THE CHOSEN COMPANY
Jesus went up into the mountain and invited to his service the men of his choice; and he appointed twelve that they might be with him, and that he might send them out to act as his heralds, and to have power to cast out demons. He chose Simon, and to him he gave the name of Peter; he chose James, Zebedee’s son, and John, James’ brother, and to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder; he chose Andrew and Philip and Bartholomew and Matthew and Thomas, and James, Alphaeus’ son, and Thaddeus and Simon, the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.
Jesus had come to a very important moment in his life and work. He had emerged with his message; he had chosen his method; he had gone throughout Galilee preaching and healing. By this time he had made a very considerable impact on the public mind. Now he had to face two very practical problems. First, he had to find some way of making his message permanent if anything happened to him, and that something would happen he did not doubt. Second, he had to find some way of disseminating his message, and in an age when there was no such thing as a printed book or newspaper, and no way of reaching large numbers of people at the one time, that was no easy task. There was only one way to solve these two problems: he had to choose certain men on whose hearts and lives he could write his message and who would go out from his presence to carry that message abroad. Here we see him doing exactly that.
It is significant that Christianity began with a group. The Christian faith is something which from the beginning had to be discovered and lived out in a fellowship. The whole essence of the way of the Pharisees was that it separated men from their fellows; the very name Pharisee means the separated one; the whole essence of Christianity was that it bound men to their fellows, and presented them with the task of living with each other and for each other.
Further, Christianity began with a very mixed group. In it the two extremes met. Matthew was a tax-collector and, therefore, an outcast; he was a renegade and a traitor to his fellow countrymen. Simon the Cananaean is correctly called by Luke, Simon the Zealot; and the Zealots were a band of fiery, violent nationalists who were pledged even to murder and assassination to clear their country of the foreign yoke. The man who was lost to patriotism and the fanatical patriot came together in that group, and no doubt between them there were all kinds of backgrounds and opinions. Christianity began by insisting that the most diverse people should live together and by enabling them to do so, because they were all living with Jesus.
Judging them by worldly standards the men Jesus chose had no special qualifications at all. They were not wealthy; they had no special social position; they had no special education–they were not trained theologians; they were not high-ranking churchmen and ecclesiastics; they were twelve ordinary men. But they had two special qualifications. First, they had felt the magnetic attraction of Jesus. There was something about him that made them wish to take him as their Master. And second, they had the courage to show that they were on his side. Make no mistake, that did require courage. Here was Jesus calmly crashing through the rules and regulations; here was Jesus heading for an inevitable collision with the orthodox leaders; here was Jesus already branded as a sinner and labelled as a heretic; and yet they had the courage to attach themselves to him. No band of men ever staked everything on such a forlorn hope as these Galilaeans, and no band of men ever did it with more open eyes. These twelve had all kinds of faults, but whatever else could be said about them, they loved Jesus and they were not afraid to tell the world that they loved him–and that is being a Christian.
Jesus called them to him for two purposes. First, he called them to be with him. He called them to be his steady and consistent companions. Others might come and go; the crowd might be there one day and away the next; others might be fluctuating and spasmodic in their attachment to him, but these twelve were to identify their lives with his life and live with him all the time. Second, he called them to send them out. He wanted them to be his representatives. He wanted them to tell others about him. They themselves had been won in order to win others.
For their task Jesus equipped them with two things. First, he gave them a message. They were to be his heralds. A wise man said that no one has any right to be a teacher unless he has a teaching of his own to offer, or the teaching of another that with all the passion of his heart he wishes to propagate. Men will always listen to the man with a message. Jesus gave these friends of his something to say. Second, he gave them a power. They were also to cast out demons. Because they companied with him something of his power was on their lives.
If we would learn what discipleship is we will do well to think again of these first disciples.
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