As happens from time to time , it was my responsibility to teach Sabbath School today, and the lesson for today involved the recruitment and selection of the twelve disciples. Since there happened to be a wide variety of ways that people were selected, I thought it worthwhile to give a picture both of what types of people were selected by Jesus Christ but also about some of the means of doing so. For some people this may be a basic reminder of fairly obvious stories, but as someone who is interested in communication I find it fascinating nonetheless to look at how people are chosen and how they respond to it. We ought to remember that Jesus Christ gave similar invitations to others who did not respond to it, sometimes with a sense of sadness about it when they were told about the hardships that were required in following Christ.
We see in Matthew 4:18-22 that Jesus Christ called two sets of brothers, who happened to be the top four disciples, as they were engaged in fishing: “And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.” This is a pretty straightforward call and response. There is a bit more context in that these particular men had been disciples of John the Baptist, and John and James of Zebedee may have been cousins of Jesus’, so it is not as if these people were unfamiliar to Him. Nevertheless, their call was an obvious one and they answered with alacrity.
It should be noted that this was not the initial call that Peter and Andrew received, for John recounts that all of them, as noted above, had been disciples of John the Baptist and had previously spoken with Christ, as it is written in John 1:35-42: “Again, the next day, John stood with two of his disciples. And looking at Jesus as He walked, he said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. Then Jesus turned, and seeing them following, said to them, “What do you seek?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which is to say, when translated, Teacher), “where are You staying?” He said to them, “Come and see.” They came and saw where He was staying, and remained with Him that day (now it was about the tenth hour). One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the son of Jonah. You shall be called Cephas” (which is translated, A Stone).” Although this is a somewhat complicated account, we see that John the Baptist helped in some of the recruitment efforts of Jesus Christ by sending some of his own disciples to Christ.
In Matthew 9:9-13 we see that Jesus Christ also called a tax collector to be a part of his inner circle of disciples: “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as Jesus sat at the table in the house, that behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Him and His disciples. And when the Pharisees saw it, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard that, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” The response of the Pharisees to seeing Jesus associate with tax collectors and “sinners” was rather predictable in that they assumed him to be one of their kind, and therefore unworthy of being a teacher of righteousness. Yet we see that Jesus’ choices of disciples was particularly open-minded.
At least on one occasion we see a disciple recruited by another disciple, as happened when Philip recruit Nathanael (Bartholomew) after having met him, as it is written in John 1:43-48: “The following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”” Here we see that disciples sometimes had their initial understanding of Jesus Christ second hand from other disciples and had the opportunity to receive the call to discipleship through their friends.
In one case, at least, we see a member of the twelve being selected by lot. After the betrayal of Christ by Judas Iscariot and his suicide, he was replaced in Acts 1:21-26, as it is written: ““Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.” We see here that even a replacement disciple about whom little is known had to have been a part of the larger group of disciples from the beginning in order to be raised to the position of one of the twelve, and that God made his opinion known through the casting of lots, which was a fairly standard way in the Bible for the will of God to be made known through seemingly random practices that were not under the control of those seeking to discover an answer. Alas, it is rare in these days for people to seek the will of God rather than their own will, and it has likely always been that way.
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