Did you ever ask this question out loud or think it to yourself? If I am honest with myself, I must admit, some of the things Jesus did were baffling to me the first time I thought about them from a worldly point of view. For example, if I wanted to start my own religion or movement or business, I would choose people who thought like me and were on the same page as I was, people with intelligence and know-how, people with excellent people skills and were well known and respected in the community. This is not the case with Jesus and His “disciple-picking” style.
First, Jesus chose people who were ruddy, gritty, down-to-earth fisherman. Peter and the sons of Zebedee, James and John were fishermen (Mark 1:16-20). As fishermen, I would imagine they were more comfortable with fish than they were with people, but Jesus chose these three to be in His inner circle (Mark 5:37-43 and Luke 28-36). Then, there was Andrew. Andrew was Peter’s brother and he occasional helped in the fishing business when he wasn’t following John the Baptist. Andrew was looking for the Messiah. When John the Baptist pointed to Jesus as “the Lamb of God,” Andrew stopped following John the Baptist and quickly turned to follow Jesus. It was Andrew who brought his brother Peter to the Lord. (John 1:35-42). Andrew had a childlike faith. He was the one who brought “a little boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish” to Jesus, which Jesus used to feed five thousand people (John 5:8-13).
I wonder if Peter’s first reaction to Andrew’s excitement in finding Jesus was, “Oh no! Who are you taking me to this time? Why don’t you just come back and help with the family fishing business?” But, when Andrew brought Peter to Jesus, Peter knew that Jesus was the One he was secretly looking for (John 1:35-42). Peter knew Jesus was from God and exclaimed his unworthiness to be one of His disciples: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” This was after Jesus instructed him and his companions to drop their fishing nets in shallow water and they proceeded to catch so many fish that their nets was tearing (Luke 5:5-8) While people, and possibly they themselves, saw Peter, James and John as scummy, rough-around-the-edges, smelly fishermen, Jesus saw them as “fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). Jesus saw them as men who would help Him change the world!
Of the first twelve disciples, we know the most about Peter because he was always putting his foot in his mouth and acting impulsively. For example, when Jesus asked the disciples who they thought He was, Peter was the first one to speak: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus praised him by saying, “Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven“(Matthew 16:17). Jesus proceeded to explain how He was going to use Peter to build His Church (Matthew 16:18-20). However, moments later, when Jesus started talking about His death, Peter refused to listen and said, “Never, Lord! This will never happen to You” and Jesus had to rebuke Peter: “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 1621-:23). And we all know when Peter asked Jesus to let him walk on water to where Jesus was on the water and how that turned out (Matthew 14:25-31).
After Jesus resurrection, He and Peter had a private talk while walking along the beach. One of the things Jesus told Peter was how Peter was going to die. He said to Peter, “…‘I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.’ Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then He said to him, ‘Follow Me!’” (John 21:18-19). This time, Peter did not say, “Never, Lord!” Peter did ask what would happen to John (21:20-22), but Peter did not turn back from following Jesus. He followed Him to the very end of his life. Some Bible historians believe Peter requested to be crucified up-side-down because he felt unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus died. Although it’s safe to say that none of us will be crucified up-side-down, if we live long enough, the aging process will take away our ability to live independently and we also will have “someone else dress [us] and lead us [in a wheelchair] where [we] do not want to go.” My prayer is for Jesus to help me, as I grow older, to keep on trusting Him and following Him by His grace, as Peter did. Peter said and did many crazy things, yet Jesus used him to build His Church and do many great things for God, especially when all of Jesus’ followers received the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-13). Some of the miraculous things Peter and the other disciples did are recorded in the Book of Acts.
Jesus named James and John “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17). One might think the sons of Zebedee were big macho men, strong and ready to fight anyone at any time. Yet, these same men asked their mother to speak to Jesus for them: “She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at Your right and the other at Your left in Your kingdom.’” Jesus told her that she really did not know what that would entail. Then, Jesus got all the disciples together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (see Matthew 20:20-28). What in the world was Jesus thinking? How could a kingdom survive with a bunch of servant-leaders running it? It just didn’t make any earthly sense! But Jesus wasn’t talking about worldly things. He was talking about heavenly things – His Father’s way of doing things. Very little is known about James, the son of Zebedee, but we know that John, the Son of Zebedee got Jesus message. John wrote the Gospel of John and three Epistles, all of which talk about God’s love manifested in His one and only Son, and how His followers are to walk in Jesus’ love, by loving and serve one another.
