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JESUS CHOSE THE TWELVE

Luke 6:12-6:16
Key Verse: 6:13

In the previous passage Jesus revealed himself as Lord of the Sabbath, and healed a man with a shriveled in the synagogue on the Sabbath at the watchful eyes of the Pharisees. We learned that the spirit of the Sabbath is to have true rest in Jesus and to serve the work of life-saving in obedience to him. After that event, the conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees intensified. With this background, in today’s passage Jesus chooses twelve disciples for his future gospel ministry. We can think of Jesus’ direction and his hope and vision to serve God’s purpose of world salvation.

First, Jesus prayed to God (12). Look at verse 12. “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” Here “one of those days” is not a definite time but indefinite. This can refer to times of conflict and difficulty in doing the work of God, such as the Sabbath controversies in 6:1-11. In such a time Jesus did not seek a human solution. Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and he spent the night praying to God. We see the emphasis on prayer. We know that Jesus was full of wisdom (2:40,52). But he did not depend on his own wisdom. Rather he prayed to God to find a solution from God. Jesus prayed to God the Father to receive a clear direction from him. Jesus even spent the whole night praying to God. The praying Jesus is the holy image of him as the Son of God.

Luke’s gospel well portrays the praying Jesus. At the time of baptism, which was God’s inauguration for him to begin his messianic ministry, Jesus prayed (3:21). After healing many, one by one, most probably until late night, at the day break Jesus went out to a solitary place and prayed. Through this prayer Jesus affirmed the purpose of his being sent: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the towns also, because that is why I was sent” (4:42-43). When Jesus healed a man with leprosy, crowds of people came to him to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. Jesus was not just happy with the crowd of people. He often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (5:16). Here Jesus prayed to God before choosing 12 disciples. Jesus prayed before testing his disciples with the question, “Who do you say I am?” (9:18). In private prayer, he probably asked God to open their spiritual eyes to see who he is. Peter responded the question correctly, “The Christ of God.” And Luke vividly described Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane. The content of his prayer was, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” And his attitude in prayer was “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Lk 22:44). This was Jesus’ intense prayer to seek God’s will and have the strength to obey it. Jesus prayed on special occasions, but for Jesus, prayer was his spiritual pattern. 22:39 says, “Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him.”

In Luke 18 Jesus told his disciples the parable of a persistent widow to show them that they should always pray and not give up. In the parable, a widow’s persistent request for justice was finally granted, even by a godless and merciless judge. Jesus assures that God answers his chosen ones who cry out to him day and night. But Jesus’ agony was this: “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (18:8). This means that when Jesus comes again, he will scarcely be able to find those who pray persistently.

We are living in a time where human knowledge floods and people are apt to float over the trend of the world for more knowledge and better life. Everything seems to be going fast, and each one seems busy, doing many human activities that demand their time. Prayer to God is likely to be the last thing to do, even for many Christians. And in our times, meditation seems be popular, while prayer unpopular. One theologian was asked, “Do you pray?” He answered, “No, I do not pray, but I meditate.” But in light of Jesus’ life on earth, we learn that we must pray. We should make time to pray and spend time praying to God. We should pray for God’s direction in our lives in particular. We can be disappointed by people, but it is our confidence that God never disappoints us when we come to him in prayer (1 Jn 5:14). We may realize more and more that when we pray, God leads us and directs our lives in the best way.

Second, Jesus chose the twelve (13-16). Look at verse 13. “When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles.” After dark night, bright morning comes. After the whole night prayer Jesus must have been filled with hope and vision from God. What did he do? He called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them. Choosing the twelve was a direction from God through his prayer. Of course, he had the direction to preach the good news of the kingdom of God in the earlier time. And now he got the direction of choosing the twelve, full of hope in God. Jesus’ choosing the twelve was God’s wisdom in doing the gospel work. Here we can think of several things:

Firstly, Jesus chose among his disciples. Disciples were the followers of Jesus. They were learners of Jesus, and would be disciplined in every area of life to become like Jesus. Apostle Paul said to Timothy, his disciple, “You know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings…” At this point though not yet established people, the disciples were eager to learn and eager to receive divine discipline. They would be taught by Jesus intensively and regularly. They would not only learn Jesus’ teaching but also his life. Through the life together with Jesus, they would come to know the person Jesus and have an inseparable relationship with him, rooted in love and truth, and this relationship would be the closest one among all their relationships. Again, Jesus chose among those who were humble enough to learn and to be disciplined and discipled.

Secondly, Jesus chose them. Jesus said to his twelve disciples in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you…” Jesus’ choosing shows his initiative in God’s sovereignty. In this world we cannot be sure of anything or anyone, not even ourselves. But we can be assured of God’s sovereign choice. In the time of Noah, people married any they chose based on fleshly desire and outward appearance--and that was the downfall of the family, the society and the world. There is God’s choice, and God’s choice is our assurance. There would be many ups and downs in the lives of Jesus’ disciples. But faith in God’s sovereign choice would enable them to overcome one difficulty after another and go deeper in his sovereign will and purpose.

Thirdly, Jesus chose the twelve. Some say that the number twelve is the multiple of the perfect heavenly number three (representing the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit), and the perfect earthly number four (representing north, south, east and west). Figuratively speaking, the number twelve represents the whole world. Here we are reminded of the twelve sons of Jacob who would be the twelve patriarchs of Israel, and the foundation for the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus chose exactly twelve, no more and no less. This indicates that in choosing the twelve, Jesus had in mind the new Israel. When God made the nation Israel through Abraham and the 12 patriarchs, God wanted the nation to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, and thus a blessing for the world. But when they abandoned God’s purpose for them and even forsook the LORD their God and turned to other gods, God was so pained. God’s plan seemed to fail. But that was not the case. Despite their unfaithfulness, God was faithful to his promise, and finally sent his Son Jesus as the Saviour of the world. Now, at the right time, Jesus chose the twelve in the hope of forming a new Israel for God’s world salvation purpose. Jesus’ choosing the twelve matches God’s plan of world salvation, and Jesus believed that God’s plan would be accomplished. Jesus had a sense of God’s history and obeyed the will of God. Jesus taught God’s will and plan to his disciples time and again, and asked them to pray for this: “Your kingdom come; your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Mt 6:9; Lk 11:2).

