At one point in the Gospel accounts, Jesus had a mission for which he needed to select a special group of twelve disciples from the crowd. Jesus would choose a dozen men so crucial to his ministry that they would be remembered throughout history.
Jesus chooses the twelve apostles
Jesus went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles. (Luke 6:12-13)
Here’s the roster for the team known as, the 12 Apostles of Jesus:
- Simon, called Peter
- Another James
- Another Simon
- And the future traitor, Judas
The mission of the apostles
It was here that the Gospel accounts started using a new name for these twelve guys, “apostle,” which means “one who is sent out.” And that’s just what Jesus would do — he would send them out to tell others about the Kingdom of God. In addition, these twelve apostles of Jesus were given special power to do special things, which would be evidence that their message came from God, not men.
These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. (Matthew 10:5-8)
Interestingly, Jesus also had these very precise instructions:
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts— no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep. Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave. As you enter the home, give it your greeting. If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet. Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town.” (Matthew 10:9-14)
First, Jesus’ instructed his newly appointed apostles not to take anything with them but the bare essentials. They were to accept hospitality, and if rejected, they were to move on — dusting their feet as a testimony against the town.
One theory about this story is that the 12 apostles represented the 12 tribes of Israel. Traveling with nothing represented the 12 tribes wandering in the wilderness for 40 years during the Exodus… with nothing but the clothes on their backs. There may be a connection here with a verse in Deuteronomy 29:
Yet the Lord says, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet.” (Deuteronomy 29:5)
The apostles’ impact
We really don’t know how the details of this multi-pronged preaching mission went. However, we can infer that the 12 apostles made a significant impression because we read that Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee, now had increased concern about Jesus – a man he had never seen nor met. Herod was very aware of the political impact a teacher like Jesus could have, since practically every political movement in Israel had religious roots. And Jesus was calling the people in Herod’s land not to live as part of his tetrarchy, but as part of the Kingdom of God.
It’s clear that Jesus knew the political dangers of expanding his message through his twelve apostles, because he warned them about the danger ahead of time. He said:
“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.” (Matthew 10:16-20)