How Many Followers Did Jesus Have

By Paul King •  Updated: 09/20/23 •  15 min read

Throughout history, there have been numerous influential figures who have garnered a significant following. In the realm of religious leaders, Jesus of Nazareth stands as one of the most prominent figures, whose teachings and actions have shaped the beliefs of millions. Understanding the extent of Jesus’ followers is a matter of great significance, shedding light on the impact he had on society. Let us explore the biblical accounts to gain a comprehensive understanding of the magnitude of Jesus’ following.

Jesus’ early disciples were the first to answer his call and follow him. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is mentioned that Jesus called his first disciples, Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, while they were casting their nets into the sea. Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19). They immediately left their nets and followed him. This demonstrates the deep faith and commitment these disciples had in Jesus. As Jesus continued his ministry, he called more disciples, including James and John, the sons of Zebedee, and others like Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot. These early disciples formed the core group that followed Jesus closely and learned from his teachings.

Jesus also had an inner circle of disciples who were especially close to him. Among them were Peter, James, and John. These three disciples witnessed significant events in Jesus’ life, such as the transfiguration on the mountain, where Jesus’ appearance changed and Moses and Elijah appeared with him (Matthew 17:1-9). This inner circle had the privilege of experiencing Jesus’ teachings and miracles in a more intimate way.

The multitudes also played a significant role in Jesus’ following. The Gospel accounts frequently mention large crowds gathering to hear Jesus’ teachings and witness his miracles. In the Gospel of Matthew, it is mentioned that ‘great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan’ (Matthew 4:25). The multitudes were attracted to Jesus’ powerful teachings and the miracles he performed, which included healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and even raising the dead. These acts of compassion and divine power drew people from all walks of life to follow Jesus.

Moreover, Jesus appointed twelve apostles to carry on his mission after his ascension. These apostles were chosen by Jesus himself and were given authority to preach, heal the sick, and cast out demons (Matthew 10:1-4). They were sent out to spread the message of the Kingdom of God and were instrumental in the growth of Jesus’ following. The apostles, including Peter, James, John, and others, continued to gather disciples and form communities of believers who spread the teachings of Jesus.

In conclusion, Jesus’ following was vast and diverse. His early disciples, inner circle, the multitudes, and the apostles all played crucial roles in the spread of his teachings and the formation of communities of believers. The impact of Jesus’ ministry continues to resonate today, as his teachings and actions have shaped the beliefs of millions worldwide.

Key Takeaways

The Early Disciples of Jesus

The early disciples of Jesus were instrumental in spreading his teachings and laying the foundation of the Christian faith. Their impact cannot be overstated, as they played a crucial role in disseminating Jesus’ message and establishing Christianity as a global religion.

One of the most notable examples of a disciple’s dedication to sharing Jesus’ teachings is the story of Paul, formerly known as Saul. After his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, Paul underwent a profound transformation and became a fervent believer in Christ. He traveled extensively, enduring hardships and persecution, to spread the message of Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul expressed his unwavering commitment to sharing the gospel: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes’ (Romans 1:16). This verse highlights the disciples’ belief in the transformative power of Jesus’ teachings and their determination to bring salvation to all.

Another disciple who played a significant role in spreading Jesus’ teachings was Peter, often regarded as the leader among the disciples. In the book of Acts, we see Peter boldly proclaiming the message of Jesus to a crowd in Jerusalem. He quoted the prophet Joel, saying, ‘And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Acts 2:21). This verse emphasizes the disciples’ conviction that salvation can be found through faith in Jesus.

Furthermore, the disciples’ commitment to spreading Jesus’ teachings is evident in their willingness to travel great distances to share the gospel. In the book of Acts, we read about Philip, one of the seven chosen to serve the early Christian community. Philip traveled to Samaria, where he preached the word of God and performed miracles, leading many to believe in Jesus (Acts 8:5-8).

The disciples’ efforts were not in vain, as their dedication and unwavering belief in Jesus’ message led to the rapid expansion and acceptance of Christianity. Through their tireless work, the teachings of Jesus were passed down from generation to generation, ensuring the continuation and preservation of the Christian faith.

The early disciples served as a bridge between Jesus and future generations, creating a lasting legacy for his teachings to be followed and upheld. Their commitment to sharing the gospel, their reliance on biblical teachings, and their willingness to endure hardships for the sake of the message have left a profound impact on the development of Christianity.

