God is not into CONVENTIONAL WISDOM
Story: Just before I was appointed as Head of the Group Patent Department at Reckitts in 1994, I was given a psychological assessment.
And yes Geoff even despite that they offered me the job!!
Now if Jesus had written to a firm of management consultants before starting his ministry to have a psychological assessment done of Jesus’ disciples, I believe the reply might have looked a lot like this:
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for management positions in your new organization.
We have run the results of your evaluation of these men through our computer and have also reviewed the results with our psychologist and our vocational-aptitude consultant.
It is the staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in the basic background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking.
They do not have the team concept.
We would recommend that you continue searching for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper.
Andrew and Philip have absolutely no leadership qualities.
The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty.
Thomas demonstrates a rather unsettling questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale.
We feel it is our duty to tell you that Matthew and his brother James the son of Alpheus have both left the tax collecting industry.
They have both been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Chamber of Commerce.
Thaddeus and Nathanael definitely have radical leanings as does Simon the Zealot.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential.
He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places.
We recommend Judas Iscariot as your finance director and right-hand man.
That I would suggest to you is what conventional wisdom would have said about Jesus’ choice of disciples.
But as I am sure you are weary of hearing me say: God isn’t into conventional wisdom, as indeed the very events around the birth of his Son here on earth show:
Like Rabbis of his day, disciples gathered around Jesus.
In Judaism, the student was left to find a “teacher” for himself.
However with Jesus, He chose his disciples.
We read for example in Jn 6:70
Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?
Jesus chose his disciples and he chose the five disciples we read of this morning
And all five of them went on to become “apostles of the Lamb”.
This term “apostles of the Lamb” is used in some circles to differentiate Jesus’ 12 close followers from other apostles such as Paul and Barnabas.
Why did Jesus call Andrew and why did he call Philip?
What was special about them?
Well from the world’s point of view they were just ordinary men with no leadership quality when Jesus chose them
And when the going got tough – as ordinary man would do - as at Easter they all ran.
But you see the great thing about them is that
i) they were first called by Jesus and
ii) then empowered by Jesus on the Day of Pentecost.
It was ALL GOD and not human abilities that enabled them to succeed.
And that encourages me when I think I can’t do what God has called me to do! The task is too hard for me.
I then have to let go of my own resources and allow God to operate.
Well, what was special about Andrew and Philip?
They are the first Christian missionaries!
Andrew brings his brother Simon Peter to Jesus and Philip brings his friend Nathanael to Jesus
And where we read about Andrew and Philip again we find them bringing people to Jesus again.
He heard the words of John the Baptist who pointed him away from himself to Jesus
“Behold the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:36)
And the first thing he did was to go and tell his brother Simon “ We have found the Messiah” (v41)
This was nothing uncommon in itself in those days.
Judea was the Roman equivalent of Afghanistan’s “Hemand” province today. And Galilee was a hotbed of unrest.
Messiahs had a habit of turning up – and being put down by the Roman army in a bloody fashion (cf Acts 5:34-39)
But what was strange about the Galilean carpenter was that his Messiahship was different to what the Jews were expecting.
John the Baptist spoke about Jesus as the “sacrificial Lamb, who would take away the sins of the world.”
But that is not what the Jews wanted.
The Jews were living as second class citizens in their own country under the iron rod of Roman rule.
And they longed for the “good old days” of Judas Maccabeus
Judas Maccabeus was the great Jewish patriot who had driven the Seleucid King Antiochus IV from Jerusalem in 167 BC - after Antiochus had insulted God by sacrificing a pig on the high altar in the Temple in Jerusalem.
The local population wanted an all conquering hero who would boot the Romans out
But Jesus was different to the messiahs that had come and gone before in Judea.
This Messiah was coming to “take away the sins of the world.”
Andrew could have been rebuffed by his brother Simon
“Come on Andrew, you want to keep away from these messiahs – following them could cost you your life”
But this was just so important to Andrew that he was prepared to take the chance – and had to tell his brother what he had found.
Let’s also look at Philip.
When he tells his friend, Nathanael about Jesus of Nazareth being the Messiah, he gets ridiculed
You can almost hear Nathanael’s sneer:
“Can any good come out of Nazareth. Come on Philip, don’t you know your Scriptures – the Messiah doesn’t come from a backwoods like Nazareth”
But Philip doesn’t give up at the first rebuff.
He replies : “Come and see for yourself”
And when Nathanael encountered Jesus for himself, he became a follower of Jesus.
Tradition has it that Nathanael is the apostle called Bartholomew in the listing of the 12 apostles of the lamb in the Gospels.
He went on to be a missionary to India and is reputed to have brought Christianity to Armenia.
The key characteristic that both Andrew and Philip had was that they had missionary hearts.
Long before Jesus gave his Church the great commission – we see Andrew and Philip bring people to Jesus.
We see Andrew and Philip once more again in the Gospels in John 12, where St John reports:
20 Now there were some Greeks among those who went up to worship at the festival. 21 They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, with a request. “Sir,” they said, “we would like to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went to tell Andrew; Andrew and Philip in turn told Jesus.
They are at it again – pointing people to Jesus
Our Gospel reading today is about people pointing others to Jesus
John the Baptist pointed his two own unnamed disciples away from himself to Jesus.
35-36 The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, "Here he is, God's Passover Lamb."
37-38 The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus.
Actually it cost John something to point his disciples away from himself to Jesus – he lost disciples
Why – because John put it so clearly when he said speaking of Jesus
30 He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30:
When Andrew found Jesus pointed Simon Peter to Jesus.
The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, "We've found the Messiah" (that is, "Christ"). He immediately led him to Jesus.
Philip pointed Nathanael to Jesus. John wrote:
45-46 Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, "We've found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It's Jesus, Joseph's son, the one from Nazareth!"
Why did they do it?
Because if you meet Jesus, you will never be the same again.
It wasn’t any easier for the early disciples to share Christ with their friends and neighbours as it is for us today.
But they had the courage of their convictions
And we wouldn’t be here today if they hadn’t done so.
Jesus gave his Church only one Great Commission and that was to “make disciples” (Mt 28:16-20)
And as Jesus himself said: If you love me you will keep my commands (Jn 14:15)
We don’t need to worry about what others think because that is God’s problem and not ours.
We just have to be ready, like John the Baptist, like Andrew, like Philip in our Gospel reading this morning - to do our part.