There is little we can read about the Apostle Bartholomew. However, this does not mean that we can’t learn anything from his life. In this post, let us discover the greatest lessons you and I can learn from the life of Bartholomew.
When you think of the Apostles of Yahshua or popularly known as Jesus Christ, Bartholomew might not be the first one that comes to your mind. I don’t blame you. There’s not much reference to him in the Gospels nor in the entirety of the Bible.
Bible verses where Bartholomew was mentioned
The name of Bartholomew has been only briefly mentioned in a number of passages in the Bible. We read his name in the following verses:
Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him.
Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons: Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”; Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite; and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house.
And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.
Lesson no. 1: We must be dedicated to Jesus Christ
Apart from the verses mentioned above, we don’t read much about Bartholomew. However, if there’s one valuable lesson from Bartholomew’s life that we should learn, it would be to stay dedicated to our Master and Savior, Jesus Christ.
To be a disciple of Jesus Christ, you would need to be ready to give up everything for the sake of the Gospel. If the situation calls for it, you should even be ready to give up your life.
He said Matthew 16:24-25:
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
As a disciple of Christ, Bartholomew learned how to submit to God and do His will in his life. Not only that, but being teachable and humble are two traits that Bartholomew could have also learned from the time he spent with Jesus.
Lesson no. 2: God can help us change
Of course, every disciple of Christ is still human, endowed with weaknesses and frailties. Among the most unforgettable mistakes of Bartholomew is when he forsook Christ when He needed him the most. When Christ was arrested, all of His disciples deserted Him except John.
However, when Christ was resurrected, Bartholomew was changed – from a weak and coward apostle to a bold and zealous servant of God. Like the other Apostles, he stayed faithful and true to his calling. He is among the apostles who were waiting in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:13).
As a reward to his obedience and dedication, he received the Holy Spirit together with other followers of Christ.
Lesson no. 3: Greatness is found in serving
Another lesson we can learn from Bartholomew is the true meaning of greatness. It was recorded that Bartholomew was among the disciples of Christ who wanted to obtain greater glory and recognition.
We read in Luke 22:24:
“Now there was also a dispute among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest.”
The teaching of Christ is quite different from what they expected. For Bartholomew, the more servants you have, the greater you would be. The more people respect and recognize you, the more you become great.
However, Christ’s response was different. We read in Luke 22:25-27:
“The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But NOT so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.”
In short, if you want to be great, then you need to serve. Bartholomew and the other disciples might have been staring at Christ in unbelief. All their lives, their concept of greatness is wrong and here, Christ is correcting them and teaching them the importance of humility.
Is Bartholomew and Nathanael one and the same?
Some Bible scholars would tell you that Bartholomew and Nathanael are one and the same. Here are a few proofs they mentioned:
- They explain that Bartholomew isn’t a real name, but rather a patronymic name, which basically means, son of Talmai (Bar means “son of”.)
- Another proof they mention is that in the Gospel of John, the name Bartholomew was never mentioned when it speaks about the disciples, but rather the name Nathanael comes up.
- The name Bartholomew always follows the name of Philip when the disciples are listed as evidenced in the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. This might indicate that they have been longtime friends and coincide with the instance that it was Philip who brought Nathanael to Christ.
If the assumption is correct that Bartholomew and Nathanael are one and the same, then we can have a better perspective of Bartholomew’s character. We read an encounter of Jesus Christ and Bartholomew in John 1:43-50.
Philip has just been called by Christ to follow Him. Philip then shared the good news to Nathanael where we read his first reaction (verse 46):
“Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
Perhaps, another reason he has said this is that he wants to confirm first and not believe right away. He doesn’t want to be naïve to accept any news that comes his way. He wants to first examine and prove to himself that whether Philip’s report is true or not.
Nathanael shares the same prejudice and mindset his people have in those days. Nazareth is proverbially considered as a wicked town. Surely, he might have thought that if the Messiah would come, He would not come from that place.
Philip then answered Nathanael, “Come and see.”
What happens next is just an incredible encounter with a divine Being. As Nathanael approached Christ, he hears the Messiah say, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit” (verse 47)!
Christ is a discerner of our hearts and thoughts. He knows who we are before we even know Him. [Click to tweet!]
Jesus knew that Nathanael or Bartholomew is not just an Israelite by name, but one who is worthy to bear such name. Bartholomew is indeed an Israelite who strive to follow God’s commandments and do His will in his life.
Christ added that Bartholomew has no deceit in his life – meaning, he is not a fraud nor a hypocrite. Jesus isn’t saying that Bartholomew is perfect, but he is a sincere and upright man.
What a great blessing it would be if the same could be said about us. We must, therefore, strive as well to obtain the same commendation and approval from our Lord and Master.
We read the rest of the conversation of Jesus and Nathanael in verses 48-51:
Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
The desire of Nathanael to meet the Messiah was greatly rewarded. He was not just praised, but promised to see greater things!
Christians today should have the zeal and willingness to be with God just like Nathanael did. When we sincerely desire to be with God, we are also rewarded – rewards for this life and the life to come!
Learning and applying the lessons from the Apostle Bartholomew
These are just some of the best lessons we can learn from the life of the Apostle Bartholomew. He is indeed a disciple who is completely transformed and has done a great work everywhere he goes.
As Christians today, we need to learn how to be a disciple just like Bartholomew. Like him, we also have our weaknesses, but with God’s help, we can overcome them and become a better servant of the Most High. As long as we desire to be with God and be willing to do whatever it takes to stay close to him, we will also see “greater things than these.”
How about you? Do you have other lessons to share? Please let us know by dropping a comment below. I would like to hear from you. Be sure to share this blog as well if it has blessed and inspired you.