As Jesus goes before His Father, in the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity are praying a blessing and commitment on the disciples Jesus is about to choose to follow Him in his earthly ministry. Join Stephen in these next two lessons, and be encouraged by these biographical sketches of Jesus’ chosen followers.
There’s an old saying recorded in the commentary of Jewish tradition and culture, called the Mishna. It’s an ancient expression that referred to disciples following so closely along with their mentor that they were said to wear the dust of their teacher.
In other words, they walked so closely to their master-teacher that they were literally covered with the dust kicked up by his sandals. Adapted from the Mishna, 1;4
The Greek word disciple (mathetes) means “learner, someone being taught, someone registered, a student in the required curriculum of the teacher.”
We’re about to meet 12 dust covered men. We know them as the 12 disciples of Jesus and when they graduate, they will become apostles—commissioned ones, sent ones—sent on a mission to make more disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Gospel by Luke has reached that point where the gloves have come off and the hostility of the religious world has become obvious and intentional.
By the time you finish reading verse 11 of Luke chapter 6, the religious leaders are beginning to plan the murder of Jesus.
Now at this point, Jesus has hundreds of disciples. Some of them are sincere followers but many of them are not. He has less than two years before He will be crucified.
And the Lord now determines this is the time to gather to Himself a close group of men.
They will assist in His miracles; they will share His meals, travel everywhere with Him, witness every moment, hear every question-and-answer session; listen to His sermons repeated hundreds of times; learn to replicate His attitude and His perspective and His ministry. Adapted from Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on Luke (Zondervan, 2012), p. 149
These are the 12 men who will literally walk in His footsteps—they will begin to wear his dust—and ultimately share His heart for the world.
If you have your copy of the New Testament, turn to the Gospel by Luke, chapter 6.
Jesus will precede His appointment of the 12 by spending the night in prayer.
Notice verse 12:
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. Luke 6:12
The phrase about spending the night in prayer comes from a word used only this one time in the entire New Testament.
And wouldn’t you know, it’s a medical term that Dr. Luke would have known, and that’s because it was used by physicians to describe an all-night vigil caring for a patient. Ibid
Sitting up all night with a desperately ill individual, you don’t want to go to sleep because of the intensity of what is transpiring.
What makes it even more intense is the fact that Luke writes here that Jesus continued—you could literally translate it—in the prayer of God (or with God). David E. Garland, Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke (Zondervan, 2011), p. 272
In other words, what you have here is a prayer meeting of the Trinity. This is a holy gathering, a sacred communion as the Members of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, literally spend the night communing with one another. John MacArthur, Twelve Ordinary Men (W Publishing Group, 2002), p. 15
Can you imagine? This is so sacred. Luke doesn’t add any descriptive commentary; he just says it happened.
And keep in mind, Jesus isn’t out here praying, “Father, I know I need to choose 12 men, but I’m just not sure about Peter, he seems a little imbalanced; and Judas, he seems little shifty to me; and Matthew, he’s got worst reputation in Capernaum.
I don’t know, maybe I should choose some faithful priests from the Temple system or maybe a rabbi or two. What do you think I should do?”
No. The omniscient God the Son is fully aware of these twelve men, and His choice of them from eternity past.
Jesus isn’t out there trying to cram for the final exam. He’s not confused. No, He’s communing with God the Father and God the Spirit over the significance of this moment in human history, planned before time began.
If anything, one author commented, Jesus isn’t praying about whether He should choose them; Jesus is already beginning to pray for them.
His ministry of intercession is intensifying for these men. He knows their flaws; He knows what they will face; He knows their future.
In fact, Jesus will later tell Peter, “Satan is going to try and sift you—to mess up your life—but I’ve already been praying for you” (Luke 22:32).
It was true for them, and it is true for you: Jesus knew everything about you before you took one step in following in His footsteps.
At the outset of our study of these early disciples, I want you to keep a couple truths in mind:
Jesus chose His disciples not because He needed them, but because they needed Him. Darrel L. Bock, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament: Luke 1-11 (Baker, 1994), p. 447
Which is exactly why He will choose men that we would never expect Him to choose because we’re left scratching our heads with why in the world would the Lord choose unlettered, uneducated, social misfits.
How in the world will they help Him? What’s He thinking?
He’s only got about 18 months before the elevator takes Him back up into Heaven. He’d better start with men who will really help His cause succeed. That’s how business works, that’s how initiatives succeed. You surround yourself with people who are good for you.
