Who were the 12 disciples? What were their occupations? What did they do before Jesus told them to drop everything and follow Him? What was so special about these men? Stephen answer some of these questions as he introduces us to our forefathers of the Faith.
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“A RAGTAG BAND OF MISFITS”
(This part of the sermon was not read by Pastor Davey) We’re continuing our studies, this morning, in the Gospel of Mark. But, turn, if you will, with me to the Gospel of John, chapter 17, verses 12 through 23. That’s John, chapter 17, verses 12 through 23. Stand, if you will, for the reading of God’s word. “While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name; those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition: that the scripture might be fulfilled. And now come I to thee: and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one: and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.” Remain standing, please. (singing)
(Pastor Davey begins this part of the sermon.) According to the standards of this world system, Jesus Christ was, I’m sure, considered one of the greatest failures that ever lived. In fact, in Mark, chapter 3, where I want to draw your attention to, this morning, He’s about to perform His greatest blunder. You see, anybody would know that if you are going to propagate a cause, you need to choose or select individuals who are on top of things, who are as sharp as the person introducing the cause. You need to choose men or women who are going to be able to take this thing through and people who are most likely to succeed. And Jesus Christ does exactly the opposite!
I read a fictitious memo from “The Jordan Management Consultants.” Let me share it with you. “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 tests and we have run the results through our computer. It is our staff’s opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education, vocational aptitude for the type of work you are undertaking. Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to an offensive temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. Brothers James and John, sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Frankly, they’re ‘Mama’s boys.’ Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel it is our duty to tell you that Matthew has been blacklisted by our greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau. James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus have definite leanings toward the radical and register high on the manic depressive scale. One of the candidates does, however, show great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness. He has a keen business mind, he’s highly motivated, as well as ambitious and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand-man.” Well, according to the standards that the world would impose, I imagine they wouldn’t be too far from the truth to suggest that.
Jesus Christ is revolutionary. He is radically different. And so, you find Him in Mark, chapter 3, choosing different kind of men. If you have your notes, I would suggest to you three elements in the process of choosing His disciples. You might jot down three words. First of all, in Mark, chapter 3, verse 13, His choosing was personal. Look at verse 13 of Mark, chapter 3, and notice the personal call that He gives. “And He goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto Him whom He would: and they came unto Him.” The word for “call,” is “proskaleo,” which is a very intense word. It means to call face to face. It is a calling to one side, “I want you to come after me and learn of me.” This is intimate. This isn’t casual. This is much more than a coffee cup or a conversation over a batch of cookies. This is a very intimate one-on-one personal calling.
It is also prayerful. Luke would tell us in chapter 6, verses 12 and 13, that Jesus Christ spent the night praying before He called His disciples. He spent an entire night seeking the will of His Father before He ever went about choosing those twelve men. So it was personal and prayerful.
But I want you to notice, thirdly, in our text, that it was purposeful. Look at verse 14, “And He ordained twelve,” - notice, first of all - “that they should be with Him,” - secondly - “that He might send them forth to preach.” First of all, to be with Him. A “disciple,” as you probably know, is translated from the word “mathetes,” which means “learner.” You are a learner, if you are a disciple. Later, in the gospel, they will become apostles, and that is the word, “sent ones.” Right now, they are the ones learning. Down the road, they will be the ones sent. So the process of discipleship was one filled with purpose. Jesus Christ wanted to inculcate into their characters, His character. He wanted to teach them all that He knew so that, when He sent them out, they would be capable of propagating His cause. But they were not only to be with Him, they were to be representatives of Him, you could jot into your notes.
Now, for your benefit, and for mine as well, we need to go back into the background of these chosen twelve. I have given you, as a title, that this is a ragtag band of misfits. And the more that I study, and the more that you study, these particular men, you will find that it is almost shocking that they could be blended and molded together to form a group of men who could, in fact, even get along. I want to give you some facts about the list that you are given. There are four lists of the apostles: Matthew 10, Mark 3, Luke, chapter 6, and Acts, chapter 1. And all of the lists contain some interesting similarities. First of all, in every list that you’ll find of these apostles, Peter is mentioned first and Judas is mentioned last. Now, we can’t determine a whole lot from that but, it seems, that Peter was first, or the Greek word “protos,” which means “first in rank.” It didn’t mean that he was first in character or quality. It didn’t mean that he was, of all of them, the most likely to succeed, that was the opposite. But he seemed to have the “protos,” he seemed to gain rank. He was probably the leader of the twelve, as they moved through that three years and some odd months with Jesus Christ.
