Luke 6: In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.  And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:  Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew,  and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot,  and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.“And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: …”
We are not told how many disciples Jesus had at this point. He has performed several miracles and been involved in making the dreaded Pharisees look a little foolish. There may indeed be quite a number of disciples.
The Greek word for disciple means “learner” or “follower”. Jesus has attracted a following of people who attend to His teachings and who followed where He went. Out of that number He is going to choose twelve whom He will label “Apostles”.
“Apostle” means “one who is sent”, “messenger”. So, out of those who are followers He chooses twelve to be senders. He is picking out future leaders, who will teach others, who will pass on the things that He will teach them over the next three years. We see this begin to come to pass in Acts 1 when the Holy Spirit is given and the first church is formed and the Twelve are the recognized heads of that group of people.
We see their authority in texts such as Acts 2:42, Acts 6, Ephesians 2 and I Corinthians 12. It is hinted at in Matthew 16:15-20 and there is an incredibly strong statement about them in Revelation 21:9-21. These men, minus Judas, will become the most important human instruments in the hands of God that the world will ever see. They will be unmatched throughout the whole period between the two comings of Christ. When we read our New Testaments we are reading the Apostles and committing ourselves to the Apostles’ doctrine (Acts 2:42). These men will become unique in the history of the church and the world.
But they sure did not start out that way. They are ordinary men like us. They are plain, ignorant, stupid, arrogant, brash, head strong, doubting, proud, fearful, cowardly … . This is the universal message of the Bible. People are not chosen for what they are. They are chosen because God loves them and He who can make a creature in His image out of dirt can make leaders out of this sorry band of misfits. And He did.
For three years Jesus showed them what it meant to follow God. He demonstrated real power and then He let them get in on it themselves and then He sent them out to do it without Him present and then He left altogether and gave them the Holy Spirit. This little band of snivelling cowards became a force that turned the world upside down.
We will never be Apostles. But we can do whatever God calls us to do no matter what it is. Our job is to know what His call upon us is and commit ourselves to Apostolic doctrine and watch God make a church. If He could do it with this original bunch, then He can do it with us. We are no better or worse than they were when they were called. We are not chosen because of anything in us. No one is. The Twelve are testimony to that. We are chosen because we are loved (Ephesians 1:3-5). God does not look at what we are. He looks at what He can do in us who are nothing.
If we think we have something valuable to give to the world He will set us straight (I hope He does – for your sake and the church’s). Were there more talented, more strong, more humble people in that band of disciples from whom Jesus chose the Twelve? I suspect there were. But Jesus wasn’t looking for those who have it all together. He was looking for little nobodies whom He would change into something spectacular. And that is what He did. And that is what He is still doing.
I am so glad that He took this little nobody and set Him on the road to being something some day. And He will take what I offer Him in gratitude and obedience by the power of the Holy Spirit and do things far beyond what I can ask or think. There is nothing more driving me to obedience than this. What a great Saviour.