Why 12 Apostles?
Jesus didn’t come to start a new religion! I know, I know, you think He started Christianity. But Jesus came and told us He didn’t come to abolish the Law, the Torah, but to fulfill it. (see Matthew 5:17-20)
The whole of the New Testament is the story of Jesus recreating the People of God. He was there to show the Jews and the world that He was the One to make all the promises God made to Father Abraham come true. And those promises God made were that God would make Abraham’s name great, that he would be the father of a great nation, and that God would save the world through that nation. And Jesus fulfilled all of that! What God established in one people in the Old Testament, He was going to extend to every person on the planet through His Son.
This may sound fantastic, but everything Jesus taught and did was in complete harmony with all that the Old Testament prophets preached and promised. So there is no such thing as discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments. They are in complete harmony through Jesus.
Look at our lesson today in Luke 6:12-19:
At that time, 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; Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaios, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came forth from him and healed them all.
Jesus here chooses 12 disciples that He names “apostles.” the word “apostle” literally means “sent one.” And Jesus chooses 12 apostles because there were 12 tribes of Israel, and Christ is come to finalize and fulfill the original purpose and promise of God choosing one people to be His “chosen people.” Those people were supposed to prepare the world to receive the Messiah, and here He was after all those years of waiting and preparing.
And from this group of 12 God will lay the foundation of the New “Israel,” the Church that will open up the blessings of being adopted into the Family of God for all people. By choosing 12 apostles Jesus signals the start of this “new community” that will be sent to every part of the world to share the glorious message that now all of us can be joined through baptism and faith into the People of God.
Of course, the amazing reality is this was always God’s intention. Over and over again, the Old Testament prophets and teachers told Israel that they were to be a blessing to the whole world and that God was going to use this tiny group of people to confound the great nations with the message of His salvation and include everyone. Jesus comes at the perfect time in human history and sets out to “recreate” Israel in His Church through His chosen apostles.
And after Jesus chooses these apostles to be the new foundation for the “new community” He shows them what His new community is supposed to do.
He taught the people. He healed the people. And He set the people free from the spirits that tormented them. The power He displayed after He chose His apostles will eventually be given to each of them, and through them, to each of us, through the divine mystery of Chrismation.
What’s more, Jesus chooses men who are not the typical “great leaders” we might expect for such a lofty calling. He chooses ordinary men, hard workers, men who some in society reject like tax collectors and even political radicals, simple fishermen, and average men that most of us might overlook. He even calls one of these men who will end up betraying Him. But Judas’ place will be filled before Pentecost so that the 12 will remain as the foundation for this “New Israel” the Church.
So, today, know that your savior knew exactly what He was doing when He called these men to be apostles. His coming set the stage for the People of God to include everyone, even you and me, no matter what our ethnic background, or past. The new creation that Jesus gives to the world is meant to make you Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Blessed are You, O Christ our God. You made the fishermen all-wise by sending down upon them the Holy Spirit and through them, You drew the world into Your net O Lover of mankind, glory to You. Amen