Process for picking the apostles

Jesus did not call his disciples at once but gradually over time. He first met Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist, who followed him up after hearing. Andrew then brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, who gave him the name Cephas. The next day, Jesus found Philip and Nathaniel and invited them to follow him. Later, he met with other disciples, such as Matthew, Thomas, James, and John, on various occasions, such as the wedding at Cana, the feeding of the 5000, and the Last Supper.

Image by falco

Lessons for discipleship

By Ron Bruni

Friday of the Second Week in Ordinary Time
1 Samuel 24:3-21
Mark 3:13-19

The common theme in all three readings for Friday, January 19, is God's sovereignty and mercy over his chosen ones. All three passages show how God protects, guides, and blesses those he calls and appoints for his purposes, even amid trials and enemies. 

In Samuel 24, God allows David to spare Saul's life and show him mercy even though Saul was pursuing him to kill him. David recognizes that Saul is still God's anointed king and trusts that God will judge between them in his time and way. In Psalm 57, David praises God for his mercy and truth and expresses his confidence in God's deliverance from his enemies. He also exalts God above the heavens, and the earth acknowledges his sovereignty and glory. In Mark's gospel, Jesus chooses the 12 men to be his apostles, and it is in this reading that I'm going to talk mostly about today.

Today's gospel reading by Mark gives us a description of Jesus choosing his original 12 apostles. Each of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, have different accounts of how Jesus chose his 12 disciples, also called apostles.

Matthew: Jesus called his first four disciples, Simon Peter, Andrew, James, and John, while fishing by the sea of Galilee. He then went throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching, and healing, and called more disciples, such as Matthew, the tax collector. He eventually appointed 12 of these his apostles, giving them authority to cast out demons and heal disease.

Mark: Jesus also called his first four disciples by the Sea of Galilee and then went to Capernaum, where he healed many people and cast out demons. He then went to a mountain, summoned those he wanted, and chose 12 of them to be his apostles with the same authority as in Matthew.

Luke: Jesus spent the night praying on a mountain before choosing his 12 apostles from among his many disciples. He then came down with them and taught a large crowd of people, healing them and performing miracles. He also gave his apostles the same authority as in Matthew and Mark.

John: Jesus did not call his disciples at once but gradually over time. He first met Andrew and another disciple of John the Baptist, who followed him up after hearing. Andrew then brought his brother Simon Peter to Jesus, who gave him the name Cephas. The next day, Jesus found Philip and Nathaniel and invited them to follow him. Later, he met with other disciples, such as Matthew, Thomas, James, and John, on various occasions, such as the wedding at Cana, the feeding of the 5000, and the Last Supper. John’s Gospel does not name all the 12 apostles, nor does it mention Jesus giving them any special authority.

There are several possible reasons for these differences: 

  • The gospel writers had different sources of information, perspectives, and purposes in writing their accounts.
  • The gospel writers use different literary devices, such as selection, arrangement, and emphasis, to highlight various aspects of Jesus's ministry and message.
  • The gospel writers adapted their accounts to the needs and expectations of their audiences, who may have been familiar with different traditions and customs.

As I read over and contemplated the story of Jesus choosing his 12 apostles, I thought it would be an interesting mental exercise to put Jesus's choice of them in a fictitious modern-day version.                      

In the bustling metropolis of Jerusalem, a relatively unknown but charismatic CEO, Jesus Christ, the Son of the richest, most influential personage in the universe, sought to establish a groundbreaking corporation aimed at transforming lives and spreading a message of compassion and salvation. Realizing the magnitude of his mission, Jesus decided to recruit a team of exceptional individuals who would become the pillars of his organization. Now, one of the subsidiaries of his corporation contained a vast databank containing the names and pertinent information of all living persons at the time.

As he was accessing this vast databank, it questioned him concerning the characteristics of the candidates he was searching for. Jesus smiled and typed in: "I'm looking for fishermen, tax collectors, zealots, doctors, and anyone with a heart for God and people. I don't care about their credentials, experience, or background. I only care about their character, potential, and willingness to learn." After a brief time, the computer printed a list of 12 men who seemed to fit the bill. Jesus reached out to look it over. 

The printout said, "Here are the 12 candidates you might be interested in. They are all available for an interview right now. We can arrange for interviews as soon as you wish.” As Jesus read over the printed list, he smiled at the names. He recognized all of them from his previous encounters. He knew he had chosen them before they knew or heard of him. Understanding the importance of the job he had in mind, it seemed best to approach them and offer them the job personally. So Jesus wandered through Jerusalem and the surrounding areas searching for the people and invited them to come and talk to him. 

After rigorous interviews, Jesus carefully selected twelve extraordinary individuals with unique skills and backgrounds. Each of the 12 he had selected had an epiphany-like experience that convinced them that this Jesus was extraordinary and messianic and that his teachings of love, compassion, and forgiveness would change the world as they knew it. When they gathered together, he greeted them warmly and said, "Hello, my friends. I'm Jesus, here to offer you the opportunity of a lifetime. Are you ready to join me?" 

These chosen apostles would become the core team entrusted with leading the expansion of Jesus' transformative enterprise and carrying forward the legacy of love and redemption.

It would be an interesting exercise of the mind for us to pick out what we think would be the most critical characteristics of apostles, but, of course, we would need more than what we see and hear. In contrast, Jesus could see their hearts and know if they were pure. In any case, in perusing the four Gospels and other sources of Scripture and commentary, I've come up with what may be some of the traits that Jesus saw in these 12 that caused him to choose them.

