It seems that the selection of the twelve disciples who would be called Apostles, came only after the Jewish authorities initial opposition and rejection of Jesus. I don’t mean to imply that the selection of the Apostles was an afterthought, or that Jesus was initiating plan-b, but I do believe that, before Jesus chose who his representatives would be, it had to be shown that the leaders of the nation had rejected him. Therefore, he chose the Twelve to be with him out of a larger number of disciples. These would be the ones in whom he would entrust the success of his own ministry to the nation.
Luke tells us that Jesus went up a mountain and he remained there all night, praying, after which he “called near his disciples, and having chosen from them twelve, whom also he named apostles…” (Luke 6:12). If we can conclude that the Father always answers Jesus’ prayers (cf. John 11:42), it is interesting to see what that answer looked like :
“Simon, (whom he also named Peter,) and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew, Matthew and Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called Zelotes, And Judas the brother of James, and Judas Iscariot, which also was the traitor (Luke 6:14-16).
We know four were fishermen, at least one was a tax collector and two were zealots, one of whom (Judas Iscariot) was probably a member of the feared sicarii (dagger men – cf. Luke 22:38). All would boast of their loyalty (Matthew 26:35), two would seek privately to be given greater authority than the others (cf. Mark 10:37), but all argued over who should have the greatest authority (Luke 22:24). One (Peter) would deny knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:72, 74), while another would betray him into the hands of his enemies for money (Mark 14:10-11; — Judas Iscariot). And, all would abandon him to his fate (Mark 14:50). It is interesting, to say the least, to see what an answered prayer really looked like 2000 years ago, and it gives me pause when considering what might be an answer to my own prayers.
Nevertheless, these were Jesus own choices. He knew what these men were like, and what he could expect from them, once they were empowered with his Spirit. He never expressed any regret over any of them, not even Judas, whom he called his friend to the very end (Matthew 26:50). Even considering the shortcomings of these men above, Jesus wasn’t surprised by any of it. He even predicted all would abandon him, and even Peter (the rock) would deny knowing him. Moreover, he knew from the very beginning that Judas would betray him (John 6:64). Yet, Jesus chose these men and not others. He never complained about any of them, and he loved each one to the very end (John 13:1).
How different things are when God is doing the choosing! I spent 33 years working for a large corporation. It was difficult for me to learn a trade that I didn’t particularly like, and which didn’t fit my natural ability. I was encouraged to seek that route, but I was too weak to argue and too ignorant to know I might have done better in another field. Nevertheless, I learned what I needed to know, and before I retired, I not only did my job well but taught others to do as I was doing. Nevertheless, the beginning was difficult. One man who trained me once asked if I owned the company would I hire me. That was nearly 50 years ago, but can I still hear his words in my memory, and I can still see the smile on his face when he said them. No doubt he didn’t know how much those words hurt, but they did.
Not measuring up to other folks’ expectation is something I have come to know well and pretty much expect in the beginning of any relationship. Nevertheless, I’ve also been able to see the value in this, as it concerns me and my relationship with the Lord. First of all, I can take comfort in knowing who Jesus first chose to be with him. He knew what these men would be like, and he knows all about me too—my failures, my disloyalty, by boasting and my prayerful attempts at manipulating him. The longer I walk with him, the more grateful I am to know what sort of people his chooses to be with him. Somehow, it gives me peace that he knows me through and through.