Compared to others like Peter or Judas, we read little of this apostle. Therefore, this month I’ll present Thaddaeus related to his context. There is much we can learn from the events that took place where Thaddaeus was present.
Key verses regarding Thaddaeus:
He appointed the twelve: 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, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him.
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Now the day began to wear away, and the twelve came and said to Him, “Send the crowd away to go into the surrounding villages and countryside to find lodging and get provisions, for we are here in a desolate place.” But He said to them, “You give them something to eat.” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”
What do we know about Thaddaeus?
- Jesus gave him authority over unclean spirits and to heal. (Matthew 10:1)
- He was present at the feeding of the five thousand. (Matthew 14:20)
- He witnessed Jesus predicting His death. (Matthew 20:17)
- He took part in Jesus’ institution of the Lord’s Supper. (Matthew 26:20)
- Jesus sent him out to preach. (Mark 3:14)
- Thaddaeus may mean “large-hearted, courageous.”
What can we learn from the events in which Thaddaeus took part?
In Matthew 10, we learn that Jesus gave the Twelve “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and affliction” (v. 1). Although there are few places in the Bible where Thaddaeus is mentioned by name, we should not think of him as less important. Jesus gives Thaddaeus the same great power in relation to the other twelve.
As we recognize the significance of this gift, we do well to remember two things. First, Jesus did not bless Thaddaeus in this way in light of the apostle’s goodness or merit. He was a sinner like everyone else, in need of forgiveness. Second, while students of the Bible, young and old, may read of Thaddaeus’s power with awe, it is important to keep in mind that Jesus gives or withholds gifts for His perfect reasons. For example, I may wonder why Jesus didn’t give me the power to cast out demons. It is likely that I would become arrogant and use the gift to promote myself rather than to serve the Lord. I might even decide that with such powers I don’t need Jesus.
Stress to your students that God gives all Christians a gift that is far more significant and powerful—the ability to share the Good News of salvation in the risen Christ. Remember that the Holy Spirit alone uses the Gospel and Holy Baptism to create faith. No one ever converted anyone to Christ by casting out demons or healing physical ailments. Students should understand that God uses them, too, as He builds the kingdom.
Just as Christians should not be jealous of Thaddaeus’s gifts, they should not degrade themselves for not being present for the institution of the Lord’s Supper. As with the gifts Jesus granted the disciples, He allowed Thaddaeus and the others to witness the first Holy Communion for a specific purpose, not because they were more worthy. Jesus celebrated the Lord’s Supper with the Twelve to prepare them for ministry in the future.
Students will be blessed to grasp that the significant issue is not who received Holy Communion first but that Jesus gives Himself to all—whether at the first or subsequent celebrations of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus was present with the Twelve at His institution of the Lord’s Supper; He is present for us in His true body and blood, in, with, and under the bread and wine of the Sacrament.
Teaching Ideas for Thaddaeus
Craft: Lord’s Supper Collage
Take a profile picture of each student. Print them and have students cut them out. Using construction or large bulletin paper, make a wall-size recreation of the first Lord’s Supper, similar to Leonardo da Vinci’s painting. Create bodies for the twelve disciples, but leave off the heads. Paste pictures of the students’ heads in their places. Use this to reinforce that we are all followers of Jesus—special and loved by Him. Even if they are not receiving Holy Communion yet, every child is precious to the Father. Post this on a wall inside the classroom, or better yet, on the outside wall. This is an ideal project during Lent.
Alphabetical Names: Who Is the Most Important?
Print out one 8" x 11" sheet for each name of the twelve disciples. Either on the classroom board or gymnasium floor, have students place the names in alphabetical order. When they have finished, ask the class which of the twelve is most important. It’s a trick question. Stress that Jesus loved them all. Ask them where in the order their names should be included. Reinforce that Jesus died for, forgives, and uses each of your students, just as He did the disiciples.
Continuing teaching on the twelve apostles.