Wednesday, April 2, 2014

He Ordained Twelve

  Life of Christ 56

       We have traveled with Christ through His birth, and His younger years. We have seen His entrance into public ministry. We have journeyed with Him, down to Judea, and throughout Galilee. We have seen Him begin to do miracles, and to preach, and to claim deity and the messiahship of Israel. Along with this we have seen the gradual ramp up of opposition to Him on the part of Israel's religious leadership, and specifically the Pharisees. In the last blog post, we saw this opposition go from veiled and underhanded and implied to an open desire and plan to kill Him.
          As the opposition to Him grows more open, more hostile, and more organized throughout this second year we will see Him begin to transition His ministry. No, He will not leave off the miracles and the public preaching by any means, but what He does do is add another dimension, a mentoring dimension.
          Jesus knew all along that the Jews would reject Him. He spoke of it at the very beginning of His ministry when He cleansed the Temple (John 2.19). I also believe that not only did He know that the rejection would happen, but that He knew to the day when He would die (Daniel 9.26), and I will explain more of that later. Of course, this doesn't mean that He didn't offer Himself genuinely to Israel as her messiah, but it does inform our understanding of what He did, when He did it, and why He did it.
          Since He knows He is going to be rejected, and as He sees the opposition to Him growing, He shifts His main point of emphasis from being the offering of Himself to the Jewish people as their messiah to a training and preparing of the Church for His absence.
          The New Testament tells us that the Church is the body of Christ on this earth in this dispensation until He returns (Ephesians 1.22-23). The New Testament tells us that the human foundation of this Church was the Apostles (Ephesians 2.20). It only makes sense for Him to take more and more time and effort now, in the light of the growing hostile opposition of the Pharisees, to prepare the human foundation of the institution He is going to start, the Church, that will propagate His doctrine after He leaves.
          Jesus, knowing how important this decision is, and just how much hangs on it, spends all night in prayer prior to making it (Luke 6.12). As dawn breaks over the mountain, He returns to His little group of followers and asks them to assemble all the disciples together (Luke 6.13). In our day we often use the term 'apostle' and 'disciple' interchangeably, but that is not actually scriptural. The word 'disciple' just means learner or follower, and it has the idea behind it of someone who has disciplined themselves to follow and to learn so deeply that it has become an ingrained habit. In this sense, all of the dedicated followers of Jesus Christ were disciples.
          Out of this group, number unknown, Christ chooses twelve men. 'And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples; and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles' (Luke 6.13). The word 'apostle' literally means messenger, or one that has been formally commissioned to carry a message and then sent on his way. At this point, after publicly choosing from amongst the group of disciples the twelve He wanted, He ordained them with some kind of formal ceremony: 'And he ordained twelve' (Mark 3.14).

          Jesus appointed or ordained them to do three things. First, He ordained them to be with Him. His specific chosen method of teaching involved them traveling with Him, living with Him, and serving alongside of Him as He ministered from place to place. While He did that He would often provoke conversations with them, ask them questions, and welcome questions from them. It was an informal course of study, but an exceedingly practical one, designed to build them while they ministered, and designed to turn them out in His own image.
          Secondly, He ordained them to preach. At first, they would mostly listen, but as time went by, increasingly, they would be the ones standing up in front of the crowds persuading them to accept Christ and to follow God.
          Thirdly, He ordained them to work miracles. Jesus gave them a similar power for similar reasons that He Himself had, and the Apostles used this power often in the book of Acts to establish their authenticity as God's messengers, the equivalent of the Old Testament prophets, to the Jews in the New Testament age. Of course, as Baptists we believe that these sign gifts were limited to the Apostolic era, and have ceased in our day, but they were active in their day.

          Jesus revolutionized so many things, and one of the chief tools that He used in that process was the choosing, training, and launching of the twelve Apostles. The enemies of the early Church labeled them as 'these that have turned the world upside down' (Acts 17.6). With Jesus as your helper, have you turned anybody's world upside down?

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