Summary: This is a message that will help us understand that the Apostles were men just like us. They had character that was uniquely given to them by God for His mission and purpose.
The Search for the Twelve
November 2, 2000
The impetus for this message arose out of Luke’s allusions to the twelve being groomed to take over the leadership of Israel. Luke also makes reference to the twelve judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 19:11-27; 22:30). This is written of by John in Revelations. However Luke (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-5:11), says it was fulfilled when they took over leadership of the Jerusalem community (Johnson 232).
The early church was not big on history as we know history. The apostles’ popularity came and went over periods of time in Christian history. That is in part why we have only fragments and myths about the twelve. The twelve were too busy making history to write it down. The only history book of the church is seen more of an apologetic-polemic writing than pure history. It was doing two things. First, it was showing the emergence of a Gentile Christian movement that was breaking away from the Jewish community it was born in. Second, it was defending and validating one of the latter apostles’ ministries, (Paul).
There were certainly periods of silence in the early church. This was in part because the early Christians did not see themselves as building a movement that would last through the ages. They were expectant of Christ’s imminent return and as such saw no need to record any historical document.
This being the case little is known about them prior to the dispersion of the church at Jerusalem in A.D. 69. This time shows however that many had already left to begin their missionary expeditions and many had been martyred.
Little information is known of the twelve in secular history as well. Christianity was largely ignored by the empire. Only the writings of Pliny the Younger, hold any significance for historians and Christianity. It leaves it to Hegesippus and Eusebius to give us more details on the twelve. They do not tell us about the actual story of the individual apostles, but it does tell us what possibly was likely and unlikely or impossible. The empire of this time was relatively safe with its system of highways that were traveled frequently and to various destinations.
The Roman empire was considered a family of nations under one common language under one common government. The time of the apostles was a wide area of civilization, awaiting them, civilized, united and tied together through transportation and tongue. The era of the twelve was one in which they took seriously the great commission of Jesus. Their story is the story of evangelism of the early church. They witnessed to both the elite and nominal of society. They supported themselves through their own labors. And shared the good news by any and all means possible.
They had a great missionary strategy. They would go to the large cities located on the trade routes first. Then send out their disciples and converts to the rural areas. They understood the importance of delegation and the secret of strategic locations. Thus they were able to replicate themselves at a much quicker pace than missionary organizations of today.
Why were these twelve men chosen over the other disciples of Jesus? The apostles have become heroes of the Christian faith. They are larger than life. The Roman and Greek Catholic’s have given them demigod status. They are considered legends and much about their lives is just that, legend. However, in some studies as I have found "some of the water" has been squeezed out of these legends (McBirnie 14-26).
The twelve were called first and foremost to follow him. Not because of what they had to offer but what, he would transform them into. To the human eye we could see all the flaws in these men. Yet Jesus looked beyond that to see inside these men and saw exactly what he could fashion them into (Lockyer 11).
Jesus chose the twelve not because of their prominence but because their obscurity. He did not have in mind their immediate impact but their accomplishments. It would be great. They were to validate the Lord’s life, death and resurrection. He chose the twelve and prepared them in every way for the gigantic task at hand.
The choice of the twelve was solely the sovereign will of Jesus. He made the appointment carefully and it was preordained, deliberate, and momentous and far-reaching in results. Some could consider that there was a problem with Jesus’ foreknowledge because of Judas Iscariot, who was his betrayer.
The choice was made after a night of considerate prayer. Luke tells us that Jesus went to the mountains to pray, and was there all night long. At first light he returned to name those who would be his apostles (Luke 6:12-13). We are not given any indication as too how many Jesus had to choose from when he chose his twelve. We are also not given any information as too exactly how it was done (Lockyer 11-12). Was it by lot? Was it by geographical region? Was it done with families in mind? These questions have no answers.