Second, along with the fishermen, Jesus called Philip to follow Him. Philip was from the same town of Bethsaida (John 1:44) and must have been friends with Andrew, Peter, James and John. Philip knew that Jesus was the One he was looking for. Philip’s faith in Jesus, along with all of Jesus’ disciples, was a work in progress. For example, before Jesus fed the five thousand, Philip said to Jesus, “Eight month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!“(John 6:7). Even after three years with Jesus, Philip seemed to still need to grow in his faith because he had to ask Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know Me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? …Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in Me?” (John 14:8-10a). Even with Philip’s slowly developing faith, he was the one who brought Nathanael [or Bartholomew (Matthew 10:2-4)] to Jesus. Philip knew that Nathanael was searching for the Messiah. Nathanael was always sitting under a fig tree, reading the Scriptures. (John 1:45). Nathanael almost let his “head knowledge” get in the way of seeing who Jesus really was, but once Philip brought Jesus to Him and when he met Jesus face to face, he knew that Jesus was the One he was searching for (John 1:47-51). We last see Philip in the Book of Acts (8:26-40), sharing “the Good News about Jesus” to an Ethiopian and baptizing him and “traveling about, preaching the Gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.” How wonderful Philip’s faith in Jesus had grown!
Jesus also called Thomas to be one of His first twelve disciples (Matthew 10:2-4). “Thomas” means “Didymus” or “the Twin” (John 11:1`6), but we know him best by the nick name, “Doubting Thomas.” I imagine that Thomas sounded a little bit like Eeyore the donkey, with a monotone and somewhat whiny mumbling voice. He was the pessimist in the group. Just listen to Thomas say, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him” (John 11:16) and “Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it” (John 20:25b). Thomas must have been the life of the party [not]! While most of us see the “Doubting Thomas”, Jesus saw the “Redeemed and Restored Thomas” and Jesus only remembers hearing him proclaim with a loud voice, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
Thirdly, there was Matthew. Matthew [or Levi] was a despised tax collector (Matthew 9:9-12 and Mark 2:13-17). I learned one Sunday, not so long ago, from my pastor’s sermon, that tax collectors were considered as traitors and thieves. They used the hated Roman government who invaded their land to line their own pockets and rob their own countrymen of their hard-earned wages. Why in the World would Jesus chose a tax collector if He wanted the Jews to follow Him? It just doesn’t make any earthly sense. Yet Jesus was not thinking in a worldly way. Jesus always did things for heaven’s sake and for His Father’s glory and praise. In Mark 2:13-16, it says that during Jesus’ dinner with Matthew, “many tax collectors and ‘sinners’ were eating with Him and His disciples, for there were many who followed Him.” When the Pharisees made their total disgust at Jesus eating with tax collectors and “sinners” known, Jesus told them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Mark 2:17).
Jesus chose another James, who was the “son of Alphaeus” and Thaddaeus and Simon the Zealot, all mentioned in Matthew 10:2-4 and Mark 3:16-19. They are not mentioned anywhere else in the New Testament, so nothing more is known about them. However, they are mentioned in “the Lamb’s Book of Life” and that counts infinitely more than any earthly fame. (Revelation 3:5).
Fourthly, there is another disciple, one of the twelve, who is infamously known in Scripture. Jesus chose His twelfth disciple to be “Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him” (Matthew 10: 4 and Mark 3:19) . What in the world was Jesus thinking? Again, the answer is, Jesus was not thinking in a worldly sense. He always did everything for heaven’s sake and for the glory and praise of His Heavenly Father. Judas was in charge of the money for Jesus and the disciples (John 12:6 and 13:29) and because of the love of money and power, Judas Iscariot betrayed his Friend Jesus to die a horrific and excruciating painful death on the cross (Matthew 26:47-50; 27:32-50 and Mark 43-46; 15:21-37 and Luke 22:1-6, 47-54; 23:44-46 and John 19:16-37).
Jesus was not surprised at Judas’ betrayal. During the last Passover Supper Jesus was to eat with His disciples, the Gospel of John tells us that Jesus washes His disciples’ feet (John 13:1-1-5). John 13:1b says, “Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love.” Jesus must have washed Judas’ feet. Jesus loved Judas as one of His own, yet Jesus knew Judas would betray Him. Jesus washed Judas’ feet, yet John tells us, “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2). After washing His disciples’ feet, Jesus tells them, “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. This is to fulfill the Scripture: ‘He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against Me’” (John 13:14-18 and Psalm 41:9).
