Road to Calvary.001

The Last Supper is probably one of the most famous and recognizable paintings of the ministry of Christ ever. I remember a young boy at church once seeing a print of the painting and saying, “I know that picture, my mom has the clock,” (referring to novelty clock, which probably would be very depressing to Da Vinci). Like this young boy, we all know the painting well. It is an iconic image of Christianity, an image that will not let us forget the fact that Jesus was constantly surrounded by his twelve disciples. Early in his ministry, he called them. At one point in his ministry, he sent them out in pairs to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom of God. He taught them. He lived with them. He served them. It would be difficult to fully understand the ministry of Jesus without understanding his disciples.

Here are some things that we can learn from these twelve disciples:

1. The Act of Following Christ Begins With Him

Much is made of the fact that Jesus’ ministry was very similar to the ministry of the Rabbis of his day. One of the common titles of Jesus in the Gospels is Rabbi (which means teacher). Yet, Jesus took a very different approach to gather his followers. A typical Rabbi would have had people applying to be taken under their teaching. But Jesus went about it another way. He sought his disciples out. The Gospels show Jesus coming to these men, calling them to come and follow him. Some were fishing. Another was working a tax booth. Others were disciples of John the Baptist. And none of them were seeking Jesus. He came to all of them first. They did not choose him; he chose them. The call to follow Christ is a call to new life. And it is a call that begins with Jesus.

2. God’s New People Began with These Twelve Men

It was by no accident that Jesus called twelve men to be his disciples. The number twelve was representative of the entirety of God’s people — the twelve tribes of Israel. Jesus came to the earth to gather and to recreate Israel. Old Israel had been unfaithful and punished. Old Israel was dead and needed to be reborn. We see in the calling of these twelve men the beginnings of the God’s New Covenant people. The disciples all came from very different backgrounds — a tax collector for the Romans and a zealot who hated Roman rule were quite different indeed. Yet, they were a picture of the New Covenant people who are unified in Christ and his gospel. The disciples were given the words of eternal life. Just as the Old Covenant people were formed around God’s law, so too the New Covenant people would be formed around the gospel entrusted to these twelve men. And most importantly, the disciples were taught to know and love God through Christ, something that the prophet Jeremiah prophesied would be true of the New Covenant people.

3. Jesus Used Ordinary Men to Turn the World Upside Down.

It can be easy to forget that there was nothing special about these men. Sure, the Lord was doing amazing things through them. And sure, they serve a unique role in the formation of God’s New Covenant people. But these men were just like the rest of us — ordinary. They struggled to understand Jesus’ teachings at times. They were prideful and selfish at times. They were fearful and cowardly at times. But God nonetheless, worked through these men to turn the world upside down. God used them to usher in a new Kingdom into the world, an upside-down Kingdom. One in which service is power. One in which enemies are treated as friends. One in which dying is gain. And one in which bearing a cross is the path to true blessing — a path that Jesus himself was ready to take.