I came across this little fictitious memo several years ago, someone imagined it being delivered to Jesus on the eve of His selection of disciples. It’s on official stationery and it’s from the Israeli Office of Management Consultants.
“Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have selected for management positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of personality inventory and management skill tests and we have summarized our results. It is our opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, and vocational aptitude for the type of work you are undertaking. Simon Peter is given to an offensive temper and likely to come unhinged. Andrew shows no potential for leadership. Thomas demonstrates an isolationist attitude that will undermine morale. Philip has no visionary skill and the two brothers, James and John, will place personal interest above company loyalty. Frankly, they are ‘Mama’s boys.’ And we feel it is our duty to inform you that Matthew has been put on probation by our Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus have leanings toward the radical left and appear unstable. However, one candidate has a keen business mind, is highly motivated, and responsible. We recommend as your Chief Financial Officer, Judas Iscariot.”
That memo is not far off the mark.
Isn’t it fascinating that the Lord did not choose a single rabbi? He didn’t select a scribe; He bypassed the High Priest and his family.
Not one of the men He chose came from the religious establishment, but he chose men from the backwater of Galilee, and most of them were fishermen.
Jesus is not figuring out a way to pad His resume as the Messiah; He is going to personally train His representatives with a radically new message.
Jesus chose His disciples, not because He needed them, but because they needed Him.
And that’s true to this day. Jesus doesn’t need you—or me. We need Him. And the glory of the gospel and the grace of Christ is that He planned and delights to include you and me in co-laboring with
Him and serving with Him, even though He could have snapped His fingers, created His church and taken her to Heaven.
But He didn’t.
He chooses disciples who realize they need Him, who walk closely with Him, to learn of Him, who end up wearing—with great joy and appreciation—the dust from His sandals.
Jesus chose His disciples not because of who they were, but because of who they would become. Swindoll, p. 150
Think about who they were when they were first invited to follow Him closely. Talk about an interesting selection.
Not only were they interesting choices, humanly speaking, but they were so different from each other. You can just feel that they won’t ever get along.
They’re all over the political spectrum. You’re not supposed to talk about politics or religion, but that’s all they will talk about.
You’ve got Simon the Zealot—he might get into a fist fight with anybody who even thinks that the Roman government shouldn’t be abolished at once.
The zealots hated Roman authority. They loved their nation, and they would eventually carry out guerilla warfare to try and overthrow Rome. They were red hot patriotic Hebrew nationalists.
When they drove their pickups through town, they would have had big Israeli flags flying from the back; they would have had bumper stickers that read: If you don’t love Israel let me help you pack.
But now Simon the Zealot is joining up with Matthew, who betrayed his country by selling out to the Romans to turn around and collect taxes from his own Jewish people. He was a traitor!
If Jesus puts these two guys in the same tent overnight, Matthew will be missing come morning.
This is like putting Benedict Arnold and George Washington in the same discipleship group—only one of them is coming out alive!
Added to that, these 12 men are all over the emotional and personality spectrum: Peter is fast and impetuous, he’s a risk taker; Philip is careful and methodical, he’s always calculating the facts.
Nathanael—also known by his Hebrew surname, Bartholomew—tends to believe everything he hears while Thomas tends to doubt everything he hears.
Some are from the upper class while most are from middle or lower class. Some are slightly educated, while most are uneducated.
They’re all over the map! They are so different! How will they ever get along?
How do we ever get along? Is it because we’re all the same kind of people?
No, some of you are strange!
But some of you think a lot like I do. I received this card from someone in the church a couple of weeks ago, it reads, “Cats are supposed to have nine lives, which makes them ideal for experimentation.” This is my kind of church member!
But seriously, do we as the Lord’s disciples get along because we’re the same emotionally and politically and educationally and economically?
No. We just happen to be following the same Master.
We’re wearing the same dust as we walk in the footsteps of the Savior.
There are four lists in the New Testament that give us the names of these 12 disciples: Matthew 10; Mark 3, Acts 1; and here in Luke 6.
In every list, the names show up in just about the same exact order. And in every list, Peter is always first and Judas Iscariot is always last.
The disciples are divided in ministry into three groups of four. The first group is the most prominent among the others; they talk and interact the most; they are invited at times into the close company of Jesus; the most information provided in the New Testament is about them.
And this first grouping of disciples is always the same: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. Two sets of biological brothers.
