Tuesday, 23 March 2021
Title: Twelve Ordinary Men!
By: Cecilia Tan 陈俊芳
Luke 6:12-13 “In these days He went out to the mountain to pray, and all night He continued in prayer to God. And when day came, He called His disciples and chose from them twelve, whom He named apostles.”
Our Lord Jesus spent the whole night praying to God the Father. The next morning He faced a critically significant moment in His ministry – out of the large crowd that followed Him, He would choose twelve to be His apostles. This would be one of the most important decisions He would ever make as these twelve men were to be the future leaders and foundation of the early church!
Probably Jesus spent a prolonged time giving thought to each name and took each name before His Father’s throne. These twelve names were not of highly educated or of powerful people of His day with powerful networks that would expedite the growth of His ministry. They were mere fishermen and simple men from the working class. Could they possibly change all of history for the kingdom of God?
Only God alone knew the answer. And so Jesus knew He had to depend on His Father to lead Him to the right men. An all-night prayer was not too high a cost to pay, to ensure that He was perfectly attuned to His Father’s will, in order that all the twelve names would be the ones His Father Himself would choose.
So who were these twelve men? Peter, Andrew, James and John were fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. The vocations of the rest – Philip, Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thomas, Judas the son of James, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot – are unknown. The message and emphasis of the four Gospels was on Jesus and not the apostles. Therefore little is known about most of them except Peter, James and John who formed the “Inner Circle” of apostles to whom Jesus revealed things to, that were not revealed to the rest.
Were these twelve men with huge potential to be great leaders? Most certainly not! Peter denied knowing Jesus not once, but thrice! He lacked the courage to stand up for Jesus. He was impulsive, often saying and doing things without due thought! His brother Andrew was rather blur and slow to figure out who Jesus was, despite having witnessed Jesus perform many miracles. In the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, he pointed out to Jesus the presence of a young boy with five loaves and two fish, and asked, “…what good are these for so many?” (John 6:9b)
What about James and John? Both had their character indicated by the name “ Boanerges” or Sons of Thunder, given by Jesus. They showed their fiery temper against a certain man casting out devils in the name of Jesus. John told Jesus, “We tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” (Luke 9:49). When the Samaritans refused to receive Jesus, they said angrily, “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” (Luke 9:54). In fact they were even guilty of seeking personal glory when they asked Jesus in Mark 10:37 “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Such pride and audacity!
Matthew was a tax collector before He followed Jesus. He would have collected and pocketed a lot more in taxes from people than was forwarded to Rome. Doubting Thomas would only believe in the resurrection of Jesus if he could put his fingers into the wounds the nails made and put his hand into Jesus’ side.
Judas Iscariot who was the group’s treasurer, often stole money from the funds collected, for his personal use. When Mary of Bethany wiped Jesus’ feet with a very expensive perfume, he grumbled that Mary was wasting money which could be used to feed the poor, even though he himself cared little about helping them. He eventually betrayed Jesus with a kiss in the Garden of Gethsemane. Overcome with guilt after Jesus was arrested, he returned the thirty pieces of silver (his fee for betraying Jesus) and then hanged himself. After his death, Matthias was chosen to replace him as the twelfth apostle.
And yet all the apostles except Judas Iscariot became great men of God despite their humble and unpromising beginnings! They changed the course of human history by bringing the message of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection to a world cut off from God by sin. Thanks to their dedicated self-sacrificial early efforts, Wikipedia lists Christianity as the most widely practised religion in the world today with 2.38 billion adherents, comprising 31.1% of the world’s population!
Like the TWELVE ORDINARY MEN, we are all ordinary men and women. We may not leave behind extraordinary legacies like they did! But we can seek to emulate their examples by being faithful, available and teachable (F.A.T.) disciples, and do what we can, wherever we are, with whatever resources God has blessed us with. In the words of D.L. Moody, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. What I can do, I ought to do. What I ought to do, by the grace of God, I will do.”
Our Heavenly Father, we thank You that there is much hope for all of us! Twelve ordinary men put their lives into Your hands and with Your enabling power, the course of human history has been changed for the glory of Your name! We pray that with each one of our ordinary lives, we will seek, with Your enabling power, to make a difference wherever You have placed us, and bring much glory to Your name! In the mighty name of Jesus, we pray. Amen.
我们的主耶稣花了整夜的时间向天父祷告。第二天早晨祂面对祂事工里一个至关重要的时刻 － 在跟随祂的大批群众中，祂将拣选十二位作祂的使徒。这将是祂做过的最重要的决定之一，因为这十二个人将成为早期教会未来的领袖和根基！
那么，这十二个人是谁呢？彼得、安得烈、雅各和约翰是渔夫，马太是税吏。其余的人，就是腓力、巴多罗买、亚勒腓的儿子雅各、多马、雅各的儿子犹大、奋锐党的西门和加略人犹大，他们的职业则不详。四福音的信息和重点是在耶稣，不在使徒。因此，除了彼得、雅各和约翰组成使徒的 “核心圈子” 之外，人们对他们之中的大多数人知之甚少，耶稣向他们启示了一些没有透露给其他人的事情。
雅各和约翰又如何？这两个人的名字都带有他们性格的含义 “半尼其” 或 “雷子”，是耶稣给他们取的名字。他们向一个奉耶稣之名赶鬼的人大发雷霆。约翰说：“夫子，我们看见一个人奉你的名赶鬼，我们就禁止他，因为他不与我们一同跟从你。”（路加福音9:49）当撒马利亚人拒绝接受耶稣时，他们愤怒地说：“主啊，你要我们吩咐火从天上降下来烧灭他们，像以利亚所做的吗？”（路加福音9:54）。事实上，在马可福音10:37，他们甚至犯了追求个人荣耀的罪。他们请求耶稣说：“赐我们在你的荣耀里，一个坐在你右边，一个坐在你左边。” 如此的傲慢和大胆！