“The Shepherd’s Flock,” Ensign, Apr. 1973, 6
During his earthly ministry, our Savior Jesus Christ met scores of people from different walks of life. These people formed vital opinions that resulted in actions that would set the course of their eternal destinies. Following are brief accounts of some of those people who have become indelibly linked with the four gospels of the New Testament because of their association with the Savior and because of their response to the gospel message.
Sometime after the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, Andrew and a companion were talking with John the Baptist, whom both accepted as a true prophet of God. Suddenly Jesus came walking toward them, and John the Baptist, looking upon the Lord, declared, “Behold the Lamb of God.” Andrew went away from that experience with a testimony that Jesus was the Christ; and from that time forward, he followed the Master. (John 1:35–37.)
Andrew was thrilled over his discovery of the Messiah, and he hastened to tell the good news to his brother Simon. “We have found … the Christ,” he declared. There was no wavering faith, no vacillating testimony, no halfhearted conviction. Andrew knew it. He had made his decision and had totally committed himself to the Lord. Because of that, he was able to bring to Christ his brother, Simon Barjona. (John 1:38–42.)
Andrew also brought others to Christ. When a great multitude had gathered to hear Jesus preach, the Lord perceived that they were hungry. He asked, “Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?” Whereupon, Andrew said to him, “There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes. …” Andrew literally brought the young boy to Jesus, and Jesus multiplied the fish and bread to feed the multitude. (John 6:1–14.)
Near the end of Jesus’ mortal ministry, after his triumphal entry into Jerusalem a few days prior to his crucifixion, certain Greeks went to Philip and asked to see Jesus. Philip immediately went to Andrew and together they took the gentile inquirers to the Lord. (John 12:20–24.)
From the beginning of his association with Jesus, Andrew seems to have had one consistent calling: to bring others to Christ.
John, a follower of John the Baptist, was apparently the unnamed disciple who was with Andrew when the Baptist declared that Jesus was the Lamb of God. (John 1:35–40.)
Jesus referred to James and John as Boanerges, the sons of thunder, evidently because of their temperament. (Mark 3:17.) It was John who rebuked one who was casting out demons in Christ’s name and had to be corrected by the Lord. (Luke 9:49.) When Jesus was rejected in the Samaritan village, John wanted to call down fire from heaven. (Luke 9:52–56.) On one occasion John joined with his mother and brother requesting places of honor beside Jesus in his kingdom. (Matt. 20:21; Mark 10:37–40.) They had not yet caught the vision of the gospel.
Yet John was one of the three apostles whom the Lord chose to be with him at the raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead. (Mark 5:37–43.) At the transfiguration, the Savior, Moses, and Elias gave keys of the priesthood to Peter, James, and John. (Mark 9:2–10.) At the Last Supper John occupied the place next to Jesus. (John 13:23.) And when Jesus suffered the agony in the garden, he brought Peter, James, and John with him. (Mark 14:32–34.)
John’s preferential treatment was not without reason, for the beloved disciple followed the Savior into the palace of the high priest after Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and thus manifested his courage and loyalty to Christ. (John 18:15.)
John was the only member of the Twelve mentioned as having been at the crucifixion; and when Jesus commended his own mother into John’s care, he accepted the responsibility. (John 19:26–27.)
John, like his brother James, was fiery in his zeal in whatever he undertook and was ready to face death for his Master. (Matt. 20:24.) He was teachable and desired more than anything else to be in tune with the Lord’s will.
With Peter, John was sent by the Lord to Jerusalem to prepare the Passover meal before the Last Supper.
Through the transforming power of Christ, John became a man of sacrifice, love, and tenderness. He became a man of deep spiritual insight, loving disposition, and great compassion.
Declaring Christ’s love for man was the mission of John. He expressed a wish for a longer life in which to bring souls to the Lord. Therefore, according to his request he received a promise that he would tarry upon the earth until the Lord comes again. (John 21:20–24; D&C 7:1–3; 3 Ne. 28:6–10.)
Jesus had just completed his first cleansing of the temple. In the evening Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin, went to him and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.” (John 3:2.)
Responding with words that went straight to the point, Jesus said:
“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5.)
That teaching was new and strange to Nicodemus. Jesus further told him that if he did not believe the first principles of the gospel, he would not believe the wonders of eternity. After that evening’s soul-searching interview, Nicodemus could not remain indifferent.
Later, at a meeting of the Sanhedrin when Jesus was being denounced as an imposter, Nicodemus bravely asked whether the law condemned a man before he is heard. (John 7:50–52.) Although Nicodemus showed some courage at this point, his associates were critical of him for defending Jesus.