The leader in this first group of closest disciples, of course is the most well- known: Simon Peter. His name is mentioned in the Gospels more than any other name except Jesus. No one speaks as often as Peter, and no one is spoken to by the Lord as often as Peter. No disciple is rebuked by the Lord as often as Peter and no other disciple rebukes the Lord, except Peter. MacArthur, p. 39
Everybody knows about Peter’s failures, like the time in Matthew 14 where he climbed over the side of the boat to walk on the water out to Jesus, but then he saw the waves and he began to sink.
Peter couldn’t stay with it and he’s now soaking wet!
Well, don’t forget, Peter is the only disciple even willing to try to walk on the water, while the other disciples are back in the boat hanging on to their seat cushions for dear life.
Peter will ask more questions than all the other disciples combined.
Now the name “Peter” is more like a nickname given to him by Jesus, when they first meet, in John 1:42. John records:
Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). John 1:42b
Peter is Greek and Cephas is Aramaic for “stone/rock”
Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: Luke (Tyndale, 1997), p. 146
The Lord essentially gives Simon this nickname, not because he was strong and steadfast, but because the Lord was going to make him strong and steadfast.
At this moment here in Luke 6, Peter is unpredictable; he’s self-confident and brash; he’s hot, then cold; he’s great at making promises that he is not able to keep.
Oh, but every time he heard his nickname, it reminded him of what the Master wanted him to become.
He will later become a man steadfast under incredible pressure; he will be unwilling to back down under persecution; he will preach the opening sermon as the church is created by the Holy Spirit, in Acts chapter 2.
From church history, we learn that after decades of faithful ministry, according to Eusebius and Clement, the apostle Peter will be forced to watch his own wife crucified; history records that Peter encouraged her to remain steadfast as she was led away.
When it came his turn to die, he asked to be crucified upside down, testifying that he was not worthy to die as his Lord had died. And they agreed and nailed him to a cross upside down. MacArthur, p. 60
The next disciple mentioned by Luke here in chapter 6 is Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew.
Peter and Andrew were fishing partners in the family fishing business, on the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
We don’t know for sure, but history considers Andrew to be the older brother of Peter. Which makes it even more interesting that Andrew virtually lived in Peter’s shadow.
In fact, throughout the New Testament, many of the verses that name Andrew add that that little commentary that he was Peter’s brother—as if that was what made him significant— “Who are you?
Oh, you’re Peter’s brother.”
Andrew is going to be mentioned nine times in the New Testament, and most of it will only mention him in passing.
But what’s even more interesting to me is that Andrew was the first brother to show any kind of spiritual interest. He had begun traveling out to hear John the Baptizer preaching his message of repentance.
Andrew had believed that message, was personally baptized by John and invited by John to become one of his disciples. Andrew evidently spent his days with John and his nights fishing with his brother Simon Peter, who apparently wasn’t interested.
But then we’re given this incredible encounter in John’s Gospel – in chapter 1:
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. . .. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. John 1:35-37; 40
Which means Andrew followed Jesus before Peter did. In fact, Andrew is more than likely the first of the twelve disciples. He’s the first one to believe that Jesus was the Messiah.
And if you’re wondering if Andrew keeps Jesus all to himself—I mean, after all, if Peter finds out, he’s gonna come in here and take over. “I know Simon, I’ve lived in his shadow for years—I was here first.”
Well, verse 41 sets the record straight:
He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. John 1:41-42a
The first thing Andrew does is tell his family about Jesus, and specifically his brother, Simon.
Frankly, without Andrew, there may never have been a Simon Peter. There is remarkable humility in Andrew; he never complains about Peter’s leadership, even
if it meant he would take a back seat to his brother Simon Peter.
If you track Andrew through the New Testament, you discover that he is consistently involved with bringing people to Christ.
In the history of Eusebius, the third century historian, he wrote that Andrew would blaze a trail to the outer regions of modern-day Russia. He would also be martyred later in life—crucified as well.
Evidently, Andrew had led the wife of a powerful politician in the Roman Empire to Christ. This political leader was infuriated by his wife’s conversion to Christianity, and he demanded that she recant. She refused, and he retaliated by arresting Andrew and putting him to death. MacArthur, p. 74
So, Andrew ended his ministry just like he had begun his ministry: bringing someone to Jesus.
You know what the church needs today? Better programs? More money? More advertising and endorsements from well- known people? More appreciation and respect?
No, what we need are more Andrews, who’s first thought is: “You know, I need to go tell my friend, my family member, my business associate, about Jesus.”
Here’s Simon Peter and Andrew— brothers, fishermen—who became spiritual brothers, fishers of men.
Disciples who model for us what it means to wear with perseverance and joy the dust of our Master as we walk along in the footsteps of Jesus.