Jesus went off with his disciples to the sea to get away. But a huge crowd from Galilee trailed after them—also from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, across the Jordan, and around Tyre and Sidon—swarms of people who had heard the reports and had come to see for themselves. He told his disciples to get a boat ready so he wouldn’t be trampled by the crowd. He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.
Evil spirits, when they recognized him, fell down and cried out, “You are the Son of God!” But Jesus would have none of it. He shut them up, forbidding them to identify him in public.
He climbed a mountain and invited those he wanted with him. They climbed together. He settled on twelve, and designated them apostles. The plan was that they would be with him, and he would send them out to proclaim the Word and give them authority to banish demons. These are the Twelve:
Simon (Jesus later named him Peter, meaning “Rock”),
James, son of Zebedee,
John, brother of James (Jesus nicknamed the Zebedee brothers Boanerges, meaning “Sons of Thunder”),
James, son of Alphaeus,
Simon the Zealot,
Judas Iscariot (who betrayed him).
I’m going to be very honest with you: This morning it’s hard to write. It’s hard because this passage feels like it’s driving home so much of what I’ve been writing about over the last week or so. The importance of humility and the need for authentic community in our lives rings out loud and true in this little passage.
So, do I simply re-write what I’ve already written?
We all need to be reminded that it’s not about us.
We all need to be reminded of our deep need for authentic relationships.
Yet, I am looking at this list of names. It is just a list of names. Like any other in the Bible. One more list of random names that mean nothing to us, in reality, and so we fly on past them. We want to get on with the story. What’s Jesus going to do next? That’s the question on our mind.
When I force myself to slow down and think about this list something becomes clear to me. This group was intentional. Jesus didn’t just randomly invite people in to the group of twelve.
This was a group of men who were diverse. Jesus didn’t create an echo chamber for himself. You have Simon (Peter) the spokesperson, he’s always talking on behalf of the crew. Then you have the Sons of Thunder, James and John, they were loud and obnoxious. My guess is they were the most fun at parties. Let’s not forget that you have Matthew who was a tax collector and worked for the Romans as a traitor to his people. I’m sure that he and Simon the Zealot had some interesting conversations. Why? Because the Zealot party was all about the violent overthrow of the Romans. They wanted those guys gone at all costs and understood any Jew that worked with the Romans as undermining the very work of the divine. Oh, and how could we forget Judas, the betrayer. As you read the story it seems like nobody really was a big fan of Judas. But, maybe that’s the gospel writers own spin on things.
Then there are a bunch of fellas that we don’t really know anything about. Not that we know much of the guys in the previous paragraph.
Jesus was not concerned about having a bunch of sycophants. He called to himself a mix of people. These men were going to have learn to get along with one another and be in deep relationship with one another. I wish we had recordings of the conversations and arguments. I would love to know how Jesus dealt with the very real disagreements that existed between these guys. How did he bring them together and teach them love one another?
We live in a time that is just as broken and divisive as Jesus’ time. Yet our response is to block, unfriend, and break relationship over the things of this world.
What we need more than ever is to learn to listen to one another and build for ourselves communities that are diverse. Communities where we can be constantly learning, growing, and changing. Echo chambers do nothing for us.
Jesus didn’t create for himself an echo chamber. He created a community that was diverse and intentional.
Maybe we should do the same? Perhaps having people in our lives that we aren’t completely and perfectly aligned with in all things will help us become more like Jesus?
Could it be?