If you were asked to name Jesus’ Apostles, some of the names would be easy for a Christian to come up with—people like Peter, John, even Judas all played significant roles in the Gospel narratives. However, when we think of the twelve apostles, Bartholomew is probably one of the last names to come up. It’s hard to remember ever learning anything about Bartholomew’s role in the spreading of the gospel. Why is this?
Well, the reason is pretty obvious if you look at the bible. When the bible mentions Bartholomew it pretty much only does that—it mentions him. It says his name, says he was one of the apostles, and then leaves it at that. We don’t hear stories of him attempting to walk on water with Jesus, or stories of him witnessing the transfiguration of Christ, or even negative stories of him betraying Christ. We are told his name was Bartholomew (or Nathaniel if you’re reading the Gospel of John) and that he was an apostle.
Now being one of Christ’s twelve apostles in notable in-and-of-itself, but other than that we are not given any interesting information about Bartholomew. All that tradition holds about Bartholomew came from non-biblical sources. Many claim that Bartholomew began his evangelism in India, and then continued to spread the Gospel to Armenia, where he was martyred. While some say he was beheaded, some reports claim his death was much more gruesome—that he was flayed alive.
Yet because these accounts are not found in the bible, most average people don’t know much about Bartholomew. But that’s part of the beauty of Bartholomew’s story. Though he wasn’t mentioned much in the bible, he went out into the world and proclaimed the Good News of Christ—not to receive accolades, but because of his faith in Jesus. And though Bartholomew is better known than most of us, since getting into the bible at all is a pretty big deal, his story sets a good example for us. Like Bartholomew, most of us will probably never become a household name because of our service to Christ. Yet we are not called to serve Christ in order to gain honor for ourselves, but to honor Christ—and to teach people the Good News so that they might honor Christ as well.
Next Wednesday, August 24th, is the feast day for St. Bartholomew. Looking to his life, his ministry, and his death as an example, let us recommit ourselves to Christ’s service, especially when done anonymously.