When we read Jesus’ prayer for His disciples before going to the cross, He prays this: “Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your Name – the Name You gave Me – so that they may be one as We are One. While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by the Name You gave Me. None has been lost except the one doomed for destruction, so that Scripture would be fulfilled“ (John 17:11b-12). This prophecy is found in Zechariah 11:12-13: “I told them, ‘If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.’ So they paid me thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter – the handsome price at which they priced Me!’ So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD to the potter.” This is exactly what Judas did, as recorded in Matthew 27:3-10: “When Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’ ‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’ So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. The chef priests picked up the coins and said, ‘It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.’ So they decided to use the money to buy a potters field as a burial for foreigners” (also see Jeremiah 19:1-13; 32:6-9).
Jesus came to die for the sins or the world, so that all who believed in Him would live with Him forever, for heaven’s sake and for the glory of God. It is humanly impossible to fathom how in the world Judas could be part of God’s plan to redeem this fallen world. We wonder when God will put an end to all the evil that we see around us.. Saint Augustine explained it this way: “God permits evil, so as to transform it into a greater good.” Though it is humanly impossible to comprehend and make sense of all of God’s plan, we can know, by faith, that this one thing is for certain: God loves us more than we can ever think or imagine: “He who did not spare His own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?” (Romans 8:32).
“Yet it was the LORD’S will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer; and though the LORD makes His life a guilt offering, He sees His Offspring and prolongs His days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in His hand. After the suffering of His soul, He will see the light of life and be satisfied; by His knowledge My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils with the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sins of many, and made intercession for their transgressors” (Isaiah 53:10-12).
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (John 3:16-17).
“This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time” (I Timothy 2:3-6).
“So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us a ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (II Corinthians 5:16-19).
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
“The LORD works out everything for His own ends – even the wicked for a day of disaster” (Proverbs 16:4).
The cross of Jesus Christ means everything to all those who believe in Him. Paul writes, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those of us who are being saved it is the power of God” (I Corinthians 1:18). The cross of Christ is the power of God because that cross of Christ is empty and the tomb of Christ is unoccupied! Jesus has risen! Jesus has risen indeed! How do we know this? We know this because the women who were Jesus disciples told us so:
“On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they wondering about this two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them…‘Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; He has risen! Remember what He told you, while He was with you…”The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.”’…When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense” (Luke 24:1-4,5b-11).
What in the world was Jesus thinking, first appearing to women when He rose from the dead? Didn’t He know women had very little respect or clout in the Jewish world back then? Exactly! That’s exactly why Jesus chose to first show himself to the women after His resurrection. In the world women had no say, but women were just as important as men in Jesus’ eyes and for heaven’s sake and the glory and praise of God, Jesus, the Resurrected Christ, first appeared to His women followers who took care of His needs, in Galilee. (Mark 15:41). They were His disciples just as the men were His disciples. The men finally believed that Jesus had risen from the dead when He appeared to them, as recorded in Luke 24:36ff, as well as end of the other three Gospels – Matthew, Mark and John.
Finally, what in the world was Jesus thinking when He picked me to follow Him? In John 15:16, Jesus says, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you to bear fruit – fruit that will last.” Why did He pick me? I have cerebral palsy. I have slurred speech, cannot control my body movements that well and cannot walk. I do have a Master’s Degree, but only worked for about six years because I have poor stamina. I am not very photogenic and I have very little computer savvy. (Can you hear the violin praying in the background?). But, Jesus picked me to have Him as my Savior and Lord. It makes no earthly sense, but He chose me for heaven’s sake and for the praise and glory of His Heavenly Father. Jesus also says, “As the Father loved Me, so have I loved you. Now remain in My love. If you obey My commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commands and remain in His love. I have told you this so that My joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that He lay down His life for His friends. You are My friends if you do what I command…This is My command: Love each other” (John 15:9-14, 17). I believe, just as Jesus told this to His first disciples, He is telling this to me and to you and to everyone who believes in His Name. He chose us, simply because He loves us and it gives Him joy that we love Him and find our joy in Him by loving one another as He has loved us. During this Thanksgiving Season, I am forever thankful for Jesus’ love for me for heaven’s sake and for the glory and praise of His Heavenly Father.
“Peace I leave you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
“But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of the world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us the wisdom of God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written, ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord’” (I Corinthians 1:27-31).
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it from me. But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” (II Corinthians 12:8-9).
“But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7).
THANK YOU FOR THE CROSS!
THANK YOU FOR THE CROSS!
THANK YOU FOR THE CROSS, LORD JESUS!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING ONE AND ALL!
(I used http://bibleseo.com/gospels/jesus-disciples-names-meaning-occupation for some of the information in this post. I highly recommend this website for Bible study information and research.)