God’s Unlikely Choice
Let’s begin with the number twelve. Why was it important that there be twelve apostles? The number twelve was important because the twelve apostles correspond with the twelve tribes of Israel. The heads of the twelve tribes of Israel represented the nation Israel. The OT promised that God would redeem a new Israel, an Israel that would last forever. The church of the New Covenant, represented by the twelve apostles, is the fulfillment of OT Israel, represented by the twelve apostles.
We are going to spend our time considering the twelve apostles from vv. 2-4 in Matthew 10. Think of the exalted position these twelve men were given. The Creator of the universe had come to earth in Jesus Christ and chosen twelve men to be his apostles. An apostle is an official messenger or spokesman. These twelve were not only prophets in the Old Testament sense, but they would carry the final and complete message from God to the world. No higher honor or responsibility on earth was ever given to men.
In the first section of Matthew, Jesus displayed his own authority over demons and sickness. Now in v. 1 Jesus grants that same authority to his twelve apostles. He gave them authority over demons, and to heal every sickness. Who are these twelve men that God would bestow such honor upon? What did these men do to deserve such regard? Considering these twelve men should provide wonderful comfort for your souls that are so prone to doubt.
You see, every true Christian struggles with assurance. Assurance is believing the gospel, not only with your mind, but deep down in your gut. Assurance is the inward conviction that all God has promised you is true. We all struggle with assurance.
You can see why we are so prone to doubt. How can God, the creator of the world, the one who is entirely holy and has never sinned, the one with all power to create and destroy, who has no beginning or end, how can God really care about me? Yes, he may care about the world, he may care about good and evil, he may care about wars and such, but does he really care about what is on my mind? How can God love me when I know deep down how unspiritual I am, how insecure I am, how unlike the holy men of the Bible I am?
Many of you tell me that it is difficult to pray sometimes because it feels like your prayers are just hitting the ceiling. We all feel that way at times. You are having a difficult time believing that God is listening, that he cares about what you are praying for, and that he accepts your prayers in Christ.
Surely God has better things to do to than care about my situation. Surely there are more worthy people to listen to than me. We all struggle with assurance. Considering the men Christ chose as his apostles will strengthen your assurance.
Let’s start with Simon, who Christ would later name Peter. Simon Peter was a fisherman, a man from the middle class, with no particular qualities that made him stand apart. Peter in a sense becomes the spokesman for the twelve. Listed first, Simon Peter is given the supreme place of honor. And yet when you think of Peter, what comes to mind? Well, for most people, Peter is the one who denied the Lord three times. If God can forgive Peter, is it possible…?
Next we have Andrew, Peter’s brother. All we know from the Bible about Andrew was that he quietly brought others to Jesus.
Then we have James and John, the sons of Zebedee. Zebedee was a wealthy fisherman. James and John were from the upper class. Assuming Jesus to be a political king, their mother requested that Jesus give her two sons honored positions in his new government. These two brothers were known for their fiery outbursts of anger, thus they received the nickname, “sons of thunder.” Yes, God chooses people with fiery tempers to be his.
Next we have Philip. We know very little about Philip, except that he was born in the small fishing village of Bethsaida.
Next is Bartholomew, who other name is probably Nathaniel. Most people had more than one name in those days. We know very little about Bartholomew.
Next we have Thomas, and you all know what he is famous for. The nickname “doubting Thomas” is a little unfair, for Thomas was also expressed his willingness to die with Christ. We have no other information about Thomas.
Then we have Matthew, the writer of these words. Matthew humbly designates himself the tax collector. Being a tax collector in Israel was equivalent to our murderers; the lowest of the lows. A tax collector made money off the backs of his fellow countrymen. Matthew did not forget what God had saved him from. He did not boast in himself, or in his high honor as an apostle. Matthew wanted to be known as a sinner saved by God’s grace.
Next we have James the son of Alphaeus, and we know absolutely nothing about him.
Then we have Thaddeus, who was also named Judas, but not Judas Iscariot. We know absolutely nothing about Thaddeus.
Next we have Simon the Cananaean. The word “Cananaean” is the Aramaic word for the Greek zelotes, which means zealot, thus Simon the Zealot. A zealot was a Jewish nationalist zealous for the honor of God and country. He was always willing to fight for God and Israel.
The list ends with Judas Iscariot, whom Matthew reminds us was the one who betrayed Christ. The Lord was fully aware that Judas did not believe in him. Jesus was fully aware that Judas would betray him. Yet in the divine mystery of God Judas was chosen to be an apostle.
Certainly we see that in this life Christ’s church will always have Judases among her. As a result the church will always be weaker that it could be. But the Lord has not chosen to fully purge his church in this age. He is content to wait until the age to come. He still uses the church in her weak state.
Well, there it is. Here are the men given the highest spiritual honor in the history of the world, the twelve chosen apostles of Jesus Christ.
And here is the question of the day. Given the importance of the apostles’ calling, why didn’t Jesus pick better apostles? Why didn’t the Lord go up to Jerusalem, the cultural, intellectual and spiritual capital of the nation, and there find apostles? Surely there were men around holier than these twelve? Surely there were others more eloquent, more apt to gain a hearing, men already honored among men. If you were seeking a spokesman for your business wouldn’t you look for the best and brightest?
The Lord chose these simple, flawed men that you would have assurance that God has also chosen you. Most of these men lived in relative obscurity, just like you. Half of these men we know absolutely nothing about. Even church history cannot trace what happened to these men. Like will happen to us they ended their lives in relative obscurity.
Consider also that these twelve men, the representatives of the new covenant church, were called to work side by side for the cause of Christ. How could men with so many differences get along and serve Christ?
We have wealthy men along with common fishermen. We have politically conservative Simon the Zealot with a tax collector, one who sold out his nation. Have you considered the possible tensions here? Some of the apostles had fiery temperaments while others rarely spoke. Why didn’t the Lord choose men that would have more in common so that they could get along better and work together easier?
You know the answer. The diversity of these men reflect the diversity of Christ’s church. As with the apostles, you are called to love one another and work together as a church, even with all your differences.
Beloved, see from Christ’s choice of the Twelve that God loves nobodies as the world judges nobodies. God is not impressed with somebodies. God takes no interest in who the world calls important, whether presidents, athletes, entertainers, or philosophers. God loves to love ordinary people. God loves to use ordinary people. God fills his church with ordinary people.
The promises of the gospel are not only to God’s people in general, but to you particularly. God’s love, his strength, his mercy; are all yours in Christ. Because Jesus accomplished your full salvation you own these blessings.
Consider the church you are a part of, and remember God’s calling to love these particular people with all their quirks and differences; for they also belong to Christ.
And then remember that if Jesus is your savior you can pray to God any time. Even if you think your prayers are hitting the ceiling, they are not. Your prayers ascend to heaven as a sweet smelling aroma to God. God considers your needs very important; and he is always ready to forgive when you repent.
The twelve apostles would say to you, if God can redeem and love a rag-tag group like us; he can do the same for you. If he can forgive us, he can forgive you. If he can bear with all of our weaknesses, he can bear with yours.