Apostles, What they Were and What they Weren’t
May 3, 2009
How would you like to have been in that job interview? “So, you want to be an apostle, what previous experience do you have? None huh, oh right this is the first time the position has been advertised for.”
“Yes, we do have a requirement, that’s right, just one: So were you with Jesus from the time he was baptized until the crucifixion and resurrection? You were? Perfect. That puts you on the short list, there’s just you and one other guy.
If you don’t know the story part of it was read earlier but to bring you up to steam. Jesus has ascended into heaven and the remaining eleven disciples are doing what they are supposed to be doing, they are waiting, remember what Jesus had told them in Acts 1:4 Once when he was eating with them, he commanded them, “Do not leave Jerusalem until the Father sends you the gift he promised, as I told you before.
And so there they are, just sitting and waiting. You gotta hate that, just waiting, not sure what’s going to happen, just waiting. And like us when we are waiting not knowing what we should do they get into mischief, well they probably wouldn’t say that. Instead they would say they found something to do.
We are told there were one hundred and twenty in the room, we don’t know for sure who all was there but we could probably guess. We are told that the remaining disciples were there, and Mary Jesus Mother and several other women. Maybe Mary Magdalene and Salome, as well the brothers of Jesus. Presumably James and Jude. So that is 16. And you might remember from Luke 10:1 The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit. So assuming that all seventy two were still hanging around that gives us 88, pretty good chance Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were there so there would still be another 30 that we don’t know their names.
And they are just waiting and then Peter came up with an idea why doesn’t that surprise any of us? He decides that they need to replace Judas. Now I don’t know why they figured there had to be twelve apostles. Some thoughts, perhaps it went back to the Old Testament and the 12 tribes of Israel, or perhaps they just felt that since Jesus had picked 12 that there was something special about that number. Or maybe because there were 12 cans of coke in a case and 12 hotdogs in a pack, made it easier when they went on BBQ’s. Personally I would have offered to eat the extra hot dog, but that’s just me. We don’t know their reasons but obviously they had a reason.
So from the 120 they were going to select someone who was qualified we are told in Acts 1:21-22 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
But as so often happens instead of getting one name they ended up with two, and apparently they had a tie in the vote because continuing along in the story we read Acts 1:24-26 Then they all prayed, “O Lord, you know every heart. Show us which of these men you have chosen as an apostle to replace Judas in this ministry, for he has deserted us and gone where he belongs.” Then they cast lots, and Matthias was selected to become an apostle with the other eleven. Now personally I think that they should have prayed before they got to the point of Justus and Matthias playing rock, scissor, and paper for the position. And maybe they did. What we do know is this is the last mention that we have of Matthias in the Bible. Paul doesn’t mention him, James doesn’t mention him, John doesn’t mention him and Jude doesn’t mention him.
Even tradition is fairly silent on who he was and what he did. One account says “Matthias preached the Gospel to barbarians and meat-eaters in the interior of Ethiopia.” Another account says he went to Colchis, which in modern day Georgia and was crucified there. While yet another tells us that he was stoned and beheaded in Jerusalem and that his remains were eventually taken to Germany by Charlemagne’s mother Helena. Both the Catholic and Anglican Churches have celebrated his feast day on February 24th, and that’s all she wrote.
The story is told in the book of Acts, which is the 5th book of the New Testament. The author is the same person who wrote the Gospel of Luke and that is Luke, who was probably a gentile doctor. Scholars place the writing of this book around AD 65. It was written to tell what happened after the resurrection. This is indeed the rest of the story. It is a great book, it’s here we meet Paul, the story of the church begins here and we are introduced to the personal power of the Holy Spirit. If you have never read the book of Acts you need to and that is why we have give each of you a reading card.
So with that being said, let’s take a look at what it takes to be an Apostle. In the scriptures we read about the 12 original Apostles, you can add Matthias, Paul calls himself an apostle and referred to James the brother of Christ as an apostle. The dictionary defines apostle this way: Apostle: noun (ə-pŏs’əl) “An ardent early supporter of a cause or reform” Add to that it was a pretty decent movie with Robert Duvall.
What they Weren’t
To begin with They Weren’t Much. That might sound a little disrespectful but really when you look at it, it is a reality. Think about it, if you were starting a movement that was going to change the world who would you choose? Maybe a politician or two, a banker perhaps and a lawyer, some folks involved in the entertainment industry. You would be looking for high powered people, people who could make a difference and influence other people. Think of how excited the church gets when they hear that some celebrity claims to be a Christ Follower.
But these guys were much socially. The apostles were anything but influential. We don’t even know what most of them they did before they became Apostles. There were four fishermen, a tax collector and a zealot, who was kind of a rebel rouser of sorts. The rest were just ordinary people, presumably leading ordinary lives and doing ordinary jobs. Nothing special, just people. They didn’t appear to be wealthy or powerful. And maybe it’s because ordinary people didn’t feel like they had a lot to lose by associating with Jesus and didn’t feel that had to give up so much to follow him.
As a matter of fact on later in the book of Acts when Peter and John were being examined by the High Council it was said Acts 4:13 The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men with no special training in the Scriptures.
