This summer, we are exploring the Twelve Disciples of Jesus. For several years, I have contemplated doing this series. I thought it would be fun to spend time exploring the lives of these men. I was a bit surprised how little information we have on some of them. These are pretty important people; they were chosen by Jesus to hold noteworthy positions in the Kingdom of God. They are replacing the twelve tribes of Israel. We read of their prominence in Revelation 21.
(Revelation 21:12-14 NIV) It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And yet several of them of barely mentioned in Scripture. At the same time, the documented ones are characterized as faithless, feeble-minded and lacking courage when Jesus is arrested. Their resumes are unimpressive. No religious leaders or priests are included; they are uneducated and ordinary. Why did Jesus chose these men? Could he not secure a more qualified group of followers?
As we read in Luke 6, Jesus’ popularity is waning and the religious leaders are plotting to kill him.
(Luke 6:11 NIV) But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.
In the very next verse, Jesus retreats to a remote place for prayer.
(Luke 6:12 NIV) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
He spends the night communing with the Father. As we read in the next verse, he is discerning which men he will appoint.
(Luke 6:13 NIV) When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:
What can we learn from Jesus’ choosing of the Twelve? Knowing the end of the story, we understand the transformation of these men. They will move from a wavering group of shallow followers (who are often fighting about who is the greatest) to a impressive band of faithful, gutsy leaders who carry the gospel to the corners of the world. Most will die as martyrs for their faith. I love how Acts 4 describes Peter and John.
(Acts 4:13 NIV) When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.
How did Jesus know which men to choose? How did he know the potential of this group? The sort answer is that Jesus knows all things. Certainly, as he prayed to the Father, he could see the raw qualities that would serve the Kingdom’s purposes. The choosing of the Twelve is a reminder that God often chooses the improbable for His purposes. God is able to see down the road; he envisions what we are unable to imagine. As we make decisions in our churches, may we remember this dynamic. Too often, we react to the observable. We tend to choose the obvious. Jesus took the time to seek the Father’s direction before making crucial appointments. May we follow his example as we operate as discerning churches.