Secondly, each list has three groups with four members in each. Every time you find these lists in the Bible, you will find that there are three groups and there are the same four members in each group. For instance, the first group is always Peter, Andrew, James and John. Now, you will find that in each group the amount of information given of these men decreases. So the first group, Peter, Andrew, James and John, have the most information about them. We know the most about them. In fact, they will also write the most about Jesus Christ. The second group is Philip, Bartholomew, or sometimes called Nathanael, Thomas and Matthew. And these are always clumped together. I don’t know how it happened or how it worked out but in any group, even in this church congregation, you will find people that kind of clump together, they group together. Well, in this band of men, they did the very same thing and there were always four men in each little group of three. The third group is James, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, not Simon Peter but Simon the Zealot, and then Judas Iscariot.
Now, thirdly, I want you to understand that, with each group, not only is there less information about them, but they also are less intimate with Jesus Christ. That is, the first group are very close to the Lord. The second group, we know that He spent some time with them. The third group, we don’t know if He ever had much of a personal contact with them, although of course He did around the campfire and around teaching as they walked along. So, each group has a decreasing order of intimacy with Jesus.
And let me just, before we go any further, point out that this is a very important point about leadership. It is impossible for a leader to be intimate with everyone who follows, even if it’s twelve men. Now, I come from a school that taught me, not my graduate school but my undergraduate school, that taught me that a pastor should not be intimate with anyone, close with anyone, because you cannot be close with everyone. So, don’t have personal friends, other people might get upset. Fortunately, I’ve thrown that out the window and I will develop personal friends, just like you will develop personal friends. But it is impossible to be personally involved in the life of every individual.
Now, what’s fascinating is that, each group seemed to have leaders. More than likely, these leaders were intimate with Christ more so than the individuals involved in that group. Peter, for instance, was probably the closest, of all of the disciples, to Jesus Christ. Perhaps, second only to John. Now, I think that’s probably because Peter was always on the back of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ could never get rid of him. He was always there asking questions, plaguing Him. So, he was probably the closest one, of them all, to Jesus Christ.
Now, one more point, before we go any further, number four. Among these men, there are extreme differences. I mean EXTREME differences. I’ve given you three examples. Peter and John, you could jot in beside that, that there are tremendous emotional differences. Peter is impetuous. Peter is quick. Peter is fast. He’s always on the go. And John, meditative, slow. You know, I can just see Peter pulling John, “Come on man, let’s go.” And John saying, “Well, I’m meditating, right now, on the things that Jesus said last week.” Tremendous emotional differences.
There were also tremendous spiritual differences in Nathanael and Thomas. Nathanael believed everything. Every occurrence we have of him in the scriptures, he is believing something. God said it, that does it, that settles it. Thomas, he had to have the scientific method before he’d believe anything. “I’ve got to see it, I’ve got to touch it, before I’ll ever believe it.” Tremendous differences in their spiritual nature. And isn’t that true here? Some are so full of faith, some would believe anything. You know, we’re raising money for a building fund and people are already determining the color of the carpet. They know exactly what’s going to happen. Fill (?), fast, ready to go. And others are slow, cautious, thoughtful.
Then there are political differences, and this is the one that amazes me the most, between Matthew and Simon the Zealot. Matthew, you remember, sold out to the Roman government. The job that he had, of collecting taxes, was a job that you procured, you bought it from the Roman government and became then a traitor to the Hebrews. So Matthew, wanting to be rich, purchased from the Roman government and then would answer to them, as his authority, for his job. Simon the Zealot hated Rome. In fact, there were four groups, in that day: the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, and the Zealots. The Zealots were the last group to emerge, that we have record of. The Zealots hated Roman authority and they would carry on, literally, guerrilla warfare to overthrow Rome. In fact, after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, they formed a band and they found the most fascinating retreat and, from that retreat, they would carry on guerrilla activity. The retreat we know of as Masada until, finally, the Romans discovered Masada and overthrew the Zealots and that’s probably the end of the group. Well, Simon, attached himself to that red hot patriotic band, hated Rome. And now he’s going to spend three and a half years with a man who sold out to Rome? I think, under any other circumstances, Simon would have put a dagger in Matthew’s ribs. But somehow Jesus Christ forms these men together so that they actually get along, without too many episodes, and that’s amazing.
You know, I think of this church and this body and I think of all the differences represented by you here. I mean, think of it, there are some strange people here that actually vote democratically. And there are even stranger people, who vote republican, that will vote for Dole instead of Kemp. I’ve got a lot of people voting for Dole here! I’m sorry! You know there are political differences, there are emotional differences, there are spiritual levels that we find ourselves on. It’s amazing that we can be banded together for a purpose. And yet, Jesus Christ is in the business of doing that.
