“A recent poll in the United Kingdom revealed that 89%—nearly 9 in 10—of young people, aged 16 to 29, “believe that their lives have no meaning or purpose.”
This saddening statistic is explained with a corresponding statistic shared in the same article—only 1% of this age group identifies as belonging to the Church of England, the largest denomination in the UK, meaning that very few young people in the UK hold to any semblance of Christianity (half of UK residents are atheists). This is being reflected in decreasing church attendance. In England, such attendance is down to less than 5%”
The meaning of life was found for the Apostles.
The 12 are Selected, and, the 12 Stay with Jesus.
This passage comes right before the next passage where Jesus’ family tries a citizen’s arrest of Him essentially to stop Him from His ministry. I think this family opposition helps us understand the timing of Jesus forming His 12 man apostolic team. The contrast between His new apostolic and His earthly family is stark. He is essentially forming His new family, a spiritual family, who will be with Him constantly from now on, whom He will devote Himself to, and who will be devoted to Him.
#3: The Twelve SENT by Jesus (14b-15)
The word for sent is the Greek word “apostollos”, which means to send someone off from yourself”.
The basis of apostolic ministry is Jesus incarnation. He was God the Father’s apostle, sent off from God as his representative, to make Him known to the world, “fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess.” (Heb 3:1)
Like ambassadors or envoys are sent out to represent the one who sent them to someone else the Twelve would be Jesus’ ambassadors to the world, His envoy bringing good tidings, His Representatives on earth to the earth. they spent 3 years with Him, so they would each personally know Him, so they would be the most qualified and able to represent Him after He left. Its much like Jesus, as the word of God, with God for all eternity past, knowing God perfectly, thus the most qualified and able to represent God.
Notice the order here. They started by coming to Jesus and following Him like everyone else. Then, they were called to a special 12 man team which brought them even closer to Him than anyone else. Then they were sent out.
The reason they were sent out was to preach. Preaching was their purpose. In this respect, their mission was no different in nature than that of Jesus’ mission. Jesus came to make the Father known to man, to announce the kingdom, to call people to repentance and faith in Him. That would be the preaching of the Apostles as well. And the power that attended Jesus would be given to them as well: healing every kind of sickness and driving out demons.
This mission is described in detail later in 6:7-13. They would be delegated authority from Jesus to heal the sick and drive out demons. They would rejoice later in reporting to Jesus that demons would submit to them (Lk.
Application: the mission of the Church is fundamentally the same too: to preach Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, to call people to believe on Him for their salvation, and to disciple believers into spiritual maturity. Judge a church by that.
#4: A SYNOPSIS of the Twelve (16-19)
General Information of the list of 12
The list is basically the same in all 3 Synoptic Gospels (“synoptic” means “to see together, to see the same”, referencing Matthew, Mark and Luke whose content is so similar), with minor variations. Peter is listed first every time, indicating leadership. Judas is listed last every time, indicating his notoriety.
Several disciples had more than one name: Simon/Peter….Thomas/Didymus…..Levi/Matthew…..Bartholamew/Nathaniel….Thaddeaus/Jude the son of James….
If that seems confusing, keep in mind we do that ourselves today: Jim/James…..Robert/Bob…….Richard/Dick…….Jack/John…..Annie’s given name is Adrianne…..
The top four are the same every time. The two sets of brothers: Peter and Andrew and James and John. These were the ones mentioned by Mark in chapter 1 as the first disciples called by Jesus. Even in other passages they are mentioned together (Mk. 13:3) indicating a certain inner group within the 12, an inner group with even more access to Jesus. If the 12 were the Temple, that sub-group of 4 were the “holy of holies”.
Ten of the 12 Apostles would be martyred. Everyone except John and Judas would die for their faith. John would die of old age, which Jesus suggested in John 21:21-24. Judas would hang himself in remorse after betraying Jesus for 30 silver coins.
The man who replaced Judas as the 12th Apostle was Mattias. He would be martyred also, so we could say 11 of the 12 Apostles gave their lives in service to Christ.
How did they glorify God in death? While John escapted martyrdom, he literally escaped it by escaping being boiled alive. The other 11 did not escape: 6 were crucified, 1 was beheaded, 1 was speared, 1 was axed, 1 was beaten, and one was stoned.