Fourthly, Jesus designated them apostles. The term apostles derives from the Greek verb “to send” and means “someone sent”, “a messenger”. And in the Bible, “apostle” is a great title given, strictly speaking, only to these twelve disciples of Jesus who would directly experience Jesus on earth. Actually, they would be sent out into the world as witnesses of Jesus’ death and resurrection and assume the messianic ministry after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension. After his resurrection Jesus said to them, “…repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things” (Lk 24:47-48). In Matthew’s gospel Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations…” (Mt 28:18-19) and in John’s gospel, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (Jn 20:21). They would be sent out with the authority of Jesus. But from the beginning of choosing the twelve, Jesus designated them apostles. This is Jesus’ faith and hope in them. Jesus was sure that they would indeed become apostles.

Noticeably, while in Matthew and Mark the word 'apostles' is written one or two times (Mt 10:2; Mk 3:14; 6:50), in Luke the word appears six times (6:13; 9:10; 11:49; 17:5; 22:14; 24:10), five of them referring to the twelve disciples. Here in 6:13 Jesus designated them apostles. In 9:10, after field work training, the apostles returned and reported to Jesus what they had done. In 17:5 the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” At the Last Supper Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. In 24:10, at Jesus’ resurrection some women delivered the message of resurrection to the apostles.

Now the names of the apostles are written: “Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Basically, Luke wrote each one’s name, separating one name from the other by comma. It signifies that each person is a unique one before God. And there are three pairs of identical names: Simon, James and Judas. To distinguish the Simons, it is written, “Simon (whom he named Peter)", and "Simon who was called the Zealot". Also, as for Simon, the name Peter, meaning rock, is mentioned--the name Jesus gave him. This reveals Jesus’ hope for him, although he was not yet rock-like in his personality and for the church. From here on, Luke no longer calls him 'Simon', but Peter(but see 22:31; 24:34). It is interesting that Luke wrote, “Simon who was called the Zealot,” while Matthew and Mark wrote, “Simon the Zealot.” To Luke, Simon was the Zealot in the past, but not anymore. He is now Apostle Simon. In Matthew’s gospel, Matthew wrote, “…Matthew the tax collector”, most importantly [probably] to remember God’s grace that called even a tax collector like him. But Luke just wrote, “Matthew,” indicating that he is no longer a tax collector, but an apostle, Apostle Matthew. And there are two James, so written, “James” and “James son of Alphaeus.” By Mark (15:40) he is also called “James the Less,” which by some is interpreted as meaning “James the younger.” And there are two Judas, recorded, “Judas son of James” and “Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” To separate the two identical Judas, writing “Judas Iscariot” would have been enough. Yet, there is a painful comment: Luke wrote, “who became a traitor”, whereas Matthew and Mark, “who betrayed him.” According to Luke, it is clear that Judas was not a traitor from the beginning. He became a traitor. We cannot deny Jesus’ choice and hope for him. The issue was that Judas could not bear it. This shows that God’s choosing grace does not cancel human responsibility. We need the assurance of God’s choice, and at the same time we should keep watch over ourselves, that we might bear this tremendous grace.

Jesus chose the twelve and designated them apostles. When we think about the twelve, they are so different. They were different in their jobs and personalities. There must have been so many difficulties when these twelve different guys lived together. As we studied, Simon was a hard-working man. But he was domineering and had a big mouth. Andrew seemed vague, but had point. He could persuade a boy with five loaves and two fish to offer them to Jesus so that Jesus could feed 5,000 people. John and James were sneaky with hidden ambition. Philip was smart, but his way of thinking was pessimistic. Bartholomew was Nathanael according to John (1:45). Jesus said that he was a true Israelite and gave him a vision of spiritual growth. Interestingly, Matthew and Thomas were written side by side. As we studied in Jesus’ call to Matthew, Matthew was a very selfish man as a tax collector and Thomas was a doubter. Whenever something was missing, Thomas could have been suspicious of Matthew. So it could have been hard for Matthew to bear Thomas' doubt and also for Thomas, Matthew’s selfishness. There might be many conflicts between them. Yet, perhaps they could grow as close friends. The name Thomas comes right after the name Matthew in both Luke and Mark. In Matthew, however, the name Thomas comes first. Perhaps Matthew recognized that Thomas was better than he. Anyway, they were different. Also, God’s leading for each person would be different. For example, James and John were brothers, and both were very ambitious. However, James was martyred at the time of the early church, while John most probably lived longest and was exiled to the remote island of Patmos (Rev 1:9). They would suffer in different ways, although all would suffer for Christ.

Jesus called and chose various kinds of different people, the twelve, in the hope that they might learn to live together with different people and be moulded in God’s love to be shepherds for the people of the world. Jesus hoped and believed that they would indeed become apostles, ambassadors of Christ Jesus, who could represent the Saviour and Lord Jesus through their messages and lives to the people of the world.

In this study we learn that we should pray for God’s direction in our lives. May God help each one to accept his calling and choosing very personally. With a humble learning mind, may we grow as disciples of Jesus, and in Jesus’ faith and hope, may we may indeed be apostles, ambassadors of Jesus in this world. May God raise up twelve disciples among U of T students to evangelize this campus and for his world salvation purpose.

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