After the death of Jesus, Nicodemus took about a hundred pounds of myrrh and aloes and aided in preparing the body of Jesus for burial. (John 19:39.)
To what extent Nicodemus became a valiant disciple of the Savior is unknown; but if he took the Savior’s counsel, then Nicodemus may have had a beginning of spiritual life on the night Jesus told him he was to be born again.
Mary and Martha, who lived in the village of Bethany with their brother Lazarus, were tenderly attached to Jesus, who visited their home. Luke states that a certain woman named Martha received Jesus into her home. (Luke 10:38.)
During Jesus’ first recorded visit to their dwelling (Luke 10:38–42), Martha desired to prepare him a meal, while Mary desired to feast on the words of truth he spoke. Martha, oriented to energetic service, was discouraged because Mary was not assisting her with the meal. And though Jesus appreciated Martha’s industry, he told her there was danger in placing too much emphasis on feeding the body at the neglect of the spirit. Temporal things are helpful and convenient, but spiritual food is also needful.
Mary and Martha were present at the raising of Lazarus from the dead. At first Martha ran to meet the Savior to tell him of her brother’s death. “Lord,” she said, “if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.” And then she added with great faith, “But I know, that even now, whatsoever thou wilt ask of God, God will give it thee.”
Jesus said to her, “Thy brother shall rise again.”
Martha, thinking that he referred to the resurrection, replied, “I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
And then Jesus gently reminded her, “I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this?”
And Martha responded full of faith, “Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.”
Mary, who had a great testimony like that of Martha, joined them and wept for grief at the loss of her brother. And Jesus also wept.
Then Jesus commanded that the stone before the tomb of Lazarus be rolled aside; and after he prayed to his Father in heaven, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth.” And Lazarus came forth bound in his burial clothing. (John 11:18–44.)
How great was the faith of Mary and Martha, whose hearts overflowed with love and adoration for their Lord and Savior, who would subdue all enemies under his feet, even the last enemy, which is death, and hell.
When a certain man who possessed many favorable characteristics heard that Jesus was near, he ran and fell at the Savior’s feet. That took earnestness and courage. It appeared that he had lived in strict conformity to the laws known to him; he could answer unequivocally, “These all have I kept from my youth.”
It seemed that he had everything going for him. But this rich, religious, morally clean young man lacked something: unreserved commitment to Jesus Christ.
Jesus said, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, … and follow me.”
And because he lacked, he was not able to follow the Savior at all costs. So he walked away sorrowfully.
Although he felt Jesus was right, he still wanted to hold on to his worldly possessions. His mind was torn between two standards of value. As good as he was, his heart was still set on the things of this world instead of the things of God.
The Savior requires the whole soul with an eye single to his glory, the willingness to give up that which precludes total obedience. And the inquiring rich man walked away unable to pay the price of eternal life. The world was too much with him. (Mark 10:17–27; Matt. 19:16–30.)
How many disciples of Christ have had great spiritual experiences wherein they have acknowledged Jesus as the Savior of mankind and then lacked the fortitude to serve him without reservation?
Mark’s mother, Mary, was in comfortable circumstances. Her house in Jerusalem was one of the meeting places of the saints and was perhaps the place where Jesus and his disciples met for their last supper together. (Acts 12:12–17.) Some of the spiritually moving scenes associated with Pentecost perhaps took place in that home. (Acts 1:13.)
Probably through his family, Mark came to know about Christ. Some scholars think that the young man wrapped in a sheet who was present at the time of Jesus’ arrest was Mark himself. (Mark 14:51–52.)
When Paul and Barnabas, by the influence of the Holy Ghost, were called and set apart to go on a mission, they took with them John Mark, a lad filled with faith and zeal. (Acts 12:25.) At Perga, for some unstated reason, John Mark left them and went back to Jerusalem. (Acts 13:13.) Paul’s feeling about the matter was that there was no excuse for Mark’s turning back. So strong was Paul’s disapproval that he refused to take Mark with him on a second journey. (Acts 15:37–41.) So Paul took Silas instead, and Mark went with Barnabas to Cyprus.
The next we hear of Mark, he was with Peter apparently a much more mature man. He had become a stalwart, dedicated, loyal saint. So deep was the affection and confidence between Peter and Mark that Peter wrote, “The church that is at Babylon … saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.” (1 Pet. 5:13.) Mark had so proved himself that he was with Peter as a devoted companion and secretary. From that relationship with Peter, it is believed that he was able to write the history that has come to us as the Gospel of Mark.
