Saturday 18 May 2019
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 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.
Today’s passage is Luke’s version of what we read from Mark yesterday about Jesus choosing twelve disciples. There are a few interesting extra details.
Luke mentions that Jesus gives the title ‘apostles’ to these twelve men. The word ‘apostle’ is a translation of the Greek word ‘apostolos’ which means ‘one who is sent’ or ‘messenger’. This passage tells us that Jesus had more than twelve disciples, but these twelve were the first ones to be sent out to preach, heal and drive out demons (see Luke 9:1-6). Later, Jesus also sent out seventy-two other disciples to preach, heal and cast out demons (Luke 10:1-23).
The fact that the number of apostles chosen is twelve reminds us of the twelve tribes of Israel. It is unlikely that this is a coincidence. The twelve sons of Jacob became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Israel. The twelve apostles are about to become the leaders who bring the message of the Kingdom of God to the people of Israel.
Twelve is also a significant number when we think about the size of the group. In my experience of leading life groups or similar discussion groups, if there are more than twelve people it becomes hard to give everyone a chance to have their say. A leader can speak to a group of people as large as the size of a hall or stadium, but for building deeper relationships, the number twelve is just about the right size for a group.
Luke also mentions that before Jesus chose the twelve apostles he spent the night praying to God on a mountainside. As it was night time and he was in a remote place, he was probably also fasting. The choice of people who would be the first leaders of the church was an important decision, and Jesus was keen to receive wisdom from his Father.
Are there any important decisions that we have to make in the near future? Spending an extended amount of time praying and fasting can help us to examine our motives and hear more clearly from God.
Thomas Halley, Sawyers Church Leadership Team