The Twelve Disciples

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m again working through the Gospels. My primary purpose in this reading is to find out what Jesus says about himself. How he understood his ministry and role in this kingdom that has come nigh. But I often get “bogged” down with other ideas. This is one of them – The Twelve Disciples.

Let’s make a couple observations before taking on the main idea of the post. It seems clear when receiving the call and instantly leaving everything to follow Jesus that the men we know as the Twelve had apparently heard of, become acquainted with and found an attraction to the man and ministry of Jesus the Messiah. They knew this was no charlatan that was making an invitation to them. Also, it seems apparent from the NT text that these men, regardless of how eager they were in walking away from work and family, were in for a fairly bumpy ride. These two observations have implications for the development of the Twelve which we all notice when reading their stories.  Now to the point of the post.

In Matthew 10 we read about Jesus summoning the twelve and preparing them for ministry. This could be a present ministry in the fields that are ripe unto harvest or it could be  preparation for carrying on the ministry of the Kingdom after the period of the resurrection. Either is acceptable when it comes to two things: 1) how Jesus equips them and 2) what the consequences of their ministry will be both for them personally and others.

Matthew starts out by saying that Jesus gave them authority over unclean spirits and equipped them with the ability to heal every kind of sickness and disease. As if that were not enough he gives them almost a divine authority to raise the dead! Pretty powerful stuff when you stop and think about it. This kind of authority can quickly leave the heart and go to a man’s head if left unchecked.

Once this initial equipping is taken care of Jesus tells them what to pack for their ministry journey. Sparse to say the least and dependent totally on God and others for survival. Yes, I suppose it’s most spiritual to say they were totally dependent on God but the reality is Jesus said the “worker would be worthy of his support (v.10 NASB)” which implies others will be responsible for that privilege.

Lest one is thinking of filling out an application for a job with the twelve there are some issues that should be discussed. These should give us all pause:

  • They will be sent out as “sheep in the midst of wolves.” Not real attractive when you think about it. It’s certain they will be praying as they go, but they will also be prey as they go
  • They will be delivered up and scourged in the synagogues
  • The will be brought before political leaders because of their relationship to Jesus and expected to defend that relationship
  • They can be expected to be betrayed by intimate members of their own family
  • They will be hated because of their association with Jesus
  • They will be expected to “endure to the end” in order to be saved
  • They can be expected to accused of being aligned with the deceiver and not the giver of truth
  • They will be asked not to be afraid when staring death in the face. Losing one’s life physically is nothing compared to facing the one who can “destroy both soul and body in hell!”
  • They will be expected to be unwavering in their confession of Christ in order to be privileged with the confession of the Christ before the father in heaven.
  • They can expect family relationships to test their allegiance to the Messiah which in turn will determine his allegiance to them before the father in heaven
  • They will be expected to love NO ONE more than they love Jesus (We like to think this is really only a metaphor for total devotion – but it seems Jesus really expected that kind of absolute commitment.)

Finally, as if all of that is not enough, they are called to take up their cross and follow Jesus even if that cross leads them down the path to a real cross.

Being called as one of the twelve didn’t seem like a real attractive position. It wasn’t when you look at it purely from the standpoint of WIIFM. But for these men it seemed a privilege of the highest order. A following that they would fulfill to the best of their ability. Being a disciple of the Christ was nothing to take lightly.

Knowing what we know, are we really that committed in our own discipleship. My goodness, very few believers (from what I’ve observed in the churches I’ve been involved in) are discipled to a level of commitment Jesus laid down for the twelve. And perhaps they shouldn’t be. The twelve were unique both in selection and their role in history. They had a job that complemented the ministry of the Messiah while on earth and one that took it to new levels after his resurrection. Should that role be expected of believers today?

In reality there is nothing glamorous about discipleship. As Matthew pointed out in his account, it’s hard stuff with high expectations.



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