This was the premier team in all of Christianity, and it came with a high price tag. Jesus told His disciples, “You will drink from the cup that I drink from” (Mark 10:39). That cup was the cup of suffering, as when He prayed in the Garden, “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from Me”. As Jesus drank from the cup of suffering, so too did His Apostles. And so too do all those who are His disciples. “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you d not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his Master.’ If they persecuted Me they will persecute you also.” God said of Paul, “He is my instrument to carry my name to the Gentiles. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.” (Acts 9:15). That very same Paul would later write, “All those who want to live a godly life in Jesus Christ will be persecuted.” (2 Tim. 3:12).
While that accounts for the 12, there is one more Apostle, one who was “abnormally born” (1 Cor. 15:8). We are speaking of none other than the Apostle Paul. The 12 were sent to the Jews with the Gospel, Paul was God’s Apostle to the Gentile world. He is part of them, although, not quite like them. Paul would also be martyred as a Roman citizen, that is by a sword through the neck.
Profiles of the 12
- Peter: the clear leader of the 12, perhaps the most known. His loyalty, his intensity, his impulsiveness leap off the pages of the Scriptures. The former fisherman is famous for walking on the water, declaring his devotion to Jesus and denying Jesus 3 times, writing 2 letters in the NT. years later, when sentenced to crucifixion, he asked to be crucified upside down, feeling unworthy to die in a manner like His Savior. Mark, the writer of this Gospel, was mentored by Peter, and, the content of this Gospel was largely acquired by Mark in his relationship with Peter. Papias, a 2nd Century Church Father wrote said that Mark was Peter’s helper and scribe [quote….]
- James….was a fisherman by trade in business with his father Zebedee, his brother John, and friends Peter and Andrew (Luke 5:10). All four boys left fishing to answer the call of Jesus to fish for men; known in the early church as James the Great, he was one of the inner 3 with his brother John and Peter. King Herod had James put to death by the sword (Acts 12:2).
- John…the other Zebedee brother, brother to James the Great, and also formerly a fisherman. Together they were dubbed Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder. Perhaps because they had rather stormy tempers. Individually, however, John was known as the Beloved Disciple, Jesus having a special love for him. John was the author of John’s Gospel, as well as 3 little epistles in the NT, and perhaps the most famous book of the Bible in all history: the book of Revelation. He pastored many years in many places: Jerusalem, Ephesus, Rome, and Asia Minor. The only disciple who did not suffer martyrdom, John died a natural death in old age.
- Andrew was the brother of the Apostle Peter. Andrew has the distinction of being the first disciple to start following Jesus. And he is responsible for helping many others start in following Jesus: he is always bringing people to Jesus in the Gospels. If youve seen a cross that looks like its fallen sideways, and thus looks like an “X”, youre looking at St Andrews cross. It is so named because Andrew was crucified sideways. Thus he and his brother were crucified in unique ways.
- Philip….the 3rd disciple Jesus called; from bethsaida like peter and andrew, hometown boys,…it was Phillip whom Jesus tested by asking “How will we feed all these people?” when He did the miracle of feeding 5,000; philip quickly calculated …. philip was like andrew, always bringing people to jesus Nathanial (Bartholamew) in John 1; some Greeks in John 12…philip wanted to see the father.. it was in answer to Philip Jesus said, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father” (Jn 14:6). Philip was also crucified
- Bartholamew….a.k.a., “Nathaniel”, called by philip to come to jesus… jesus praised his integrity by saying, “Here is a man in whom is no deceit, a real Jew”. Bartholomew-Nathan knew the Scriptures and was unaware of any Prophet coming from Nazareth (“Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Jn 1:46)….then when he met Jesus he declared you are the Son of God the King of Israel!”…. We learn from Bartholomew to be sure to know the Scriptures and be ready to worship Jesus. Bartholomew was flayed and then crucified
- Matthew….the former tax collector, author of the Gospel of Matthew….He was wealthy from his extortion, but left it all to follow Jesus….we learn from Matthew no amount of worldly gain compares to Jesus…Matthew was Hacked and pierced by Halberd
- Thomas, most famously known as doubting Thomas, because of his stipulation that he must see Jesus’ hands and feet before believing. Ive argued its an unfair nickname history has given him. He asked for nothing more than what the other disciples got. And as soon as Jesus showed Thomas His hands and feet Thomas worshipped Jesus. Nonetheless he was pessimistic, he always saw the odds, but was faithful and loyal. “Let us also go with Jesus, that we may die along with Him” (John 11). We learn from Thomas’ example that its okay to seek evidence – God doesn’t require anyone to believe without evidence. But more importantly we learn from Thomas that in the face of evidence we are to worship Jesus as Lord and God…In the end Thomas was speared to death in Asia for preaching the Gospel.
