Mark 3:13-19 (NIV): Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve–designating them apostles–that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
Jesus had entered the next stage of His earthly ministry. The crowds were too numerous, and there were simply too many places still for Him to go for Him to do it all Himself. After spending the whole night in prayer up on the mountainside (Luke 6:12), Jesus called twelve of His disciples, and appointed them to take the next steps alongside Him. Their job would be to be with Him – to officially leave everything behind and live their lives with Him – and to be sent out to preach (Greek: apostello, the root of our word “apostle”) in the many places that Jesus had not yet gotten to. Jesus also gave them authority over demons so that they could drive them out. (This demonstration of God’s power working through the disciples of Jesus would be the hallmark of the early Church after Jesus’ ascension – cf. Acts 1:9, as well as the whole book of Acts.)
The twelve that Jesus chose for the next step are, in some cases, counterintuitive. Peter, James, and John (and sometimes Peter’s brother, Andrew) are usually accepted as good choices because of the prominent role they played in Jesus’ ministry and in the early Church. But Jesus didn’t choose them because they were great men; they became great men because Jesus chose them and brought them into intimate relationship with Himself. The same can be said of the rest as well.
Judas is the one who usually raises eyebrows. Why would Jesus pick Judas out of all of His other followers (which surely measured in the hundreds at least) to be one of His most intimate companions? Why not hold him at arm’s length, let him follow at a distance if he had to follow at all? Some believe that Jesus didn’t know that Judas would be His betrayer, but He knew (cf. John 2:24-25). Some think it was an effort to win Judas over to Him and prevent the betrayal. But Jesus already knew where His future lay, and who would play all of the key roles. No, in bringing Judas close to Himself, inviting Him into intimate fellowship with Him, providing for him, and showing him all of the wonders of God’s kingdom, even though He knew that he would betray Him one day soon, Jesus was showing all humanity God’s love and His grace. It is God who causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, even though the evil will never acknowledge it, and would spit in His face if He showed up. It is God who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (cf. Matthew 5:45), even though the unrighteous will claim that the rain that moistens the ground and causes their food to grow is just a natural phenomenon, and will never give Him thanks for it. And it is God in Jesus who called Judas into intimate fellowship with Himself, allowing him the unimaginable opportunity to associate directly with God’s one and only Son, even though He knew that Judas would use that opportunity to betray Him into hands of sinners to be killed.
Father, it seems amazing that Jesus is that loving and that full of grace. But He also chose Peter, knowing that he would deny Him. He also chose Thomas, knowing that he would doubt His resurrection. And today, he calls people to Himself, inviting them into intimate fellowship with Himself, even though many of them will ignore Him, others will spurn Him directly, and still others will follow for a while and then turn away to follow their own agendas. But for those of us who accept His invitation wholeheartedly, who choose to follow Him all the way, who remain steadfast through thick and thin, the blessings are inconceivable! Amen.