God's Teen Squad

by Elijah Tice

What do you picture when you think of Jesus' 12 disciples? Old men with gray beards? You probably don't imagine a bunch of scruffy, pimply teenagers. Yet some scholars believe that when Jesus called His disciples, many of them were no more than teenagers.

The Jewish culture believed in educating children as young as 5 in the Torah (first five books of the Bible) and the rest of Scripture. The children who participated in this training would memorize whole books of God's Word and recite them back to their rabbi (a teacher or "master"). This training was completed by age 12 or 13.

A few of the smartest boys would then approach a rabbi and ask if they could follow him, becoming his disciples. Boys who weren't chosen (which was most of them) were taught a trade. The fact that Jesus called His disciples from their jobs as fishermen shows that they weren't "the best and brightest." Of course, other disciples—like Matthew, who was a tax collector—came from different careers, which suggests they may have been older.

A story in Matthew 17 may give a clue about the age of the disciples. When asked to pay the once-a-year temple tax, Jesus instructs Peter to catch a fish and pull a coin out of its mouth to pay the tax. The coin Peter finds is just the right amount for two people. Jewish law stated everyone over the age of 20 had to pay the tax. The fact that the coin was only enough for Jesus and Peter may suggest that only the two of them needed to pay the tax.

Just imagine: When Jesus chose His disciples, some of them may not have been much older than you. They weren't the best and brightest. They came from various backgrounds and families. Jesus was the ultimate rabbi. And when a rabbi chose a disciple, he was saying, "I believe in you; you can become like me." Each of us, as a follower of Jesus, has also been chosen by Him to be His disciple. Jesus says to us today, "I believe in you; you can become like Me."

Copyright © 2009 by Focus on the Family. Used by permission. Clubhousemagazine.com; Photo © 2008 Adam Jones, Ph.D./Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.