurrection. Matthias was chosen to replace Judas Iscariot as the twelth apostle (see Acts 1:21-26).


Journeys of Jesusw's followers

Fig. 6  Journeys of Jesus's followers

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