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People of the Bible: The Disciples Part 3: Philip, Matthew/Levi, Simon the Zealot

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Jesus chose 12 men to be his first disciples. They were normal people, with normal jobs, but God had a special plan for them. Jesus taught the disciples many things while on Earth. Last week we studied John, James, and Bartholomew. Click HERE to read about these three disciples. Today, let’s look into Philip, Matthew/Levi, Simon the Zealot.

The Call: Matthew 10:2-4- 2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.


Philip was one of Jesus’s earliest followers. When he learned about Jesus, he told his friend Bartholomew about him so he could follow him too. We learn from Philip that it is important to tell the people around us about Jesus so they can experience him too.

There are several conversations between Jesus and Philip recorded in the Bible. Many of these are Jesus testing the disciples’ faith. A couple of these can be found in John 6:1-15 and John 14:5-14.

Besides this initial call and some conversations recorded in the Bible, we do not know much about Philip the disciple. The book of Acts talks about another Philip who is called Philip the evangelist or the deacon. Most people believe these are two separate people that often get confused for each other. What we do know is that Philip followed Jesus with the rest of the disciples for about 3 years and continued to spread the gospel after Jesus’s resurrection.


Matthew is another disciple that has multiple names. In some places his name is Matthew and in others his name is Levi. Most believe that Matthew is the author of the gospel of Matthew. This was one of the first written accounts of who Jesus was, and what he did. Some of the other disciples used Matthew’s written account to help spread the good news about Jesus while they were traveling.

Even though Matthew wrote a gospel, the Bible does not have much information about him. However, we do know that Matthew was a tax collector when Jesus called him to be a disciple. As a tax collector, it would have been Matthew’s job to collect taxes for the Roman government. Traditionally, tax collectors were not very well-liked in society. People questioned Jesus because he hung out with tax collectors like Matthew because they thought all tax collectors were evil sinners. Jesus turned the tide by explaining that all people are sinners and in need of a Savior.

Simon the Zealot:

Simon the Zealot is one of the disciples we know the least about. However, his name gives us quite a bit of information. One reason he is called Simon the Zealot is to differentiate him from Simon Peter. But another reason is that he was in fact a zealot. A zealot is someone who is very zealous for a cause. In Simon’s case, most people believe that he was zealous about overthrowing the Roman Empire. The promise of Jesus as Savior and Messiah would have been a welcomed idea since most believed the Messiah would establish his own kingdom (we now know that Jesus will in fact do this one day at his second coming, but many believed it would happen then).

It is important to note that Matthew and Simon the Zealot were quite different. Matthew worked for the Roman government while Simon wanted to overthrow it. This shows us that Jesus calls people from all backgrounds with all kinds of different views. Our differing views should not divide us, but our common belief in Jesus should unite us like it united the disciples.

Key Takeaways:

  • Tell people about Jesus

  • Jesus loves Sinners

  • Jesus’s followers are different

  • Everyone Needs Jesus

Parents, 3treesKIDS will also be learning about Philip, Matthew/Levi, and Simon the Zealot this Sunday, both in-person and online.

Be sure to check out their lesson at

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