I read, recently, where Longfellow could take a piece of paper worth nothing, write a poem on it and make it worth thousands. It’s called genius. Rockefeller could sign his name to a blank check and it would be worth millions. That’s called riches. A mechanic can take a fifty dollar piece of material and make something out of it worth hundreds. That’s skill. A painter can take a fifty cent piece of canvas and splash something on it and make it worth thousands of dollars. That’s art. And Jesus Christ can take worthless, sinful people, cleanse them by His blood, blend them together to promote His cause. That’s the greatest miracle of all. And that’s grace.
Well, if you’re studying with me, according to your notes, you’ll find on the next page, several inadequacies of the chosen twelve. I know, oh were there inadequacies! And I want to give you three. I think that’s all we have time for, this morning. The first inadequacy, that you ought to jot down, is that the disciples had a tremendous lack of understanding. You know it’s amazing, as we study these men, they didn’t have a clue as to what Jesus Christ was trying to do. In fact, after three years, they still weren’t seemingly clued in to the kingdom program. Tremendous lack of understanding. In fact, turn to Matthew, chapter 16, just back a few pages. Matthew, chapter 16, verses 21 to 23. Notice the lack of understanding evidenced by the disciple known as Peter. Matthew, chapter 16, look at verses 21 through 23. “From that time forth began Jesus to shew unto his disciples, how that he must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day.” All right, that’s the kingdom program. That’s what’s going to happen, now that the Jews have rejected Him. Now, notice what Peter does. Peter comes up to Him and begins to rebuke Him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord”. I’m fascinated by Peter. The Lord stands up and says, “Men, I’m going to be crucified. I’m going to be buried. I’m going to rise again the third day.” And Peter comes along and says, “Lord, look, as long as us twelve are here, the last thing you need to worry about is death. We’ll take care of everything. It’s all under control.” He had no understanding at all, what Jesus Christ was trying to do. Tremendous example of lack of understanding. John, chapter 21, don’t turn there, verses 1 to 18, to save time, but Peter returns to fishing. Jesus Christ was, in fact, crucified. He was buried. And so what happens? The twelve men continue to propagate all the claims of Jesus Christ. Right? No. They go back to fishing. And in John, chapter 21, the Lord appears, mysteriously, on the seashore of the Sea of Galilee and He’s walking along and there’s Peter and the others out there fishing again. And He pulls them in and He says, in effect, He says, “Listen men, don’t you realize that I called you to be fishers of men, not fishers of fish? Peter, don’t you love Me?” “Well, yes Lord, I do.” “Then what are you doing fishing? Feed My sheep.” And He asked him that question several times. No understanding.
What was Christ’s solution? One word, instruction. Jesus Christ never stopped teaching. In fact, Acts, chapter 1, tells us that Jesus spent forty more days, after He rose from the grave, teaching His disciples, making sure that they understood. And then He left them a record and He would then, through them, create a record so that we, as well, can be instructed. What’s the solution to a lack of understanding, ladies and gentlemen? Not a program. Not some kind of ministry. It is instruction. It is teaching. And that was the solution of Christ.
I want to give you another inadequacy. Number two, they had a tremendous lack of commitment. In Mark, chapter 14, verse 50, it tells us that when Jesus Christ was captured that “all forsook him, and fled.” Now, before then, “Lord, we’ll never deny You. We’re with you until the end.” Now, we always pick on Peter but I want you to notice that Peter was the only one who followed the Lord that far, to the courtyard. The others had fled. And John, I guess, would show up at the cross. Tremendous lack of commitment. Oh, as long as He’s there, “I’ve got it. I’m with You.” When difficulty came, “whew,” they all forsook Him and fled.
What was the solution that Christ proposed? A fascinating one, one word, supplication. In John, chapter 17, we read that Jesus Christ prayed for His disciples. You know, one of the things that you and I face is a lack of commitment. But isn’t it interesting to note that Jesus Christ, at this very moment, is praying, He is interceding, for you, for me. You know, a lack of commitment cannot be bolstered by doing anything more. In fact, it’s going to be a process of maturing. And guess who is interested, more than you are, in that process? Jesus Christ. But, He not only prayed for them, we read in Matthew, chapter 6, that He taught them how to pray. And I think, all of this was funneled so that these men would stick. And they, in fact, did. So His solution was to pray.