Jesus’ Inner Circle

Jesus’ inner circle consisted of a select group of individuals who held a close and trusted relationship with him. These individuals were not only his disciples but also his closest friends. They were handpicked by Jesus himself to accompany him in his ministry and witness his teachings and miracles firsthand.

One of the prominent members of Jesus’ inner circle was Peter. Jesus saw potential in him and said, ‘You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church’ (Matthew 16:18). Despite his impulsive nature, Peter became a strong leader among the twelve disciples.

James, the brother of John, was also part of Jesus’ inner circle. He had the privilege of witnessing significant events such as the Transfiguration, where Jesus’ appearance was transformed and his divine nature was revealed (Matthew 17:1-2). James was also present in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed before his crucifixion (Mark 14:33).

John, often referred to as the ‘beloved disciple,’ had a deep bond with Jesus. He was present at the crucifixion, where Jesus entrusted him with the care of his mother, Mary (John 19:26-27). John was known for his close relationship with Jesus and his profound understanding of love and compassion.

However, not all members of Jesus’ inner circle remained faithful. Judas Iscariot, initially chosen by Jesus, later betrayed him. This betrayal led to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. Judas serves as a reminder of the complexities of human nature and the choices we make.

These chosen individuals had the privilege of being close companions to Jesus, witnessing his miracles, and receiving his teachings. Their experiences and relationships with Jesus provided them with unique insights into his life and teachings.

Transitioning to the subsequent section, it is important to explore the multitudes who followed Jesus, seeking his guidance and teachings. The Bible tells us that crowds of people flocked to Jesus, drawn by his wisdom and miracles. They sought healing, forgiveness, and spiritual guidance.

One of the most well-known stories that showcases Jesus’ compassion and ability to provide for the multitudes is the feeding of the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21). When faced with a large crowd in a remote location, Jesus took a few loaves of bread and fish and miraculously multiplied them to feed the entire crowd. This miracle not only satisfied their physical hunger but also demonstrated Jesus’ power and compassion.

Another example is the story of the woman who had been suffering from a bleeding condition for twelve years (Mark 5:25-34). Despite her desperation and societal exclusion, she approached Jesus in faith, believing that even touching his garment would bring healing. Jesus recognized her faith and said, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering’ (Mark 5:34).

These stories from the Bible illustrate the profound impact Jesus had on the multitudes who sought him. They provide examples of his teachings, miracles, and the transformative power of faith.

The Multitudes Who Followed Jesus

A significant number of individuals sought Jesus’ guidance and teachings, drawn by his wisdom and ability to perform miracles. Matthew 4:25 states, ‘Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and the region across the Jordan followed Him.’ His teachings had a profound influence and impact on his followers, transforming their lives and inspiring them to live according to his principles of love, compassion, and forgiveness.

One story from the Bible that exemplifies the transformative power of Jesus’ teachings is the story of Zacchaeus. Luke 19:1-10 tells us that Zacchaeus, a tax collector, was seeking to see Jesus, but due to his short stature, he couldn’t see over the crowd. Zacchaeus climbed a sycamore tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus. When Jesus saw him, He said, ‘Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.’ This encounter with Jesus led to a complete transformation in Zacchaeus’ life. He declared, ‘Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.’ Jesus responded, ‘Today, salvation has come to this house.’

The multitudes who followed Jesus were incredibly diverse, coming from various backgrounds and walks of life. They included fishermen like Peter, Andrew, James, and John, who left their nets and followed Jesus when He called them, saying, ‘Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matthew 4:19). They also included tax collectors like Matthew, who left his tax booth to become one of Jesus’ disciples (Mark 2:14). There were zealots like Simon, who had previously been involved in political rebellion but chose to follow Jesus (Luke 6:15). And there were ordinary people seeking hope and spiritual fulfillment, like the woman at the well who encountered Jesus and said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.’ Jesus then revealed Himself to her, saying, ‘I, the one speaking to you—I am he’ (John 4:25-26).

Despite their differences, the multitudes who followed Jesus were united in their desire to learn from Him and experience the transformative power of His teachings. They recognized that Jesus was not just a wise teacher or miracle-worker, but the Messiah, the Son of God. As John 1:12 tells us, ‘Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ It is through their collective experiences and encounters with Jesus that we can begin to understand the depth and breadth of His influence.

Transitioning into the subsequent section about the twelve apostles, we can examine how Jesus chose a select group of individuals to carry on His teachings and spread His message.

