Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.’
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: ‘Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment.
Let’s have a look at what Jesus did with His twelve apostles.
Jesus is half way through His public ministry. It started with Jesus baptism in AD 25, and concludes with His crucifixion in AD 29. The date of today's reading is AD 27, just 1990 years ago. Jesus, with His teachings in the temples has started to alienate the chief priests and scribes. They are beginning to hate Jesus.
In effect, Jesus has been expelled from the church of the Jews, and must now set up his own Church of Christ.
Jesus did not have a mobile phone, radio or television; Jesus did not have the use of PC's, Internet, or Facebook. Jesus had no way of recording His message and no way of replicating it, and no efficient delivery mechanism.
When Jesus broadcast His messages it was from hilltops, or fishing boats!
If Jesus is going to be crucified in two years time, then He has to spread His message, and quickly. Jesus needs a team. A team drawn from His followers, drawn from His disciples.
The word disciple means a person who is willing to learn. So all of us here today, including our beloved Gill, are disciples. Through our worship, through our study of scripture, through our reading of the Bible, we are learning. With each piece of learning we get a little closer to Jesus, a little closer to God. You and I are Jesus’ modern day disciples.
Apostle means someone who is sent out. In the case of the twelve apostles they were sent out to further the work of Jesus, sent out to establish the Church of God. We know surprising little about the twelve apostles, but we do know they were ordinary people, each bringing different skills, just like the members of your PCC, each bringing different skills.
Let’s take a quick look at the Apostles.
Simon, and his brother Andrew, together with James and John the sons of Zebedee, were all disciples of John the Baptist. They were all fishermen.
The first thing Jesus did was to change Simon's name to Peter. Peter was the leader, the spokesman for the twelve, a man of action, and was somewhat impetuous. Without thinking he would jump in with both feet, which he literally did when he tried to walk on water. Peter, leads the other disciples by example, preaching in Judea and the surrounding areas, often accompanied by his wife, Perpetua. Peter helped establish the church in Antioch, and wrote two epistles. Like Jesus, Peter was crucified.
There is not a lot of information about Andrew. His ministry took him to Greece and Asia Minor, and Andrew is said to have been crucified in Greece
James and John were the sons of Zebedee, and were disciples of John the Baptist. Jesus gave them the name of Boanerges, the 'sons of thunder'. They were burning with fire, they were impatient, with little tolerance.
John was one of the closest of the apostles to Jesus. At the crucifixion, Jesus gives John the brotherly responsibility of looking after His mother. John left Jerusalem, and continued his ministry at Ephesus. Under the persecution of Domitian he is taken to Rome. There he is thrown into boiling oil that does not hurt him, and is then sent down to labour in the mines. With the accession of Nerva, John is freed from slavery, and he returns to Ephesus, where he wrote his gospel and epistles, and at an old age dies naturally.
Philip, we know little about. He was a Galilean peasant, who was an early follower and disciple of Jesus.
Of Bartholomew, we know even less. He is said to have preached the gospel in India, parts of Arabia, and maybe Armenia.
All that we know about Thomas is in the gospels. Thomas was a man who was slow to believe, he always doubted, but when convinced, was an ardent supporter, full of love for Jesus. Probably his most memorable response from Jesus was “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are they that have not seen me, but yet still believe.”
Most Jews hated Matthew, a tax collector, who represented the occupying forces. He was called to Jesus, and laid down his belongings to follow Him. Matthew was probably the best educated bringing with him his pen and ink. Other than his gospel, virtually nothing is known about Matthew’s ministry.
James the son of Alpheus was a nephew of Jesus, called James the Less. He does not seem to have left Jerusalem during his ministry. James was involved in church organisation and rose to the then equivalent position of Bishop to preside over the infant church. He probably wrote the epistle of James. A few years afterwards in AD 62 he was thrown down from the Temple by the Scribes and Pharisees and was stoned and clubbed to death.
Thaddeus is traditionally one of the founders of the church in Edessa, but little else is known about his later life.
Simon was a member of the fourth group of Jews, the Zealots. The zealots were fiery, patriotic people, standing up for their country at any cost, including human life. They were the extremists, performing acts of terrorism to advance their cause.
Judas Iscariot is famous for his betrayal of Jesus. At the Last Supper Jesus says, “One of you shall betray me.” Judas later tried to repent of his sins, and the chief priests threw the thirty pieces of silver to the ground. So heavy was Judas’ guilt that he hanged himself, perhaps in the field of blood.
As you have seen, each of the apostles brings a different set of skills, but nothing breathtaking, just ordinary skills. Each was called upon to use his skill in the spreading of the Good News.
For God, and His Kingdom, there are many tasks to be done. Teamwork has not changed that much in 2000 years. A team is still needed today to spread the good news. Like it or not, we are part of Jesus’ team today. We all have different skills, different skills that we should use for the glory of God.
Whatever your calling, remember, you are an ambassador of Christ. You are called to go forth, hand in hand with Jesus, bearing the word and beauty of God and His Kingdom.
Did the Apostles do a good job?
How do you know they did a good job?
Because without them, the Church of Christ would not be here today.
And without us, the Church of Christ will not be here tomorrow.