The Gospels provide varying degrees of detail about the characteristics and talents of the 12 disciples Jesus chose. While some traits are highlighted more explicitly in particular Gospels, a general overview of the distinctive qualities of each disciple can be gathered:

  • Simon (named Peter by Jesus): bold, impulsive, and passionate. Peter often took a leadership role among the disciples, and Jesus referred to him as the "rock upon which the church would be built.
  • Andrew (Simon Peter's brother): Andrew is often associated with evangelism and introducing others to Christ. He was open-minded, humble, and eager to learn from Jesus. He was also a good worker and recruiter, bringing his brothers Peter, Philip, and Nathaniel to Jesus. He had a heart for the Gentiles and the marginalized as he helped them approach Jesus. 
  • James (son of Zebedee), along with his brother John, James was part of Jesus's inner circle. He was present at critical moments such as the Transfiguration. James and John, his brother, were the only disciples upon whom Jesus bestowed nicknames. The fiery evangelical zeal and extreme reactions often displayed by these inspire Jesus to dub them "the Sons of Thunder somewhat humorously." He was the first apostle to be martyred for his faith, as he was beheaded by King Herod Agrippa the First.
  • John (son of Zebedee) long before being referred to as the "beloved disciple," his consuming temper earned him the nickname of the son of thunder. John had a close and intimate relationship with Jesus and John's, and he is known for his deep understanding of love and spirituality. He was the only apostle who stayed with Jesus at the cross. He was the author of the Gospel of John, three epistles, and the book of Revelation.
  • Philip: practical and analytical, Philip is often associated with asking Jesus questions, such as when he questioned how they could feed the multitude. He was also a good friend and partner of Andrew, as they often worked together in bringing people to Jesus. He had a desire to see the Father and to understand the truth.
  • Bartholomew (Nathaniel): he was sincere, straightforward, unpretentious, and faithful to Jesus. He was also a scholar and a student of the Scriptures, as he recognized Jesus as fulfilling the prophecies. He was willing to follow Jesus even though he was initially skeptical about him.                                                          
  • Thomas: pessimistic, doubtful, analytical, and loyal to Jesus. He was also a brave and honest seeker of the truth, as he asked questions and expressed his doubts. He deeply loved Jesus, as he was willing to die with him, and later confessed to him as his Lord and God.
  • Matthew (Levi), a tax collector before following Jesus, was humble, repentant, generous, and grateful to Jesus. He was also a skilled writer and tax collector as he recorded the teachings and deeds of Jesus and the gospel. He was passionate about reaching out to sinners and the outcasts, inviting them to his house and Jesus.
  • James (son of Alpheus): he was quiet, faithful, and obedient to Jesus. He was also a witness to the resurrection of Jesus as he saw him appear in Jerusalem. He had a close relationship with his brother, Jude, and his mother, Mary, who were also followers of Jesus.
  • Simon (the zealot, also known as Simon the Canaanite) was strong-willed, sincere, and committed to Jesus. He was also a former member of the Zealots, a radical Jewish group that opposed the Roman occupation. He had a radical change of heart and allegiance as he followed Jesus and his way of peace and love.
  • Thadddeus (also known as Judas, son of James and Lebbaeus) was intense, loyal, and devoted to Jesus. He was also a man of faith. and prayer, as he asked Jesus how he would reveal himself to his followers. He had a zeal for the kingdom of God and the glory of Christ.
  • Judas Iscariot was a keeper of the moneybag and a member of the 12. He had a greed for money and a disregard for people with low incomes, as he sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver and later hanged himself in remorse.

The selection of the twelve apostles by Jesus is a timeless example that resonates with individuals across various professions and walks of life. While the apostles were chosen to assist in spreading the message of salvation, their qualities and roles can be paralleled to guide us in our diverse life missions:

Diversity of Backgrounds and Skills:

Just as Jesus chose apostles from different backgrounds and professions, our life missions benefit from diverse skills and experiences. Embracing various perspectives enhances our ability to tackle challenges and contribute meaningfully to our respective fields.

Commitment and Dedication:

The apostles exhibited an unwavering commitment to Jesus and his mission. In our personal or professional pursuits, steadfast dedication fosters resilience and perseverance, helping us overcome obstacles and achieve our goals. 

Leadership and Mentorship:  

Jesus selected followers and mentors who would later become leaders in their own right. Similarly, in our roles, there is value in cultivating leadership skills and serving as mentors to empower others, fostering a legacy of positive influence. 

Learning and Adaptability:

The apostles underwent a transformative journey, learning and adapting to the teachings of Jesus. Likewise, in our careers and life missions, a commitment to continuous learning and adaptability equips us to navigate evolving landscapes and remain relevant.

Collaboration and Teamwork:

The apostles formed a cohesive team, emphasizing the importance of collaboration. In our professions and personal endeavors, fostering a spirit of teamwork enhances productivity, creativity, and the ability to achieve collective success.

Service and Selflessness:

The apostles embodied a spirit of service and selflessness. Our missions in life gain depth and meaning when we prioritize the well-being of others, contributing to the betterment of our communities and the world at large.

Resilience in the Face of Adversity:

The apostles faced numerous challenges, yet their resilience prevailed. Similarly, in our journeys, resilience in the face of setbacks ensures that we emerge more robust and can turn obstacles into opportunities.

In essence, the story of the twelve apostles serves as an inspirational blueprint for individuals across all professions, guiding us to embrace diversity, commitment, leadership, adaptability, collaboration, service, and resilience in our respective life missions. Passing this message on to our grand and great-grandchildren and any younger generations in our communities will perpetuate Christ's message of discipleship.

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