Jesus Christ, His Choice of the Twelve Apostles,
and Why We Should All Aspire to Be One Too
(Luke chapter 6, verses 1- 19)
Today we'll be moving on to chapter 6 of the Gospel of Luke in our ongoing chronological studies of all he wrote and left behind for posterity. As you will continue to see, the apostle Luke left a gigantic legacy for all of Christianity, as his take on the Gospel of Christ, together with the Book of Acts, chronicles much of the history and deepest meaning of Christianity’s early years. That covers at least the first 40 years of Christendom, which would naturally include the life and Supreme Sacrifice of Christ, which spanned 33 years, followed by at least 7 more years of Luke’s apostleship, up until his martyrdom somewhere between 8 and 20 years or so later. Rather than speculate on the length of Luke’s life or the time of his death, this next chapter has to do with the healing of a man's shriveled hand, the naming of the 12 apostles, and Jesus driving out an evil spirit (healing mental illness). So let's begin at verse one without delay.
“One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, 'Why are you doing that which is unlawful on the Sabbath?' Jesus answered them, 'Have you never heard what David did when he and his companions were hungry? They entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful for only the priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.' Then Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath.'” (Luke 6, verses 1-5)
The similarities between the Pharisees of Jesus' time and the religious fundamentalists of our era are striking, to say the least. Catholics eat only fish on Friday, but never any meat. Muslims never eat pork, and it takes most of an entire chapter of a book in the Old Testament to list all the Hebrew laws about the preparation and consumption of food. Do all these food laws make any of those who believe in them any closer to God? Not at all. And yet, here we have these Pharisees, who by this time were following Jesus around while they looked for opportunities to accuse him of being a false prophet and to discredit him, as if one could ruin the reputation of the Son of God! These men, these “religious leaders”, clearly were utterly clueless about the true identity of Christ. Either that, or they just didn't want to see because doing so would have exposed their own hypocrisy. I think it was probably both.
So as Luke's narrative moves on, we find the apostles being accused in the Lord's presence of breaking the Law of Moses. The Pharisees told the apostles they weren't allow to eat on the Sabbath, which is to say their food should have been prepared in advance. The Pharisees' demands about honoring the Sabbath were hyper-religious to the point of being ridiculous, and Jesus told them so when he responded, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘If it was good enough for David and his companions to eat consecrated bread, it should be acceptable to eat kernels of wheat just as well.’ “The Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath”, the Lord said, but the Pharisees had no idea what Jesus was talking about because they could not accept who Jesus was, even when he told them directly. Oftentimes it seems like those who are in charge are the ones least qualified for the position. Sound familiar? Moving right along now, let's start at verse six.
“On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, 'Get up and stand in front of everyone'. So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, 'I ask you – which is lawful on the Sabbath; to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it?' He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand'. He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.” (Luke 6, verses 6-11)
Right here we have a case where it appears Jesus may have done something purposely to get under the skin of the religious establishment. Jesus made the Pharisees and teachers of the law really mad, and those who saw this must have known that. Yet, they dared say nothing for fear of the Hebrew ruling class, who ruled in a very heavy-handed manner. But Jesus couldn't have cared less about all that. He healed the man's shriveled hand anyway. It was another way Jesus was trying to tell them that the Old Law was fulfilled, and that a new law, the Law of Righteousness through Christ in the Age of Grace, was now in effect. There it was, right in front of the 'religious elite', and they still didn't believe it. In fact, it had the opposite effect. The Pharisees began to discuss ways to stop Jesus and his ministry. I can practically hear them now: ‘We gotta stop this guy; this man must be held in check.’ Bearing that in mind, let's conclude this lesson beginning at verse 12.
“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose 12 of them, whom he designated apostles: Simon (who he called Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and was healing them all.” (Luke 6, verses 12-19)
Notice what Jesus did before choosing the 12 apostles – he prayed all night long. He talked to his Father about it before making any decisions, like a soldier reporting to a commanding officer. But once Jesus knew his Father's will for him, he didn't hesitate to carry it out. So all 12 of the original apostles are named right here at this point in Luke's gospel. There was also a sizable number of other disciples, or aspiring apostles, that were with Jesus at this particular location, although Luke does not specify how many. But Luke does write about what he saw, which was “... a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and was healing them all.”
Jesus, quite frankly, had become the newest sensation of his time, like the Beatles of the 1960's. Like those who were clamoring to see and hear the Fab Four, people were coming in droves to hear Jesus teach, and in multitudes they came from all the surrounding countryside to be healed of their infirmities. This included those who were ‘troubled by evil spirits’. In the vernacular of the early 21st century, this would translate as being those who suffered from mental illness. Let's take into account that there was no news media compared to what we have today, no Internet or email or anything like that, and yet Jesus managed to draw these crowds with nothing more than word of mouth. This remains an amazing feat up to this day as far as I'm concerned.
Those people were gathering in those kinds of numbers because they knew there was something special about Jesus. He didn't teach like the head of a synagogue or the pastor of a church. He taught like the guy whose Father wrote the Book, because that's exactly who Jesus was. As before with a previous lesson from Luke's gospel, notice that Jesus never went around telling people who he was. He didn't have to because they already knew without being told. That's just who Jesus was. He had a certain undefinable presence about himself that made everyone know that he was the Son of God. And, as Jesus said to the apostle Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed”. That's us, people, all those who believe in Him and who obey his commandments while having never seen him. We haven't seen Jesus yet, but we believe in him and that he is our risen Savior. And, we believe that one day soon, in the not too distant future, we will see Him in person, just as he is. On that note, let's close for now, and we'll go over part 2 of Luke 6 next week. Be blessed in Jesus’ mighty name, everyone!