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The Unpromising Team Included a Traitor

Mark 3:16-19
These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means 'sons of thunder'), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (NIVUK)

When Jesus chooses people, He does not make mistakes. But what new global company would have chosen this group of men?  Fishermen without high school education, a corrupt civil servant, a religious bigot and the betrayer-in-waiting.  Jesus did not call them - or indeed you - because of the skills they could offer to His business. He chose the people He would transform to be like Him and work with Him.  He knew exactly what they had done, how they reacted and the motives which drove them to action.  He also knew those who were teachable and even included one who was not.  Jesus saw how each of those people would contribute to His Kingdom, even if they could not see it at the time.  Strangely, even Judas had his place; his heinous disloyalty literally had a crucial part to play (John 6:70).

Who were these men?  Lists in each Gospel and Acts show that some were known by other names.  There are at least two sets of brothers: Andrew and Simon (later named 'Peter' – John 1:42); and James and John who Jesus called 'sons of thunder'.  James was the first apostle recorded as being martyred (Acts 12:2).  All four were fishermen.  Andrew and Simon lived in Bethsaida, as did Philip and Nathanael who was also called Bartholomew (John 1:44-46; Matthew 10:3).  Matthew was a corrupt tax collector also known as Levi; his father was Alphaeus (Mark 2:14).  Thomas was a twin but we do not know who the other twin was.  James, the son of Alpheus (probably not the same man as Matthew's father) is also known as James the Less (who is different to James the Great, the brother of John; or James the Just, the half-brother of Jesus).  Thaddeus is also known as Jude or Judas (the son of James, not to be confused with Jude, the bother of James the Just, both half-brothers of the Lord Jesus).  Simon the Zealot – little is known about him.  Judas Iscariot is identified as Christ's betrayer.

There is much we do not know about these men.  But each, except Judas Iscariot, was chosen by Jesus to witness His ministry, death, resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:21-22).  They were appointed as founding apostles with the responsibility of defining the doctrine and practice of the church, and missionary apostles to take the gospel to 'all nations'.  As far as we know, none were religiously trained – apart from their Jewish upbringing in the law of Moses and knowledge of the Old Testament.  None was notably wealthy or wise (1 Corinthians 1:26-29), but Jesus chose them to do their unique work.  We follow their teaching and their example; as the Apostle Paul said, "Follow my example as I follow the example of Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).  

Ordinary people who love Jesus are still filled by His Spirit so that they can be used to glorify God, spread the gospel message and win souls for Christ's kingdom (Acts 1:8).  In any job, willingness to learn and commitment to loyalty are essential: the necessary skills can be trained in by the experts.  That is how Jesus selects and trains us, even though we may make many mistakes along the way.  He knows the way ahead.  He will refine and equip us for His service.

Dear Lord. Thank You for Your loving wisdom in choosing Your people. Forgive me for being so slow to learn and for wrongly judging others who You have chosen. Help me to believe that those You call, You will equip to worship and serve You. And help me to trust that You are also at work in other believers. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams