The choice of the twelve.
And it came to pass in those days. That is to say, in the course of his ministry in Galilee, especially in the thickly populated district lying round the Lake of Genessaret, and after the events related in Luke 5:1-39 . and the first eleven verses of Luke 6:1-49 ., Jesus proceeded to choose, out of the company of those who had especially attached themselves to him, twelve who should henceforth be always with him. These he purposed to train up as the authorized exponents of his doctrine, and as the future leaders of his Church. Things had assumed a new aspect during the last few months. Jerusalem and the hierarchy, supported by the great teachers of that form of Judaism which for so long a period had swayed the hearts of the people, had, although not yet openly, declared against the views and teaching of Jesus. His acts—but far more his words—had gathered round him, especially in Galilee, in the north and central districts of Palestine, a large and rapidly increasing following. It was necessary that some steps should be taken at once to introduce among the people who had received his words gladly, some kind of organization; hence the formal choice of the twelve, who from henceforth stood nearest to him. We possess the following four lists of these twelve men:—
The foundation of the kingdom.
The work set before us in this portion is great and solemn. It is the beginning of a new epoch of the earthly ministry. Hitherto Christ had been the Rabbi, the Prophet, the Healer. Now he is to "gird his sword on his thigh," to take to himself the power of the King. And for this work observe the preparation mentioned by the evangelist ( Luke 6:12 , Luke 6:13 ), "All night in prayer to God." The hush breathed over nature; the silence unbroken except by the cry of the wild beast seeking, in its own way, its meat from God; the glories of the firmament above, united with the sabbath-quiet of the earth around,—these were the features which invited, not slumber to the eyelids, but prayer, meditation, conference with the Father in heaven. We cannot avoid the conclusion that the retreat and the "all-night prayer" were specially in view of the action of the morrow. Oh, what a rebuke on our listless, quickly dismissed intercessions! How impressive the reminder that, for the appointment of men to minister in the house of the Lord, to render any spiritual service, the right beginning is effectual fervent prayer! Would there not be more fruits of work, more blessing for workmen, if there were more diligent following of Christ's example? Compare this passage with Acts 13:3 . Note the two points in the foundation-laying of the kingdom of heaven—the personal agency , and the Law.
I. " HE CALLED THE DISCIPLES "—the larger company, including those who had attached themselves to his Person, many, no doubt, of the healed, of those who had been delivered from demons and brought to their right mind; and "of them he chose twelve." Let us assume that the number is part of the ordering (see Luke 22:29 , Luke 22:30 ). And recollect also the significance attached to twelve—as the complete number of the Church—in the Book Of Revelation. Do not exaggerate, but do not underrate, the significance of the numbers found in Scripture. The naturalist who would learn the differences, truths, and natures of things must take into account the curious parallels, the typical forms, the numbers which he discovers running through genera and species. It is the perception of these minute evidences of method, of purpose in details, which is part of the scientific man's paradise. And it is the same kind of perception, the "searching rapturous glance "into the hidden truth of Scripture, which carries the devout mind through the mere outer boundaries of the garden into the enjoyment of its delicacies and delights. Observe the statement as to the twelve.
1 . The Lord chose them. 'He called," it is said in St. Mark, "whom he would." This is the foundation of the apostolate for each and all. The choice is in his own hands, determined, not by any plan or rule of mere prudential wisdom, but because of that which, the night before, he had seen and heard of his Father. And to this same royalty all selection for spiritual office is evermore the witness. The action of the Church, through its officers, is only a supplementary or declarative action. The originating and efficient action is what we style the call of the Holy Ghost—an inward aptitude or anointing of Divine love and grace in the character so manifest that we can read the sentence, "Called because the Lord has willed."
2 . The Lord ordained. This is expressly stated by St. Mark. It is included in St. Luke's "he named." Probably there was an outward act or symbol—that laying on of hands, which carried out well-known Hebrew associations, and, for designation to office, has been appropriated by the Christian Church from the earliest period of its history. Be this as it may, the ordination was also a disjunction; it was the final severance from the former calling; they were henceforth to give themselves wholly to the Word of God, the Master's meat their meat, the Master himself their all in all. Immediately before he suffered, Christ reminded the eleven of that transaction on the mountain-side, "I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit." And, again, on the Resurrection morning, the fuller truth of the ordination symbol was realized when he said, "As the Father sent me, so have I sent you," and having so said, he breathed on them, and added, "Receive ye the Holy Ghost."