It seems also that Mark reestablished himself in the eyes of Paul, for in the letter to the Colossians, Paul asked the congregation to make Mark welcome. (Col. 4:10.) If this is the same Mark, then it appears that Paul wanted to be sure that Mark’s former behavior would not be held against him. Mark had proved himself by his works.
In his last letter, Paul, while facing martyrdom, wrote a very moving statement to Timothy: “Take Mark, and bring him with thee: for he is profitable to me for the ministry.” (2 Tim. 4:11.)
When confined to the loneliness of a prison cell, Paul, facing execution, wanted Mark by his side—Mark, who had previously disappointed him, but who had since that time exemplified faithfulness and loyalty.
The name Judas is Greek for the Hebrew name Judah; it literally means “may God be praised.” But because of the betrayal of one man, that name has become a synonym for treachery and disloyalty.
Judas came from Kerioth in southern Judea and therefore was the only one among the Twelve who was not a Galilean. How did Judas, who had for three years lived with Jesus, depart from the upper room after having his feet washed by the Master, and betray his Lord for the price of a slave? Had he not listened to the Lord’s teachings? Had he not heard his prayers? Had he not witnessed miracles? Had he not preached the kingdom of God with the other disciples?
The betrayal of the Lord by Judas probably did not happen all at once. It must have been a day-by-day, step-by-step process. The other apostles did not appear suspicious of Judas. He was elected treasurer of the Twelve, which implied that they must have trusted him. In the upper room when Jesus said,
“… one of you shall betray me,” each in turn asked, “Lord, is it I?” But Jesus knew. He knew when the first thoughts of resentment entered Judas’s mind. (Matt. 26:17–25.)
John the Beloved, looking back, wrote, “… he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.” (John 12:6.) There must have been some evidence for such a statement, but perhaps it was only recognized later.
Judas Iscariot had his agency. He chose to trust himself more than his Savior, and “Satan entered into him.” (John 13:27.) The sin that really snuffed out the spiritual spark in Judas was neither his misguided value system nor his betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, but that he failed to come back to the Lord with a genuine repentant heart. He did not grant the Savior the opportunity to forgive him. The scripture states: “He then having received the sop went immediately out: and it was night.” (John 13:30.) For Judas it has been night ever since.
Jesus was not crucified alone. There were three crosses on Calvary. Three had been crucified, Jesus between two malefactors—a study in contrast.
As the crowds jeered, the rulers scoffed, and the soldiers cast lots, the Pharisees in mockery shouted, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God.” Then the first malefactor reproached Jesus, “If thou be Christ, save thyself and us.”
But the second malefactor rebuked him: “Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss.
“And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.
“And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:34–43.)
The first man had no interest in God’s kingdom. His request reveals no concern for God, for repentance, for forgiveness, for righteousness. His pain resulted from where he was, not what he was—and he cursed life as a fraud. Such a man would rather continue in his bitter appraisal of life than repent, be forgiven, and experience God’s transforming power. Confronted with his cross, he chose to respond by increasing his bitterness and rebellion.
The second man, on the other hand, became somewhat aware of who Jesus really was. Consequently, he had an insight into the things that mattered most in life. He knew he had committed wrongs and that he had only himself to blame. Because he recognized his own evil, he was able to see the righteousness and mercy of God. His pain was not only in where he was, but in what he was. That painful experience led to his remorse, which prompted the promise of Jesus, “To day shalt thou be with me in paradise.”
Two suffering men on crosses made decisions. The decision of one could lead to further bitterness and sorrow; the decision of the other could bring him forgiveness and the hope of a better life in the world to come.
When Jesus was being crucified, a time when he needed the comforting presence of his followers, Mary Magdalene was one of the women who ministered to him. (Mark 15:40–41.) When the Lord’s body was placed in the tomb, she was there. (Mark 15:47.)
Early on that first day of the week, she went to the tomb to anoint the body, to express her sorrow, and to anoint and wrap his body properly. (Mark 16:1.) But when she saw the stone rolled back, she immediately returned to the city to tell Peter and John that the body of Jesus had been taken away. (John 20:1–2.) She followed the two apostles as they hurried to the tomb. After they left disheartened, she lingered there, weeping.
Then she heard the voice of one whom she supposed was the gardener: “Woman,” he asked, “why weepest thou? whom seekest thou?”
And she said to him, “Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.”
And Jesus said to her, “Mary.” Then she knew it was Jesus.
She turned and said to him, “Rabboni,” which is to say, Master.
“Touch me not,” said Jesus, “for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:14–18.)
How appropriate that she should be the first mortal to know that her crucified Master, Jesus of Nazareth, was raised from the dead.