- James son of Alphaeus…..a.k.a. “James the Less”. Not much is known about this James. However, according to tradition, he glorified God in his death….He was thrown off the temple by the Jews and then beaten.
- Thaddeaus (the other “Judas”, “Judas son of James”)….asked Jesus why He wouldn’t show Himself to the whole world, and only to His disciples in John 14…it seems Thaddeaus was the kind of guy who wanted everyone to know Jesus, and, he couldn’t understand why Jesus was going to be private with His appearances…I think we can learn this from Thaddeaus: that we ought to want everyone to know Jesus. Thaddeaus was crucified
- Simon the Zealot….nothing is known about this Simon…he may have been involved with the revolutionary political group called the “Zealots”…..whatever he was he followed Christ, was one of the 12 Apostles, his name will be memorialized forever, and he glorified God in his death by crucifixion.
- Judas Isacariot….handled the finances while following Jesus around…stole from the ministry funds (Jn 12:5-6)….betrayed Jesus (with a kiss) to the Sanhedrin for 30 silver coins…according to Acts 1 Judas bought a field and there committed suicide (Mt. 27:5)
What can we learn from this list? Following Jesus presents us with sacrifice. There is a daily dying to self that marks the follower of Christ.
First, is sacrifice of our self-esteem. Serving God is not done from the strength of self. Notice in this list how God uses an assortment of different types of people for His purposes. Dramatically different personalities: from pessimistic Thomas to the fiery Zebedee brothers to the impulsive Peter to the pensive Thaddaeus. Or very different professions: from Matthew’s tax collecting to at least 7 Apostles were commercial fisherman to the political revolutionary of Simon the Zealot to law with the Apostle Paul. We ought to never despise ourselves in comparison to someone else. It’s not about us. It’s about how great God is and what He does through someone who is submitted to Him. “It is not great talent God blesses so much as likeness to Christ. A holy [Christian] is an awful weapon in the hand of God.” -Robert Murray MCheyne
Second, we must sacrifice self-gain. “We’ve left everything to follow you” Peter said to Jesus. These 12 Apostles left it all. Some lucrative careers, some family, all of them left Jewish life and society. Every one of them left everything for Jesus. They knew what the Apostle Paul would discover later on and say himself, “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more ….
This must be understood in light of what Jesus sacrificed for them. He forfeited glory, He suffered mocking, scoffing, verbal abuse, false accusations, misunderstanding, plots, evil scheming by his enemies who constantly watched His every move. He suffered all of this for them. The right kind of service to Jesus willingly suffers for Him after He has suffered for us.
And the sacrifice made in this life must always be seen in view of the gain in the next life. “You will not fail to inherit….” Jesus promised.
Third, we must sacrifice our self-will. It’s God’s plan in God’s time. Not ours. When Jesus told the 12 that He must be arrested, flogged and killed, and resurrected, Peter grabbed him by the arm and rebuked him. Peter wanted Jesus to be on Peter’s plans. Jesus said to him, “Get behind me Satan, you don’t have in mind the things of God but the things of man.” Serving Jesus means we sacrifice our self-willed ways to live in God’s will. No matter what.
Last, we must offer a sacrifice of gratitude. These Apostles are the reason we know Christ today. They gave their lives so that the Gospel could go forward and ultimately come to us. The only worthy thing we can do is to ensure the Gospel continues to go forward, no matter the cost, so that those who come after us will also be able to hear it.