3 . What were the functions of the twelve ? Following the guidance of St. Mark, we reply: First, to be with Christ, his associates, sharing his temptations, eye-witnesses of his glory and majesty, depositaries of his words and of his inmost confidences. Second, to preach, to go forth declaring him and his gospel and his kingdom. Third, to exercise among men his own power of healing sickness and casting out devils. Keep hold of this sequence—this first, second, third. The first requirement is always life with Christ, communion with the personal Saviour: there is no real preaching, no real power, without that. A man must be taught before he can teach. And where and by whom shall he be taught? The university is well. Never more to be desired than now is a body of Christian instructors learned as well as godly. Experience of men is well: thence comes tact, the skill by which souls are attracted and won for higher things. But there is a graduation better still—one which is necessary to spiritual force—graduation in the school of Christ; the learning of Christ. And this can be realized only through day-by-day fellowship with him, beholding his beauty, and inquiring in his temple. Then the second demand is, preach him, speak out what he speaks in. And so also there is the third function, to work for him, to be in this world presences of healing and blessing, in Jesus' name "casting out devils, speaking with new tongues, taking up serpents, laying hands on the sick that they may recover." Thus were the twelve named apostles—the sent of the Lord. And, having been named, they were made ready by Christ himself for the day when they should do greater works than any which they had witnessed, because he had gone to the Father, and shed forth the promise of the Holy Ghost. A strange kingdom, indeed! The King, that lowly Man seated on one of the horns of Mount Hattin, and his princes and companions these poor, uncouth-looking, unlearned men! Never, it might be thought, was such a burlesque of royalty seen. But that was, that is, the monarchy whose sceptre shall stretch from pole to pole, that at the name of Jesus every knee may bow.
II. HE CAME DOWN WITH THE TWELVE , it is added, and stood on the plain—the King and the kingdom meeting the parliament of man. Yes, the King meek and lowly, but "the mighty God, the Lord, is about to speak, and call the earth from the rising of the sun to the going down thereof." He would not speak until he had constituted his Church. For the Man is before the Law, the Voice before the Scripture, the order before the ordering. This has been done, and he comes down to the great world with its fevers and diseases and spirits of uncleanness surging before him, and seeking to touch him from whom, as a great stream of healing, the power goes forth. The law, the manifesto of the kingdom, is published. What this law is admits of being more fully expounded in connection with the Gospel of St. Matthew. The differences between the reports in the two Gospels deserve to be studied. It is sufficient here to indicate the sum and substance of the legislation of Christ the King on the holy hill of Zion. Clearly the old Law, that delivered from Sinai, is fully in the mind of Jesus. It is quoted again and again. But how striking the contrast between that past and this present! That past, when
"Around the trembling mountain-base
The prostrate people lay;
A day of wrath and not of grace;
A dim and dreadful day;"
this present, the soft grassy slope, the bright sky overhead, the rejoicing world around, the many sitting before him who had received the healing virtue; himself, in tones full of the music of love, declaring the truth for which the soul of man is made as the eye is made for the light. Not that the past is ruthlessly swept away. All is preserved—preserved because fulfilled. But his law-giving is a new law-making, because it penetrates to the innermost region of the life; it searches the spirit as with the candle of the Lord; its dealing is not so much with the mere outer conduct as with the inner motive power. The man is right when the heart is right—this is the cardinal principle. And the sermon passes onward, from the beatitudes with which it begins, through the exposition of true soul-rectitude, to the sublime conclusion which may God help all to ponder. "Every one that cometh unto me, and heareth my words, and doeth them, I will show you to whom he is like … But he that heareth, and doeth not, is like," etc. From the great ruin foretold may the good Lord deliver us!
The Lord of the sabbath, and his work.
We have just seen how Jesus treated with deserved dishonour the tradition of the elders about fasting. He showed his disciples a more excellent way. Fasting is not an end, but only a means to an end, and this is the restoration of the soul to fellowship with its Saviour. In this way should Christians use fasting. And now we pass on to notice how on sabbath-keeping tradition again intruded itself and made cumbrous additions to the Mosaic commandment. Our Lord once more, as we shall see, set at nought the tradition, while he held firmly by the Mosaic Law. The evangelist groups two sabbath-scenes for us in the history here—the first in the corn-fields, the second in the synagogue, but both illustrating our Lord's sabbatic principle and practice. As the most interesting method of considering the subject, let us notice—
I. THE PHARISAIC PRINCIPLE ABOUT SABBATH - KEEPING WAS THAT MAN WAS MADE FOR THE DAY , NOT THE DAY FOR THE MAN . ( Luke 6:2 , Luke 6:7 .) These reputedly religious men had a certain idea about the day. They must have a holy day, and so it must be so sacred that all work shall be deemed unlawful, lest it should be secularized. What they objected to in the first case was not the plucking of the ears of corn, but the rubbing of them in the hands. This was a violation of their tradition. In the second case they objected to work on the sabbath day, even though it took the form of healing. Their ideal was, therefore, a day of such physical inactivity as would refuse to minister to man's hunger or to man's healing. The fallacy underlying this idea was that work is in its essence a secular thing, and that idleness is somehow sacred. To declare this emphatically, they were ready to rebuke hungry men for satisfying themselves in the corn-fields, and to deny healing to the man with the withered arm because he presented himself for it on the sabbath day. The day above the man, then, was the Pharisees' notion. Hunger and helplessness must be endured in order that a day of pretentious idleness may be presented to mankind. Healthy desire must he stifled, longing for power and self-help must be denied, that a sufficiently idle sabbath may be secured. The apotheosis of idleness, the vindication of indifference, man this and more is involved in the Pharisaic criticism of Christ and of his disciples. Now, it is important to bring out clearly how contrary to God's idea all this is. Work is not secularizing in itself. The infinite Father never ceases working, but his work is sacred all through the year. Of course, men may secularize themselves by the selfishness of their work, but they may secularize themselves as really by the selfishness of their idleness. An idle day is not likely to be a holy one; a busy day may be most holy if the glory of God and the good of souls be kept steadily in view.