Number three, the third inadequacy of the disciples. There are so many but let me just give you one more. A lack of humility. A lack of humility. Two examples. Turn to Mark, chapter 9. Mark, chapter 9. And we’re going to look at verses 33 to 37, Mark, chapter 9. I guess, this is one that the Lord had to continually develop or overcome in the life of His disciples, a lack of humility. Mark, chapter 9, verses 33 to 37. “And He came to Capernaum: and being in the house He asked them, ‘What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?’” Now, they had left, they had gone through Galilee, they had arrived at Capernaum at the house, perhaps, where they were staying. I’m sure that the Lord knew but He just wanted them to say it. And so He said, “Men, what were you arguing about all the way here?” Now, according to my calculations, I think that is somewhere between five and seven hours of walking. So for five to seven hours these men had been arguing. What were they arguing about? Notice, “But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.” Man, the Lord is really making progress, isn’t He? He’s pulled these men out, He’s developing in their lives all that He wants them to be and they spend seven hours debating. “Let’s see, Thomas, you can be the controller. Let’s see, Peter, you be the president. And John, you be the vice president.” Sounds silly, doesn’t it? But that’s what they were doing. Who would be the greatest in the coming kingdom? “Who’s going to be the biggest?” Matthew, chapter 20, verses 20 to 28, the debate got so hot, and this is fascinating, that James and John pulled their Mother into it. Do you remember the passage? Can you believe it? Here two grown men, and they get their little Mother to come up to Jesus and say, “Lord, when you come into Your kingdom,” - and these guys are just kind of standing there, I can just see it now, she says, - “I want you to let my son, oh, my boy James, he’s a good boy, sit on Your left. My son John, oh he’s a fine boy, sit on Your right.” I can just hear Peter snickering in the background (laughter). “Look, they got their Mother to do it for them.” Grown men! So concerned that they become the greatest.
What’s the solution? One word, example. He role modeled for them, a servant. Now, if I were to come up to you, in my frailty, and I were to say to you, “I want to teach you humility. Wash my feet.” That’s how I’d do it. “Here, I haven’t washed them for a week. And I’m going to teach you humility.” But Jesus Christ turned it around and He says, “I want to teach you men humility. Let me wash your feet.” And so, in John, chapter 13, He takes a cloth and He has the disciples take off their sandals. And they were dirty, they’d been walking. And Jesus Christ role modeled, He played the part of a servant. And it was an illustration that they would never, ever forget. As far as we know, throughout scripture, the apostles exhibited tremendous humility. They learned it from the Master.
By way of application, I want to ask four questions. First of all, do you want to be a disciple? Now, that’s profound isn’t it? But that’s where it started. You see, Jesus Christ came to these men, individually, and He says, literally, the same thing. “Do you want to be My disciple?” And they could say, “Yes,” or they could say, “No.” They had every opportunity to back out. In fact, hundreds did. It said that they would leave and no more follow Him. The first question that we have to ask ourselves is, “Are we willing to be a disciple? A ‘mathetes,’ a ‘learner.’” If you say, “Yes,” to that, then you must say, “Yes,” to three more questions.
Number two, are you involved in study, instruction? Lack of understanding. Jesus Christ, in making you a disciple, has to overcome the inadequacy of a lack of understanding. Are you involved in studying the record?
Are you involved, thirdly, in supplication? Because supplication overcomes the inadequacy of a lack of commitment. Are you involved in prayer, not only for yourself but, for the lives of other believers? That’s the example of Jesus Christ.
And finally, are you involved in serving? Are you role modeling a servant or, must you be served?
There was once a great violinist who wanted to prove a point. So, he rented a music hall and announced that he would play a concert on a $20,000 violin. The music hall was packed. People came to hear this and hear the tremendous instrument being played. So, after everything was filled and the people were there, that Maestro stood out on the stage and he began to play his music. Beautiful! It was tremendous! And he finished, halfway through his concert, he, all of the sudden, threw his violin down and he stomped on it and broke it and walked off stage. The people were horrified! And, about that time, the stage manager came back in and he addressed the people and he said, “The Maestro wants you to know that he was not playing on a $20,000 violin but a $20 violin. He will now come back and finish his concert on a $20,000 violin.” He came back in and he finished the concert. Very few people could tell the difference. The point that he had wanted to make was this, the violin doesn’t make the music, the violinist does.
That’s the point, my friends, of discipleship. It doesn’t matter how unqualified you are or I am. It doesn’t matter how weak, how frail our hands may be. It does not matter how often we may turn and run. Jesus Christ wants to play beautiful music. He wants to take your life and make you into a “mathetes” that He may then, in turn, may make you into an “apostello,” an apostle. One sent, one representing. And He’ll do it. Most of us are $20 violins but He can use us. And the question is, the same question the disciples faced. Jesus Christ waits to hear the “Yes,” that He might transform your life and my life that we might, in turn, like those early disciples, transform the world.