the ministry of messiah (18)
The Choosing of the 12 Apostles and the Sermon on the Plain (Luke 6:12-49).
The choosing of the twelve Apostles was after his temptation, perhaps the next most significant step in the 3 1/2 years ministry of the Master.
One wonders whether the healing of the man with the withered hand, which we considered in our last study, had a bearing on this step. The opposition of the Scribes and Pharisees was now growing as a result of this miracle. Moreover, the powerlessness of the leaders of Israel, represented by the man’s withered hand which could do nothing, revealed the importance of Christ having the open hand. He had been given by the Father power without measure, which he had to use. The words of the prophet Isaiah are very apposite:
“For Adonai Yahweh will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I shall know that I shall not be ashamed.”
He had set his face like a flint to complete the work which his Father had given him to do. Jesus would no doubt see the need for co-helpers so that after he had ascended to the right hand of his Father they could finish the work which he had begun. What a responsibility lay upon him to choose the right men! The whole future course of the ecclesia in the world was dependent upon the men who Christ chose, for we believe on Christ through their word. We see this from the last words of Jesus to the Apostles in John chapter 17:
“I have manifested thy Name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world: thine they were, and thou gavest them me; and they have kept thy word … neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word” (vs 6 and 20).
The Apostles are the very basis of the words of the New Testament through which together with the words of the Old Testament, we believe on Christ. What great men they are in the purpose of God! Yet their choice was beyond what we could have anticipated, for in the main the Apostles were simple fishermen—unlearned and ignorant men. They were not chosen from Jerusalem or Judea, the so called centre of learning, but from despised Galilee. I doubt whether we would have chosen such men. For this reason, we read, “he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God”. In the morning Jesus knew the men whom he should choose, including one who would eventually betray him. So, “when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named Apostles.” The men chosen were the outcome of this prayer. Let us note, he called his disciples and then named those he had chosen, Apostles. A disciple is a learner or a pupil; one who follows both the teacher and the teaching, where as an Apostle is one sent forth. We are all disciples i.e. learners, but of the Apostles there were twelve, with the addition of the Apostle Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Judas Iscariot, of course, lost his office and was replaced by Matthias as we learn from Acts chapter 1.
When we consider the names as they appear in the records of Matthew, Mark and Luke, we find that a number of times they were related. Simon Peter and Andrew were brothers. James and John were brothers, the sons of Zebedee. It would seem that they were also cousins to Jesus. We conclude this from comparing three Scriptures, namely Matthew 27:56, Mark 15:40 and John 19:25). Among those women who were present with the Lord Jesus in his last hour, was “the mother of Zebedee’s children,” named in Mark as Salome and in John as Mary’s sister.
Also related were James the son of Alphaeus and Judas, who were brothers. Furthermore, Matthew the publican is also described as the son of Alphaeus, so we conclude that he was brother to James and Judas. There could be further family ties among the Apostles, and I would be interested if anyone could throw further light on this interesting subject.
We suggest that Bartholomew was Nathaniel. We have already commented on Matthew, that his name was also Levi—which means “joined” – and the son of Alphaeus, which means “that which passes away”. He was involved with money, as a tax collector, thereby being joined to that which passes away, but he became a Gift of Yah when he was joined to Christ. Simon was a member of a nationalist party, a zealot, but when he followed Christ, his zeal was harnessed to the cause of his Master.
After Jesus had chosen the twelve, we read in Luke 6:17:
“and he came down with them and stood in the plain, and the company of his disciples, and a great multitude of people out of all Judea and Jerusalem, and from the sea coast of Tyre and Sidon, which came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; And they that were vexed with unclean spirits: and they were healed. And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him and healed them all. And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said, Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God”.
Jesus then spoke similar words to those he spoke on the Sermon on the Mount, but with some variations. What is described as the Sermon on the Mount was given before Jesus called the Apostles. These words addressed on the plain, it seems, were given immediately after Jesus had appointed them. It is worthy of note that when Jesus spoke the Sermon on the Mount, he had left the multitude to go up into the mount, and when he was set, his disciples came to him, and he particularly addressed his words to them. In this latter discourse, there were a great multitude present, together with his disciples and the Apostles. But even so we read:
“and he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said …”
Jesus thus spoke particularly to the Apostles and his disciples. So we read in chapter 7 and verse 1:
“ … because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
“Mystery” means “What is known only to the initiated.” The “mysteries of the kingdom of heaven” therefore are intended for those who will hear and perceive the teachings of Christ, those who have the teachableness of a little child.
There are many similarities between the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain: but there are also some omissions in the latter discourse, namely Matthew 5:12-28, 6:1-34 and 7:6-15. We shall just look at these briefly so that we can pick up the difference. The words in Matthew 5 show the great difference between the Apostles’ position, and that of the Pharisees. They and not the Pharisees were the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and furthermore in this chapter, Jesus shows the difference between the law of Christ, and the Mosaic law and the tradition of the elders. The whole of Matthew 6 concerning doing alms, the model prayer, treasure in heaven, and taking no thought for your life, are omitted. In chapter 7, casting pearls before swine, entering in at the strait gate and beware of false prophets is omitted.
An addition in Luke 6, not found in Matthew is the parable of the blind leading the blind. We shall therefore consider this, particularly verses 39-42. Let us just read these verses. There seems to be a common theme to these verses, which has a bearing on the choosing of the twelve. The key verses are verses 41-42. This is very descriptive of the Pharisees, but nevertheless there are powerful lessons for us. To use Christ’s figure of speech, if we have a beam in our own eye, we are unable to teach others. This was the character of the Pharisees as we see from Matthew 23:16-19, 24-28. Because of this, they were ineffectual, like the man with the withered hand, who was unable to use it. It was most important that the Apostles were effectual. How could they become effectual? The way both for the Apostles and ourselves is shown in 2 Peter 1:1-12, note particularly verse 9. Truly the disciple is not above his master, but if we develop the qualities we have read of, we shall be perfect. This does not mean that we shall be without sin, for, “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the Truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” What is it to be perfect? The answer is in Colossians 3:12-14. Charity, or sacrificial love is the bond of perfectness. If the Apostles had these qualities they were as their Master. So they manifested these qualities and turned the world upside down with their teachings. We see this from some of the last words of the Apostle Paul in Acts 20:20-32. May we show forth these qualities that we may be perfect, and be as our Master.
(To be continued)