And that goes to the second point that they weren’t much religiously either. Again you’d think that trying to make a difference in a country and a culture that held the formal religion in such a high place that there would have been a Levite or a Pharisee or as Sanhedrin in the original bunch, but as far as we know none of the that group was overly religious. And that was a complaint made about them by the religious elite.
You might remember the story of Jesus and his disciples walking through a grain field on the Sabbath and the guys break off some grain and are munching on it Matthew 12:2 But some Pharisees saw them do it and protested, “Look, your disciples are breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath.”
And in Mark 7:1-2 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus. They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating.
So they really weren’t much socially or religiously
Along with not being much They Weren’t Perfect. I would think if I was writing my story that I would be tempted to put a fairly positive spin on it. I don’t mean lie, but you don’t have to tell everything do you? There are things I’ve said and done in my life that I’m not necessarily proud of and they aren’t high on my brag list.
The story is told that when Oliver Cromwell was having his portrait painted that he told the artist: “Mr. Lely, I desire you would use all your skill to paint my picture truly like me, and not flatter me at all; but remark all these roughnesses, pimples, warts, and everything as you see me, otherwise I will never pay a farthing for it.” Apparently the Apostles were willing to paint themselves warts and all.
These were Jesus closest friends, they were his disciples, his Apostles, they had walked side by side with him for three years. When they had a question about his teaching all they had to do was ask, “So what did you mean when you said “The meek will inherit the earth”? You would think if there was going to be anyone who would get it right and not mess up it would have been these guys. And yet when we look at the portrait there are times that their faith was weak, there was times they didn’t quite get the entire “Christ like” spirit thing Luke 9:53-54 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” From Denn I would expect that, from James and John, I kind of expected more. There were times they questioned Jesus and even times they tried to correct him, and that’s without getting into one betraying him, one denying him and the others running off and leaving him to his enemies. Wow! Kind of sounds like some of us at times, see you could be an apostle. Maybe that’s why John wrote later in life 1 John 1:8 If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.
So that is what they weren’t but more importantly now let’s look at What They Were
Last point I made was they weren’t perfect, how about you? You ever feel like you’ve blown it, you’ve disappointed Christ and you don’t know how you can face him or other believers? Do you remember the words of Christ on the Cross? You remember when he said Luke 23:34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” They Were Forgiven. When Jesus looked down from the cross and uttered those words of forgiveness, he wasn’t just talking about those who had him arrested and beaten and crucified. He was also forgiving his friends who had run and hid, Peter who had denied him with his words and the rest who had denied him with their actions. And he was looking down the long tunnel of history and talking to us, and when we stumble and fall, he’s there holding out his hand and his forgiveness, if we are only willing to accept both.
But we all know it’s easy to say you forgive someone, but a lot harder to actually forgive someone. Have you ever verbally said that you forgive a person but you avoid seeing them because you know that it will all boil up inside you again? Kind of, I will forgive them but I will never speak to them again. Do you remember the scene on resurrection day when the women went and discovered the tomb empty? Do you remember the message that the angels had for the women? Mark 16:6-7 but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.”
And for forty more days he met with them and ate with them and laughed with them and demonstrated that forgiveness was more than a word.
I don’t know what you’ve done in your life. And probably don’t want to know. But I do know that the same forgiveness that was available to those who chose to follow Christ 2000 years ago is still available to those who chose to follow Christ today. And it is still more than just a word, when we accept the grace and forgiveness that Christ offers it restores our relationship with God.
But, the story didn’t end with Jesus words of forgiveness. The Apostles didn’t just return to their previous behavior, instead they put that behavior behind them. Even though Paul hadn’t written 2 Corinthians 5:17 they understood the reality of it’s message 2 Corinthians 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! They Were Changed They were no longer the people they had been. The wonder and miracle of grace was that their sins had been forgiven, and that doesn’t just mean that God ignores them it means they are gone, Peter understood that when he wrote in Acts 3:19-20 Now repent of your sins and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped away. Then times of refreshment will come from the presence of the Lord. And David understood it when he wrote in Psalm 103:11-12 For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.
But with the change in their heart that came with forgiveness there came a change in behavior and attitude as well. The guiding principle of the Apostle’s lives became the words of Jesus in John 14:15 “If you love me, obey my commandments. The final words of the book of Matthew records Jesus’ directions to the apostles when he said Matthew 28:19-20 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” And that’s what they did.
And they knew that if they truly loved Jesus, that they would do what he asked them to do, and so they were no longer tax collectors and fishermen and zealots they were Christ followers and that defined who they were and what they did. So here is the question for today, does being a Christ Follower define who you are and what you do? Do you ask yourself that question “Is this behaviour consistent with Jesus teaching in my life?”
Can you be an Apostle? Nope, certainly not by the dictionary definition Apostle: noun (ə-pŏs’əl) “An ardent early supporter of a cause or reform” You are Two Thousand years late on that one, that boat has already sailed. And not by the definition set down by the early church, Acts 1:21-22 “So now we must choose a replacement for Judas from among the men who were with us the entire time we were traveling with the Lord Jesus— from the time he was baptized by John until the day he was taken from us. Whoever is chosen will join us as a witness of Jesus’ resurrection.”
But every one of us who chooses to follow him becomes his disciple, and we are forgiven and we are changed.