Yesterday at Forefront Brooklyn we talked about the twelve Apostles of Jesus as we learned how God speaks to us through friendship and discipleship. One of the ways I’ve grown lately is by taking a closer look at how Jesus and his disciples walked through life together. When we slow down to learn more about the people Jesus used to begin his ministry and the ways he taught them, we also start to see how he is teaching us.
Throughout Christ’s ministry on earth from the moments it began to the very end, he stayed focused on his purpose to do two things: To preach to the masses and to train the twelve. Why does he choose to take so much time to lead them and teach them? He tells us in Mark (3:14): It’s so that “they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” Jesus never tried to hide his loneliness and dependence on people. As people heard about him and the miracles he could perform, his popularity grew. Masses of people wanted to be near him. But he chose these twelve not as servants but as friends. They were his family. They gave up everything for him as he gave everything up for them. He loved them, plain and simple.
And he did all it with the end vision in mind. “That he might send them out.” From the very start of his initial invitation to them, he knew what would one day happen at the cross. He knew his time on earth was short. So he knew the ultimate success of his mission to share God’s Kingdom, depended not just on what he accomplished in a few years but on what the Twelve - then eleven (because remember, Judas was a failed student), then the hundreds, and millions and all of us would continue to do after he left. He taught them everything he could, gave the 12 the ability to heal people and showed them how to love so that they might be a testament to the God who was the source of it all. After his resurrection, they became known only as the Apostles and set forth on their mission to plant churches, write testimonies and bring people back to the heart of God.
Take a moment and get to know the Apostles better by clicking on their names below. Getting to know them will deepen your understanding of Jesus and the arc of the New Testament.
Simon Peter (brother of Andrew) - Jesus’ closest friend and one of his inner three, author of 1 Peter and 2 Peter
James (son of Zebedee and older brother of John) - one of Jesus’ inner three friends, first one to be martyred
John (son of Zebedee and younger brother of James) - one of Jesus’ inner three friends, credited with writing the Gospel of John, the epistles 1 John, 2 John and 3 John and the book of Revelation
Thomas (Didymus) - also nicknamed “Doubting Thomas”
Matthew (Levi) of Capernaum - the tax collector and writer of the Gospel of Matthew
James (son of Alphaeus) also called “James the Lesser” - he may have been the first disciple to see the risen Lord
Thaddaeus-Judas Labbeaus - brother of James the Lesser and possibly of Matthew of Capernaum, wrote the book of Jude
Judas Iscariot - the one who betrayed Jesus then hung himself out of remorse
*After Judas Iscariot committed suicide, the remaining 11 Apostles elected Matthias to take his place among the 12.
Jesus didn’t stop at twelve either, along with the twelve men were several women and hundred of others. People like Mary Magdalene who we believe acted as a kind of patron, helping fund Jesus’ ministry along the way and so many others at various stages in their faith, but who believed and walked with this ragtag group of men. These are the people who came to be known as the itinerant early church.
In Luke we learn that Jesus once sent out seventy-two disciples on a kind of training mission. He sent them out with instructions and celebrated when they came back excited about their experience. Teaching energized Jesus. He loved to praise other people. I think it was probably one of the greatest joys of his life. If you’ve ever had the opportunity to teach, to raise children, play on a championship team, or start a new artistic project or company then you know the feeling, that feeling of being a part of something great, a part of something bigger than yourselves. That kind of incredible teamwork and friendship only happens when everyone cares more about the mission than they do about themselves.
This is what we are called to do as well. We were created to experience God in community with others. If you're in search of your "band of brothers" then we suggest you start by joining a small group this week. If you're already committed to a small group then how can we learn to be more intentional with our friendships? Who are the one or two people in your life that you can commit to growing with in discipleship? "For you were once darkness but now you are light. Live as children of the Light." (Eph. 5:8)