Bartholomew the Apostle – Sermon 245

8th January 2016 Off By Derek Buckthorpe

Bartholomew the Apostle

Holy Communion 10am CW

24th August 2014

Bible References :

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Prayer to Start


May the words of my lips and the thoughts of our hearts be graciously received for the Glory and Honour of our Lord Jesus Christ






What makes someone memorable – even great!


If like me – you have been enjoying the sport on the TV’s over the summer months – whether from the World Cup – Wimbledon – The masters – the Commonwealth or European Championships – The Rugby – you might think that some of the best of these might qualify –


It’s not just the trophies or the medals they win – that make them standout – but also the years of discipline and training that contribute to their successes.


Today in contrast to this roll call of living greats – we remember someone from 2000 years ago – whose achievements are pretty much lost to history – St Bartholomew


Point 1        St Bartholomew


St Bartholomew’s only sure claim to fame – is his appearance in the list of apostles in specific passages of the Bible – none of which are included in our readings today –


His name comes from the Aramaic Bar-Tolmay – ‘son of Tolmay’ (son of Ptolemy) which can also be translated as ‘son of furrows’ – suggesting that his forebears may have been ploughmen or agricultural workers –


The name Bartholomew therefore may relate to his family name – or surname – and not his given name –


Because Bartholomew is always paired with Philip in the list of Apostles – and in John’s Gospel – Philip is paired with Nathanael – who doesn’t appear on the Apostles list in the Synoptic Gospels  – it has been assumed by some that Bartholomew and Nathanael are one in the same person –


Whether this is true or not isn’t certain – but if it is – it gives us a little more information about him  John’s Gospel mentions Nathanael – a couple of times –


First as an ‘Israelite without guile’ whom Jesus saw sitting under the Fig Tree – and who Jesus promised ‘visions of angels ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’


And secondly placed just after this incident –  when John tells us Nathanael came from Cana in Galilee and was present at the wedding there where Jesus turned water into wine


It would have been a startling beginning to their friendship – as Jesus’ answer to Nathanael’s cynical question – ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth’ – would have been to perform a miracle in his own backyard –


Whatever Bartholomew’s beginnings – it would have been followed by a period of discipleship with the others – following Jesus around Galilee and sometimes further afield – taking in all that he heard Jesus teach – and do –


Like the rest of the disciples – Bartholomew turned his life upside down – because of his love for Jesus –


He would Have been sent out to teach and preach the message of the Kingdom – he would also have been amongst the twelve in the Upper Room for the Last Supper – receiving the bread and wine from Jesus –


And it was at this meeting he would hear Jesus’ teaching about who is the greatest or least in the Kingdom – as in our Gospel reading – which may have been the last time they exchanged views before Jesus’ crucifixion:


Point 2:       The greatest in the Kingdom


Imagine being in the shoes of a football manager trying to prepare the squad for the new season – or an important cup game –


There’s a major trophy at stake – the team need – to be totally focused – working together –  but the minute you stop talking – they start to squabble –  who is the best player – who should be captain – who should hold the trophy if they win? –


So you try again – explaining that they’ve come a long way – been molded into a top class team – they should be above all this – but still they argue


We all have a tendency to look at others – in terms of their abilities or status – the size of the cars – or houses – wardrobes – fitting them into our own pecking order of importance –


Jesus however – turns the principle of the pecking order on its head – In the Kingdom – the honour given – is in repayment for the gifts made –


Jesus Himself – is not at the table – lording over others – but the servant – providing food for others –


And so too the disciples must also be – serving others – rather than serving themselves –


And with Jesus’ crucifixion near –He knew they would soon be facing a time of testing in which the power and protection they had – with Him wouldn’t be available –


Like the team on the football field – they would soon be on their own – and have to cope with all that the other side brings against them –


But Jesus promises the disciples – as He promises us – that those who stand by Him – and follow his ways – will be justly rewarded – and will share the top table with Him in the Kingdom –


Point 3        Witnessing the Gospel message


As Isaiah reminds us in our OT reading – God is looking for genuine witnesses – those who believe in Him –who have confidence and concern for His Glory –


Those who are ready to give their personal testimony – to declare the truth – about Jesus and His Gospel message –


After Jesus’ death – the disciples including Bartholomew ran from the authorities – for fear of being arrested – their faith shattered –


But that faith would soon return – as news of Jesus’ resurrection comes to them –


Bartholomew was with the rest of the disciples in the locked room – recorded in Luke – when Jesus appears to the eleven – and shows ‘His hands and His feet’ –


Like the others  – Bartholomew  would receive the message personally from Jesus to go out and teach the nations – baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit-


Bartholomew is mentioned in the first chapter of Acts as one of the disciples witnessing the Ascension of Jesus – and was again with the other disciples – now twelve – at Pentecost – receiving of the Holy Spirit –


After this some sources suggest he went on a missionary tour of India – where he left behind a Hebrew copy of St Matthew’s gospel –


Tradition also has it that he travelled to Ethiopia and other parts of Asia and to Armenia – where he founded the church with Jude – and was eventually ‘flayed alive’- because of his commitment to the gospel message –


Bartholomew was extremely popular in medieval England and only Peter, Andrew and James have more churches named after them – His name has also come to be associated with medicine and hospitals – and a relic of his is venerated today in Canterbury Cathedral –



Bartholomew was a true witness to the Gospel – who had the grace to truly believe and to preach God’s word –


Whether Bartholomew and Nathanael are the same person – is difficult to be certain –

But one thing is for certain – that his witnessing cast a giant shadow – that changed and saved endless lives – and brought hope and salvation to future generations


So today let’s celebrate a man who is just a name – in the Bible – most of us will be just names to future generations – and few of us will become famous like Bartholomew –


But like Bartholomew we too are called to make a difference in our generation – and if we can do that – for God – in His eyes – that truly would make us great –


Prayer to finish              AMEN