Christians have often been called as “ordinary people with extraordinary claims”. And in many ways this appellation is true!
The word of God says “But Jesus looked at them and said to them “with men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”. Mt. 19:26, (Lk 1:37, Jer 32:17). The incarnated Word of God chose a few ordinary people with no extraordinary skills or endowments. After the resurrection of Jesus Christ they preached and witnessed him. They literally turned the world upside down. Now the majority of the total population of the world is Christians, as the amazing result of the labor of these few men.
Let us first consider why our heavenly father chose them for propagating His Good News.
The Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ
Twelve men were called by Jesus Christ to be His disciples. The word ‘disciple’ means pupil; and is commonly used for a follower of any religious teacher, especially for the twelve followers of Jesus Christ. When they were called, they left behind their family, friends, familiar values, aim and priorities. For them the call of Jesus Christ was a new beginning.
These twelve disciples of Jesus Christ were also called “Apostles”. The literal meaning of ‘apostle’ is ‘like an angel’, ‘a messenger’, ‘a delegate’, ‘an ambassador’, one commissioned etc.
Jesus called them so that they may bear witness to Him i.e. they must give a first hand testimony. At the beginning of his earthly ministry, Jesus selected twelve men as eyewitness to the events of His life, as carriers of His Word, and witnesses of His resurrection. Even though the purpose of ‘calling’ was this, they did not comprehend Jesus and His mission until His death and resurrection, thinking that Jesus’ kingdom was of this world, they dreamt that they would be elevated to high places in it. (Mt. 20:28). This kind of presumption made them desert him at Gethsemane and Calvary.
The real transformation of the twelve apostles actually happened at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon them as Christ had promised. (Acts 2). When they received Holy Spirit they could understand Christ and his mission better and also the real meaning of His words. Christ became comprehensible to the twelve. From this point onwards these ordinary men were earnestly at the task of propagating the Gospel which was like life-breath to them. Their ever increasing conviction about Jesus Christ made them strong.
They dedicated themselves as ‘Vessels’ in the hands of God. God became the content of these twelve vessels. Then onwards these vessels were overflowing with the ‘good news’ in all variety of situations. People from all the comers of the earth were fascinated by the ‘gospel’ they preached and many joined them day by day and became ardent devotees of the risen Christ. Thus the church was established as Jesus has promised.(Mt. 16: 18). The Word of God started spreading rapidly through the -twelve and thousands of believers embraced the new faith. The church grew day by day. No body could stop, for God was with them. The meek became mighty. People were amazed by their eloquence even though they were uneducated men with no extra ordinary skills. They performed miracles, healed the sick, cast out demons, and revealed the fact that every thing was possible with God.
Many of the Jews abandoned their community and got baptized to receive Christ. Thus the twelve became a threat to Jewish community. Jewish authority feared an impending danger to their community. They conspired against the twelve, joining hands with the temporal authorities and started persecuting them. But the twelve did not care even for their very life. Persecution only intensified their preaching and made the spread of the gospel easier. Except John, all others among the twelve became martyred. They all loved to die for Christ, for they tasted the selfless love of Christ who paid the price for them on the Cross.
The Great Commission
Jesus Christ entrusted the Twelve with a four fold ministry to follow as Bible says.
“Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth is given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. I am with you always to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:16-20) (Mk. 16:14-18, Lk. 24: 36¬49, Jn 20: 19-23, Acts 1:6-8) i.e. (1) TO WORSHIP HIM, (2) TO PREACH HIM, (3) TO BAPTIZE IN HIS NAME and (4) TO TEACH HIS COMMANDMENTS.
Jesus Christ empowered them to administer the sacraments on behalf of Him (Mt. 16: 19-20), by establishing His church here in this world.
Apart from the epistles the “Teachings of the Twelve” is another written document which is also known as the ‘Didache’ gives more clarity to the Word of God.
When the New Jerusalem is described in the book of Revelation, it is written “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates and twelve angels at the gates, and name written on them, which are the name of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel.” (Rev. 21:12)
“Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the name of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev 21:14)
“Around the throne were twenty four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crown of gold on their heads” (Rev. 4:4)
Reading of these verses makes one doubt why the rejected people of Israel are also having their twelve seats beside the mighty Lord in the heavenly glory?
We find that the Bible as a whole, whether the Old Testament or the New Testament, is a special revelatory account of the mighty redemptive act of Christ. It is the book of Redemption. It refers to deliverance and to the price paid for the redemption by God in our Lord God Jesus Christ.
In preparation for the act of ‘redemption’ selected two sets of people as His role models to attract every soul unto the last towards Him. The first set of people was the old Israel; And then the New Israel (The Church). New Israel is the continuation of the old Israel. Humankind as a whole is His children, never to be forsaken, but to be delivered from the bondage of Satan. It is a mystery to see whatever things are there with old Israel is repeated with the new Israel in a new way, with a new meaning and a new emphasis. Revelation means “unveiling”, the unveiling of Jesus Christ in His great glory, in His majesty and in His kingdom. So we could divine through St. John’s Revelation on the “Kingdom of God” that the Twelve of the Old Testament and the Twelve of the New Testament have their own places in the kingdom of God. One is described as the gate and other is the foundation.
According to the book of Revelation, The Twelve apostles of Christ are the foundation stones of the wall of Heavenly Jerusalem. God made the Twelve strong for the purpose for which they were called.
“Now the names of the twelve apostles are these; first Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother. Philip and Bertholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector, James the son of Alphaeus and Labbaeus whose surname was Thaddaeus, Simon the Cannanite and Judas Iscarioth, who also betrayed him” (Mt. 10:24)