"THE BIG TWELVE"1

LUKE 6:12-16

11 Aug 2013

 

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             People collect all sorts of things.  Take Les Schneiderman of Omaha.  Michael Kelly wrote an article about him that appeared on the front page of Thursday's Omaha World Herald.  Schneiderman collects scales.  Balance scales, spring scales, pendulum scales.  Scales to weigh candy and fruit.  Scales for vegetables, eggs and grain.  Scales to weigh pigs, foals and jockeys.  Wherever he travels he looks for scales.  He has scales from Australia, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Israel, Italy and Sweden.  He stores his scale collection in a 60 x 30 ft warehouse .

            Kelly's article got me wondering.  What are the top ten things people collect?  I did an internet search and found out.  Here are the top things people collect.  Number 10 - Baseball Cards.  Number 9 - Action Figures.  My son's college roommate has an incredible collection of Star War's figures.  Number 8 - Zippo Lighters.  Number 7 - Key Chains.  Number 6 - Japanese Erasers.  Apparently, they are highly detailed and cute.  Number 5 - Pocket Knives.  Number 4 - Postage Stamps.  Number 3 - Antiques.  Number 2 - Comic Books.  Number 1 - Coins.

            I mention all this because as Jesus has been strolling through Galilee he has been collecting followers.  In the fifth chapter he picked up Simon Peter and his brother Andrew at the sea shore, as well as their business partners, James and John, and he collected Matthew at a tax booth.  Some scholars believe, however, that others began following him as well, sort of unofficial disciples.  So, by the time we arrive at the sixth chapter of Luke's Gospel, some believe he had an entourage, a group of followers numbering in the seventies.  Luke does not say that, but if he did have an entourage that large, then his reason for going up to the mountain to pray makes more sense.  He has to figure out who, from this large entourage, will make the cut, who will become a part of his inner circle? 

            This is a huge decision, so Jesus goes off to pray, and by the way, none of the other gospel writers mentions this.  None of the other gospel writers has Jesus praying before finalizing The Twelve, and that's so typical of Luke.  Luke, more than any other gospel writer, reminds his readers that the ministry of Jesus moves along a life of prayer.  No other gospel writer is so attentive to this pervading factor in Jesus' ministry.  In Luke's gospel, Jesus prays at pivotal moments in his ministry.  He not only prays here before naming The Twelve, but he also prays before his baptism (3:21).  He prays at the peak of his popularity when he withdrew from the crowd (5:16), and he prays before asking the disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"  But that's not all.  He also prays at his transfiguration, and of course, in Gethsemane.  More than any other gospel writer, Luke underscores the importance of prayer in Jesus' life.   One more thing.  Luke and Matthew both contain versions of the Lord's Prayer, but in Matthew the Lord's Prayer is part of the Sermon on the Mount.  In Luke, the disciples notice Jesus in prayer, and notice the power of prayer in his life, and when he finished praying, they came and asked him to teach them how to pray, and he teach's them "The Lord's Prayer."  That's the context of the Lord's Prayer in Luke's gospel. 

            OK, let's continue.  As we ponder this key moment in Jesus' ministry, I want to mention a couple of things.  First, note how God can use anyone.  Jesus chose twelve guys to be his disciples, and they come from different walks of life, and each had unique characteristics, not exceptional, but unique characteristics.  Let's go through the list of the twelve who made the cut.

            Simon, named Peter, is mentioned first here, as he is in all the lists of apostles.  Its not by accident. Of all these guys, Peter was the born leader.  He was vocal and opinionated, often quick to speak, and seldom shy about his stance.  After Jesus' ascension, Peter, of course, was the first one to preach a sermon.

            Next is Andrew a stark contrast to his brother, Peter.  Andrew was humble and meek, and very evangelistic.  Outside of the listings of The Twelve, Andrew is only mentioned three other times in all the gospels, and every time he is bringing someone to Jesus.  That would be a good thing to be known for ... for introducing others to Christ. He also didn't have much of an ego.  At the beginning it was Peter, Andrew, James and John, but soon it became Peter, James & John who were the inner circle.  We dont see any animosity or bitterness from Andrew for being excluded from the inner, inner circle.  We just see faithful service.

            Next we have James, one of the sons of Zebedee.  Apparently Zebedee had a temper because sometimes James and his brother John were referred to as the Sons of Thunder!  He was fiery and sometimes self- serving wanting to have the best seat at the table right next to Jesus, but he was also bold and, in time, he was the first of the twelve disciples to be martyred for the faith.

            His brother, John, is next on the list.  He was probably the youngest of the disciples and he had a very close relationship with Jesus.  Jesus trusted him so much that, when Jesus was dying on the cross, it was John that Jesus asked to take care of his mother, Mary.

            Next we have Philip.  We dont know a lot about him.  We know he was from Bethsaida and that when called by Christ, he immediately went and told his friend Bartholomew.