The Twelve Apostles

Chosen from diverse backgrounds, the twelve apostles were individuals handpicked by Jesus to propagate his teachings and disseminate his message. These apostles were given a specific mission and authority by Jesus himself. Here are four key aspects of the apostles’ mission and authority, supported by relevant facts and quotes from the Bible:

  1. Teach and Preach: The apostles were tasked with teaching and preaching the Gospel, sharing the good news of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and calling people to repentance and faith. In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus instructed his disciples, saying, ‘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.’

  2. Heal and Perform Miracles: Alongside their teaching, the apostles were empowered by Jesus to perform miraculous signs and wonders, demonstrating the truth of their message and the power of God. In Mark 16:17-18, Jesus said, ‘And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.’

To illustrate this, let us look at the story of Peter healing a lame beggar. In Acts 3:1-10, Peter and John encountered a man who had been lame from birth. Peter said to him, ‘I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!’ Immediately, the man’s feet and ankles were made strong, and he began to walk, leaping and praising God. This miraculous healing not only brought physical restoration to the man but also served as a powerful testimony to the truth of the apostles’ message.

  1. Establish the Church: The apostles played a crucial role in establishing and organizing the early Christian communities, appointing leaders, and guiding the growth of the Church. In Ephesians 2:20, it is written, ‘Built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone.’ The apostles laid the foundation for the Church, ensuring its stability and continuity.

  2. Write Scripture: Some of the apostles, such as Peter and Paul, wrote letters that became part of the New Testament, providing authoritative guidance and instruction for the Church. In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul wrote, ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.’ The writings of the apostles became essential for the believers, guiding them in their faith and practice.

The apostles, with their unique mission and authority, set the stage for the subsequent section about Jesus’ followers after his resurrection. Through their teachings, miracles, establishment of the Church, and the writing of Scripture, they fulfilled their purpose of spreading the Gospel and building a strong foundation for the Christian faith.

Jesus’ Followers After His Resurrection

After the resurrection of Jesus, numerous individuals who had witnessed his ministry became devoted adherents to the early Christian movement. The appearances of Jesus after his resurrection served as a powerful confirmation of his divinity and mission, greatly impacting his followers.

One of the most famous stories illustrating the impact of Jesus’ resurrection on his followers is the encounter between Jesus and Thomas. When Jesus first appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, Thomas was not present. When the other disciples told him that they had seen the Lord, Thomas expressed his doubt, saying, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe’ (John 20:25).

A week later, Jesus appeared again to his disciples, and this time Thomas was present. Jesus, knowing Thomas’ doubts, said to him, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe’ (John 20:27). Thomas, overwhelmed by the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, exclaimed, ‘My Lord and my God!’ (John 20:28).

This encounter with Jesus not only reassured Thomas, but it also strengthened his faith and commitment to spreading the teachings of Jesus. Thomas went on to become a bold and dedicated ambassador of the Gospel, even traveling to India to share the good news. His doubt was transformed into unwavering faith, all because of the powerful impact of Jesus’ resurrection.

Another story that showcases the impact of Jesus’ resurrection is the conversion of Saul, who later became known as the apostle Paul. Before his encounter with Jesus, Saul was a vehement persecutor of Christians. However, on the road to Damascus, he had a life-altering experience. Jesus appeared to him in a blinding light and said, ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?’ (Acts 9:4). This encounter left Saul blinded for three days, during which he fasted and prayed.

When Ananias, a believer in Damascus, was instructed by the Lord to go to Saul and lay hands on him, Ananias hesitated, knowing Saul’s reputation. But the Lord said to him, ‘Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel’ (Acts 9:15).

Ananias obeyed, and when he laid hands on Saul, his sight was restored, and he was filled with the Holy Spirit. From that moment on, Saul became a devoted follower of Jesus, dedicating his life to spreading the Gospel. He went on to write many letters, which are now part of the New Testament, and played a crucial role in establishing early Christian communities.

These stories from the Bible highlight the transformative power of Jesus’ resurrection on his followers. It solidified their belief in his message and empowered them to carry it forward. The impact of Jesus’ resurrection cannot be understated, as it continues to inspire and motivate believers to this day.

Paul King

I post written versions of my powerful sermons exploring topics like prayer, praise, biblical truths, and more expressions of faith. My church has a deeply spiritual culture, which I try to convey through vivid storytelling and applications in our everyday life. I spread the Good Word with lots of conviction and passion.