Jesus Calls the Twelve Apostles
Key verse 3:13-14a "
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve - designating them apostles"
Good morning! Did you watch Maryland-Stanford game last night? I missed the game because we had a messenger meeting during that time. I read a report, Maryland president saying, "You must be a stoned not to be excited." Maryland finally reached a Final Four for the first time in school history. But Let me tell you, though I missed the game, I had a better time digging the word of God, enjoying the privilege Jesus granted us. Today we are going to study about Jesusí discipleship ministry. We are called to be disciples of Jesus and disciple-makers among college students. Let us learn from Jesus what it means to be disciples and disciple-makers, and how we too can grow as successful disciple-makers.
First, Jesus appoints the twelve apostles(7-19)
Verses 7-12 describes the background of Jesusí discipleship ministry. Last week, we learned that Jesus challenged the Pharisees who were doing evil. They were religious leaders and supposed to take care of Godís people. But they were watching Jesus closely to accuse him while he was preaching and healing the sick. Jesus saw their wickedness and challenged them, saying "Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they were not repentant. Rather they hardened their hearts and plotted to kill Jesus.
It was not the time to collide with them, he had so many things to do before his crucifixion. So Jesus withdrew to the lake, but a large crowd followed him. Where did they come from? Letís read vs 8. They came from all across the country; Judea and Jerusalem. Idumea was located in the deep south. People also came from the east across the Jordan; Furthermore, they came from the northern Sidon and Tyre. People came not only from Israel, but also from neighboring countries. Why did they come from all over the place? I wish to have sheep like this coming to me, though I cannot bear with their demand quickly. What was the secret of Jesus growing ministry? Look at vs 8a. "When they heard all he was doing, many people came to him." Jesus helped the paralytic or leper one by one. Jesus risked his life to restore the man with a shriveled hand. When they heard all Jesus was doing, they were inspired. They found a true shepherd who would care for them. So they flocked around Jesus from all over the place. When we take care of even one sheep like Jesus, sheep will smell and come to us. Letís look at vs 10-11. People were so desperate that they were pushing forward to touch Jesus, screaming for help. When Jesus saw these multitudes of people crying for help, Jesus saw them as sheep harassed and helpless without a shepherd. So Jesus decided to raise shepherds who could take care of them.
Sometimes students seem to have no problems. But when we know them closely, everyone has his own life problem. Some are lonely, others are crying for help. Outwardly they look gorgeous, but inwardly they may be filled with fear. One of my sheep always smile. But he told me about his sad story: Since his parents divorced, he has to work full time to support his life and even his mothers while studying. He does not have time to make friends while working for two jobs. He said he is lonely and wished to have a father. Politicians are talking about economy and jobs, but people need shepherds who can strengthen them and comfort them, leading them to a true shepherd Jesus. What did Jesus do while facing the multitudes?
Letís read vs 13-15. Jesus called to him those he wanted and decided to raise them up as shepherds. Luke 6:12-13 says that he went up on a mountainside and spent all night praying, and in the morning he called those he wanted. So many people followed Jesus, but Jesus called to him those he wanted. He chose and hand-picked twelve, and gave them privilege to be with him and learn from him. John 15:16a says that Ďyou did not choose me, but I chose you." Universities review the SAT scores or leadership quality before giving admission to the students. But Jesus did not choose them because they were qualified. He chose them by his grace and they responded to his calling. Who were those who received such privileges?
Letís read vs 16-19. Simon was ambitious and talkative; James and John were explosive - one time they asked Jesus to bring down fire on a Samaritan village because they did not welcome them. Philip was intelligent; Bartholomew was thoughtful; Matthew messed up his life as a tax collector; Thomas known as doubting Thomas; James and Thaddaeus must be quiet; Simon was a nationalistic zealot; Judas betrayer. Jesus appointed diverse group of people as his disciples. They were not perfect. Each one had his own share of problems and weaknesses. But Jesus had a vision that they would grow as future spiritual leaders and shepherds and Bible teachers. Simon means sand. He was shaky and emotional. He could talk, but could not back it up. But Jesus gave him nickname Peter. That means rock. Jesus had a vision that Simon would grow as rock-solid servant of God. By training these twelve, Jesus wanted to raise a new spiritual Israel. Jesus saw a potential in each of them to grow as a shepherd in the future. When we look at sheep with Jesusí eyes, everyone can become a shepherd. One thing striking in his selection of disciples is that there is no Pharisee. They were old wineskins, too rigid and stubborn to learn. Jesus seemed to choose those who had learning minds. No matter how weak or smelly they might be, Jesus believed that they could grow as shepherds and spiritual leaders in his ministry. Sometimes when we see sheep with many problems, we feel burdened and wish to have clean-cut young men as disciples who have no problem at all. But there is no sheep without problem. As long as sheep has learning minds, Jesus has a vision for him to grow as his disciple.
Then what was Jesusí method of raising disciples? What privilege did Jesus give them? Letís look at vs 14a. "They might be with him." So many people wanted to follow Jesus, but Jesus appointed twelve and gave them privilege to be with him. They could live together, eat together, and travel together with Jesus. Jesus shared a common life with these twelve. What a privilege they enjoyed being disciples of Jesus. They could watch and learn from Jesus closely - how he taught, listened to people and ministered to them. They could ask him and get answer from him. Jesus could know each of them personally and taught them according to their needs. Jesus could also train them practically. One time Jesus took some of them to a high mountain and they saw the glorious Jesus. Another time, Jesus took some of them to Gethsamane and they watched Jesus praying in agony. By living together, they witnessed the practical life of Jesus and learned of Jesus personally. Those who were outside knew about Jesus superficially. But these disciples witnessed Jesus with their own eyes and learned of Jesus, and experienced the power of God and grace of Jesus deeply. Therefore, they could become powerful witnesses of Jesus. They preached with spiritual authority and God worked powerfully through them. My sheep Pedro often says, "If I had lived in the time of Jesus and had seen him with my eyes, I would have believed him with no doubt. But how can I know him?" We can know Jesus and share common life with him through the Bible study. When we study the word of God prayerfully, God opens our hearts and fills with great joy of knowing him intimately. It is such a privilege God has given us as his disciples. Shepherd Richard told me this story: A reporter asked Dr. Billy Graham what he wished to do. He expected Dr. Graham to say, "I want to have more crusades." But he was surprised to hear him say, "I want to know more of Jesus through the Bible study." Yes, it is a great privilege we can study Godís words and come to know Jesus more and more. I hope you thank God for providing you with Bible teacher to know Jesus. As we study his word, God will lead you and encourage you and train you to grow as spiritual leaders and shepherds.
Then what was the purpose of Jesusí discipleship ministry? Look at vs 14-15. "He appointed twelve -designating them Apostles - That he might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons." Jesus appointed twelve and designated them apostles. Disciples and apostles. What is the difference between disciples and apostles? Disciples are students. The word Ďdiscipleí came from the word Ďdisciplineí, or training. Disciples are those who receive training. An apostle means Ďone sentí Look at vs 14b-15. Jesus wanted to train his disciples and send them out to preach with authority. Since we are in the March Madness, let me use an analogy of basketball. Disciples are like the players, and apostles are like coaches. The players go through hard training. I wonder how they can go up and down for 40 minutes. I canít do that even for 10 minutes. But it is possible since they go through training - weight-lifting, shooting, jumping, blocking etc. Coaches understand the players and train them to fit because they themselves went through. Jesus had a vision to teach and train these twelve to grow as Bible teachers, disciple-makers and spiritual leaders. At the end of Markís gospel, Jesus commissioned them to go out into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Jesus had a vision that he would carry out world mission through these twelve disciples. There was a multitude of people following Jesus. There might be many good believers among them. But unless they were trained and able to teach, Godís work could not continue. Jesus had a vision that through this discipleship training, world mission could be carried on to all the world, and throughout the generations. Therefore success of Jesusí work depended on the discipleship ministry. We are called to do discipleship ministry among students. We should have a clear goal to raise up spiritual leaders as we teach. It is not easy to raise up even one disciple, but we should keep praying and challenge to overcome doubt. If each of us can raise up one shepherd or shepherdess in your life time, I regard your life as a disciple-maker as successful, because your work of God can be carried on. Missionary Elijah Ku raised up shepherd Steve, and Steve carries on the work of God fruitfully. Anthony grows and he will carry on the work of God again. Through discipleship ministry, the work of God continues from generation to generation. This is the importance of discipleship ministry.
What was the reason Jesus appointed and called them Apostles? These days everyone is busy, and it is not easy to get together. Some people donít want to go to churches, because they donít want to feel conflict with people. Others think they can worship God at home by themselves. But Jesus formed a team of disciples and shared life together. I think Jesus wanted them to learn to cowork with one another. One person cannot carry out Godís work. They must learn to cowork to do the work of God. Actually when we look at the life of disciples in the gospel, we can find them struggling with each other, instead of coworking. They were competitive, jealous, ambitious, selfish. They began to smell like fish. But through this struggle, they learned to accept one another, develop kinship and learn to cowork together. Later Peter and John became loving coworkers. I heard of testimonies of Chosen Generation complaining of the 2nd Genís slow spiritual growth since they formed a new team. I can see they have just started a discipleship 101. I remember the days of shepherd David and Bruceís common life. Imagine a prayer house with several boys only. Dishes were piling up, socks flying all over the floor. One guy got up at 4:00 while others complaining of turning up the light so early. But through sharing life together, they learned to value each other as brothers, and became good coworkers. By participating in team activities, we encourage each other and learn from one another, and grow as loving coworkers and shepherds for Godís sheep. I hope that we may form at least one team every semester.
Second, Jesus was opposed by the Family and the Pharisees (20-34)
Vs 20-34 tells about the opposition Jesus received after he had started a discipleship ministry. First, opposition from his family members: When Jesusí family heard of Jesus sharing life together with a bunch of disciples, they thought he became so crazy. Letís read vs 20-21. Jesus did not find time to eat meals because he was too busy ministering the people. He put sheep first. He often skipped lunch, ate dinner around midnight. His family member heard about his life and thought he was out of his mind. They could not understand his love for God and his shepherd heart for his people. They simply wanted him to live a nominal Christian life just like them. They complained, saying, "Why do you have to live differently from others?" They wanted to take charge of him, that means, they wanted to forcefully arrest him and take him home. Of course, they acted out of concern for his life, but they acted out of ignorance because they did not experience the power of God. Family members or close friends can become a stumbling block in Christian life when they do not know Godís grace and power deeply. When you spend much time feeding sheep, or offering thanks offering to God, they would think you are out of mind. But we must take a firm stand and pray for them patiently. How did Jesus view his family? Letís read vs 33-34. It does not mean that he ignore his family. He simply taught that we Christians have a higher calling to do the will of God. Jesus accepted his disciples as his own brothers. Jesus accepted those as his own brothers and sisters and mother who do the will of God. He meant that there was a deep spiritual bond with his disciples which was far greater than that with a physical family. If your sister is in trouble, your big brother is handy and protects you and cares for you. In the same way we become closer than our physical family members. Jeniffer is a only daughter, but she does not have to be lonely. She has many sisters and brothers. We feel much closer than our physical brothers. Look at your neighbors and welcome them, saying "My brother and my sister."
Next opposition from the religious leaders. How did the Pharisees think about Jesusí ministry? Letís read vs 22. They accused Jesus of driving out demons with the power of Satan. They should have recognized Jesusí good work, but they became wicked. Jesus reputed their reasons by telling a parable. Letís read vs 23-27. Satan cannot drive out demons because his kingdom cannot stand if he does so. Letís read vs 27. Who is a strong man here? Satan is strong and rules the people under his grips. But Jesus is stronger than Satan. He ties up a strong man Satan, plunders the house of Satan. Jesus came to bind up Satan and rescue sinners from his bondage, and set them free. Jesus was doing the work of God by driving out demons with the power of the Holy Spirit. So anyone who accepts the power of the Holy Spirit, he can be forgiven and set free from guilt of sin, and he is given freedom. But if he does not accept the work of the Holy Spirit, he would endanger his chance of receiving eternal life. So Jesus warned the Pharisees strongly against their unrepentant hearts. Letís read vs 28-29. Many people wonder if they committed eternal sin. Here eternal sin does not mean that if someone says one time bad things about the Holy Spirit, he would be guilty of eternal sin. This means if anyone persists in blaspheming against the work of the Holy Spirit, he puts himself in danger of losing eternal life. Therefore we must repent and soften our hearts toward the work of the Holy Spirit quickly.
In conclusion, Letís accept Jesusí calling to be his disciples. He invites us to share life together with him. It is such a privilege that we can learn and grow as his disciples. Let us also accept Jesusí calling to be disciple-makers, Bible teachers and shepherds of this generation, and pray that we can raise up many disciples who can serve world mission faithfully.