            Bartholomew, who is next on our list, was also named Nathaniel.  He could be a little snooty.  When he first heard about Jesus, he said, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?  But Jesus doesnt just look at where we were, but where we can be, and he takes Nathaniel/Bartholomew and changes him.

            Next is Matthew, the tax collector, who probably sacrificed more from a financial standpoint than any of the other disciples.

            Then Thomas ... some people call him the disciple from Missouri, the Show Me State, because he didnt believe that Jesus had actually come back from the dead.  He wanted to see Jesus for himself.

            He is followed by another James, this James the son of Alphaeus.  James earns the nickname, James the Less.  Perhaps he was shorter than the other James and thats how they kept track of him.  If so, Im sure he loved the short jokes.

            And then we have Simon the Zealot.  The Zealot movement began when Jesus was a boy.  The Zealots were a fanatical religious-political group, a clandestine band of Jews who imagined themselves to be super-patriots, and their battle cry was: "No king but God; no tax but the Temple tax; no friend but the Zealot."  They hated the Roman occupying power.  Given Simon's background, I almost titled this sermon "A Terrorist Among the Twelve!"

            Then we end with two guys named Judas.  The first Judas, was the son of James.  Its interesting to note that a little bit later in the accounts he goes by the name Thaddeus, as if he might not want to be confused with the other Judas.

            And then last is Judas Iscariot.  He is always the last one mentioned in every list of The Twelve.  Peter is always the first and Judas is always the last, and Judas is interesting as well, because when we think of Judas, we always picture him as this shady guy with beady eyes and thick black eyebrows, but thats not the Judas that we see in the Bible.  When Jesus said, One of you will betray me, they all didnt say, You know what? Ill bet its that dude back there with the black eyebrows and the beady eyes.  Instead they said, Is it me?  Am I the one?

            Judas was probably the most trusted person in the group. We know that because they put him in charge of the group finances, and you wouldnt put someone in charge of the money that you had any qualms about.

            And so what we have here is an incredibly diverse group of people.  The list reminds us that God can use anyone.  It doesnt matter what our background is.  It doesnt matter how much money we have.  It doesnt matter what political philosophy we endorse.  Simon was a zealot, a revolutionary group that wanted to overthrow Rome.  Matthew, as a tax collector, worked for the Roman government.  It didnt matter. Jesus used them both.

            I think this is where we see a huge departure from the way we do things.  We want the best and the brightest.  Jesus, however, didnt see these people for what they had been or even what they were; he saw them for what they could become.  He does the same with each of us.

            The second thing I want to say is this:  God's use of us remains a mystery.

            Joseph Parker, pastor of the City Temple Church in London, England, was once asked, Why did Jesus choose Judas as a disciple?  He knew Judas would betray him.  Parker replied, I admit thats a mystery.  But, he said, Theres an even greater mystery.  Why did Jesus choose me?

            I dont know.  I dont know why God chooses whom God does.  I dont know why God chooses to use you, and I certainly dont know why God chooses to use me.  But Ill tell you what, Im glad he does.  I appreciate that our Heavenly Father loves us enough that he wants to use us in his service.

            I recently heard about something a father would do to encourage his son.  Let me tell you about it.

            The man's son, named Kyle, is he seven, and they have a little ritual that they go through from time to time.  Every so often as he's tucking his son into bed, sharing those special bonding moments, the father will say, Kyle I I want you to picture a long line of little boys.  Youre standing in that line and there are every kind of little boy in that line.  There are tall boys and short boys, boys with blond hair and boys with brown hair.  There are boys that are good at music, or good at sports. There are boys that are smart, and some that arent so smart.  There are boys with nice clothes, and not so nice close and boys with big smiles and boys with sad faces.  And there are hundreds and hundreds of these boys. And youre in that line with them.  Now heres the thing Kyle, I get to pick any one of those boys to be my son.  I wonder which one I should choose?  I could choose this boy who is tall or this one who is short.  I could choose one down here, or one over there. Which one should I choose to be my son?

            And Kyle looks at father like I hope you pick me," and the dad plays it up for awhile, and then finally, with a grin on his face, Kyle asks as if hes never heard the answer, "Which one do you choose dad?  And dad always says, Kyle, I choose you.

            Some of you are probably like me and you look at God and you say, Why in the world would you choose me?  I dont have much to offer.  And maybe youre right. Maybe youre not smarter than a disciple, or braver, or more faithful, or more skilled, but God still chooses you.  God sees your potential and God wants to build a relationship with you.

            My name is Richard Christopher Meyer, and I am not smarter, braver, more courageous, faithful or skilled than any of the disciples listed here, but that just makes me all the more thankful that God has chosen me.

            And Ive got great news for you.  God has chosen you too.  Amen.

1 Indebted to Ken Karstens and his sermon "Are You Smarter Than a Disciple?" for much of this message.