II. CHRIST 'S BETTER PRINCIPLE OF SABBATH - KEEPING IS THAT THE DAY IS MADE FOR MAN . ( Luke 6:3-5 , Luke 6:9 .) Hence necessity must be recognized as a law for the sabbath. Even the ceremonial rite should give way before the needs of human nature, as the case of David's hungry men being saved from famishing by a meal of shewbread indicates. Hence the hungry disciples, in rubbing the corn in their hands, were vindicated by that sublime necessity which recognizes no higher law. Again, in the case of the helpless fellow-man whose right hand was withered, our Lord is clear that the sabbath should be a day for saving life, and not for allowing it to perish. In other words, Christ would devote the day to man's salvation, while the Pharisees were prepared to sacrifice the man to the peculiar sacredness which they thought 'belonged to an idle day. But if the day is thus a means towards man's good, is he to employ it as he pleases? Is every man to be lord of the sabbath by doing as he likes upon it? This would be a dangerous prerogative to give to men. Not every one is fit to exercise it. The Pharisees, in fact, had taken the sabbath under their control and spoiled it altogether. Hence the sovereignty of the sabbath must be left in the hands of him who is called the Son of man. Christ is the Lord who can so order the sabbath that it shall be truly sanctified. It is, consequently, from Christ's sabbath-keeping that we learn what it ought to be. And we see from his life that he made the sabbaths his special opportunities for philanthropic effort. Most of his miracles were sabbath-day performances. He seems to have been busier on the sabbath than on any day of the week. We are safe in following along the lines of his most intelligent philanthropy. The sabbath is made for man. It Christ would have the hungry fed and the helpless healed, he would also have the souls fed with the bread of life and all spiritual helplessness removed. This is the purpose, therefore, of those means of grace which are presented with special earnestness on the Lord's day!
III. CHRIST DEMONSTRATED THE TRUTH OF HIS PRINCIPLE BY THE MIRACLE . ( Luke 6:10 .) Now, this miracle, like the healing of the paralytic, was the test of a principle. In the former case Christ claimed the prerogative of absolution, and he demonstrated that he possessed the prerogative by telling the paralytic to rise and walk, and healing him. In the present case he has taken issue with the Pharisees as to the sabbath being a day for philanthropy. Healing is to be performed on it, if it is required. And now he singles out the patient with the withered hand, and by a word cures him. Thus he put their ideas on sabbath-observance to confusion. Instead, however, of rejoicing in the poor man's cure, they are filled with madness at their own discomfiture. Misanthropy in them is the contrast to the philanthropy of Jesus. But is not the miracle a sign of those miracles which are performed from sabbath to sabbath? Man comes in his weakness, his hand is withered, he can do nothing; but through the power of God he is enabled to stretch forth his hand, and enter into the sphere of spiritual power.
IV. THE SELECTION OF THE TWELVE WAS MADE BY CHRIST A MATTER OF VERY SPECIAL PRAYER . ( Luke 6:12-16 .) We are told that he spent a whole night in prayer to God. This showed how important in his view the selection of the disciples was, and the establishment of his kingdom among men. He chose them in the morning after the prayerful view of the whole case before the Father. If Jesus realized the need of long-continued prayer before selecting them, how prayerfully should we go about our work for him! It is no easy matter to act wisely in our dealings with men and in our use of them. The persons selected were such as only Divine wisdom, as distinguished from worldly prudence, would have chosen. There was not an "influential'' person among them; and it was not till after the Pentecost that any of them became what we should now call reliable. Into the analysis of the persons selected we do not enter. They have been divided into three groups: the first, containing the names of Peter and Andrew, James and John, gives us the chiefs of the apostolic band, the men of insight ; the second, containing the names of Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, and Matthew, are reflective , and, at first, sceptical , men; and the third and last contains the names of James the son of Alphaeus, Jude, Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, all practical men. £ Our Lord has thus use in his Church for all grades of men, and can even make use of traitors to serve his purpose.
V. THE HEALER IN THE MIDST OF THE MULTITUDE . ( Jude 1:17-19 .) From the mountain-top of prayer he descends to the valley of opportunity, and there finds a vast multitude from the heathen parts of Tyre and Sidon, as well as from the Jewish districts of Judaea and Jerusalem, who have come to hear and to be healed of their diseases. Here were the two spheres—the sphere of mind, to which the ear is the great entrance; and the sphere of body, where disease may be checked and healing given. The mission of Jesus was to save men. Miracles were part of his message to mankind. The healing of the diseases of men was to tell how he can heal their souls and save them everlastingly. Moreover, they connected the cure with his Person. From him virtue or healing power radiated. His Person is the centre of healing influence. And for salvation this also holds good. It is to the Person of the Saviour we must come if we are to get really healed, It is surely well to have the source of all healing defined—it is the Person of our Saviour. To him, therefore, let us all come!—R.M.E.