Twelve (extra) Ordinary Men

All four of the Gospels contain numerous references to Jesus going to God in prayer. On this occasion (in Luke 6:12), Luke says that he went to “the mountain” and spent the whole night in prayer. We do not know what mountain this was. It is reasonable to believe it was one located close to what was then Capernaum.

Ministry of the Apostles, a complex multi-figu...

Ministry of the Apostles, a complex multi-figure icon with a full-height image of Jesus Christ, surrounded by sectors with scenes of His disciples’ calling, ministry and martyrdom. Icon from the Yaroslavl Museum Preserve. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What was the occasion of such a lengthy and fervent time of prayer by the Son of God? The next verse gives us the answer, for when day came, He chose from among His disciples twelve men from various backgrounds, and named them “apostles,” a word very familiar to us. He chose this term because it describes what their mission would be very well. It comes from the Greek word “apostolos,” which means “messenger” or more aptly “one who is sent out.” This will become most appropriate when He gives them their “Great Commission.” The list of apostles also occurs in Matthew 10:2-4, and in Mark 3:14-19. There are some differences, but it is the same twelve men in those gospels as listed here in Luke. Like Simon, many were known by more than one name.

The first two are “Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother” The next two listed are James and John (the sons of Zebedee), who were partners in fishing with Peter and Andrew. This James is sometimes called “James the greater” to distinguish him from the other apostle named James. John referred to himself as the “disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23, John 20:2). Philip was one of the first disciples, but is not mentioned after Jesus’ ascension. He should not be confused with the Philip in the book of Acts that was a deacon.

The next apostle listed is Bartholomew, also known as Nathanael (John 1:44-49); and he is almost always mentioned along with Philip. Next was Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector, followed by Thomas (who, unfairly really, will always be remembered as “doubting Thomas”). Next come James the son of Alpheus (also known as James the less), and Simon “who was called the Zealot.” In the days before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., the group of people known as Zealots were men who wished to overthrow the Roman government. It is unknown for certain whether the term here is meant in a religious sense or in that political sense. If the latter, it would mean that a change of heart and purpose occurred in his life after becoming a disciple. Otherwise, Jesus would not have made him an apostle.

English: Icon of James, the Just, brother of J...

English: Icon of James, the Just, brother of Jesus Português: Ícone de Tiago, o Justo, irmão de Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Number eleven in the Gospel of Luke is “Judas the son of James,” known in Matthew as Thaddaeus. Some scholars believe that this is the Jude that wrote the book of Jude, but there are some problems with that. In the opening for the Book of Jude, he calls himself “the brother of James,” while he is listed here as the son of James. It is certainly possible for someone to have a brother with the same name as their father, but it is more likely that Jude was referring to a more well-known James – the brother of Jesus. If so, it would make that Jude the brother of Jesus also (both he and James called themselves “servants” of Jesus Christ in the scriptures). Jesus did have a brother named Jude, short for Judas (Matthew 13:55). But none of the apostles could have been brothers of Jesus. Though His brothers did come to believe in Him, at the time of John 7:5, they did not; and the circumstances in that passage occurred well after His apostles were named. The last apostle in the list is Judas Iscariot who, we all know, betrayed Jesus.

Twelve men who were just like you and me, who saw in Jesus salvation for the world. Their lives were never the same after meeting Him. And once Jesus went home, the Holy Spirit would make their understanding of what they were a part of complete. But for now, they have a lot to learn.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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Luke 5 – Levi, the Tax Collector

Luke gives us just five verses in chapter five about the tax collector Levi. As was true of many others in those times, he was known by another name – one that is more familiar to most of us, Matthew. One might wonder why people with the occupation of being a tax collector are spoken of so harshly by people in the Bible (particularly the pious Pharisees).

English: Jesus disputes with the Pharisees. Fr...

English: Jesus disputes with the Pharisees. French School. In the Bowyer Bible in Bolton Museum, England. Print 3861. From “An Illustrated Commentary on the Gospel of Mark” by Phillip Medhurst. Section Q. disputes with the establishment. Mark 10:2-12, 11:27-33, 12:13-27, 12:35-37. http://pdfcast.org/pdf/an-illustrated-commentary-by-phillip-medhurst-on-the-gospel-of-mark-section-q-to-r (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These tax collectors were part of a system of “tax farming.” Although the practice existed in other countries, it was set up in the Roman Empire by the Roman tribune, Gaius Sempronius Gracchus in 123 B.C.  In Roman provinces, the taxes owed to the empire by an entire region might be paid by one wealthy individual, who in turn would “farm out” the collection of taxes from the people. It was a system that fostered corruption and fraud; and any Jew that involved himself in the practice was especially despised by the people.

We are not told specifically that Matthew was guilty of any of those practices, but are left with that impression; and the company he keeps (verse 29) certainly suggests it as well. Just as was true of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, we should not assume that this was Jesus’ first encounter with Levi (Matthew) in his Capernaum “home base.” This was likely a relationship that he had begun to nurture some time ago, and the feast that he prepared for Jesus suggests this as well.

Of course, the Pharisees were scandalized that Jesus was eating with Levi and his tax collector friends, and they and their scribes “grumbled” at his disciples because of his propensity to eat with sinners of all types. His answer was “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” And it is that love that Jesus has for the lost that we must always remember. If Jesus had come to earth today instead of then, what sorts of people would he have been seen with? And what would the reaction be from those of us who try to serve God? Do we spend enough time and energy on, or associate at all with people we believe to be lost?

The Pharisees question the lack of fasting by Jesus’ disciples in the final verses of the chapter. It must be remembered that the frequent fasting that was especially characteristic of the teaching of the Pharisees was not based on any Biblical authority. The Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16:29-31 was the only Scripture that appeared to require fasting. His answer comparing Himself to a bridegroom, and the reference to being “taken away,” would be mysterious to them, but Luke’s readers will understand it in relation to His crucifixion.

It is doubtful as well that they understood the meaning behind the parable that followed. The new garments and new wineskins are obvious references to the new kingdom and the new covenant. Those like the Pharisees, who are so heavily invested in the old law, will have a difficult time accepting the change.

(This year’s reading plan for Luke, Acts, and 1 and 2 Chronicles averages just 15 verses per day – 5 days per week!)
Schedule for this week
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from Luke here
Read or listen to audio of today’s selection from 1 Chronicles here

/Bob’s boy
___________________
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  

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