Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.
9 Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. 10 He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. 11 And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.
13 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, 15 giving them authority to cast out demons. 16 These are the twelve he chose:
Simon (whom he named Peter), 17 James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddaeus, Simon (the zealot), 19 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him). – Mark 3:7-19
I hated the dreadful moment when the playground captains got to the last two people to choose for their team. I was almost always one of those last two. I remember the feeling of being chosen either as the lesser of two evils, or the last one of all. Some captains tried to make the best of it. Others didn’t hide their disgust at having to take me. And with good reason. I was never a good athlete. JJ Watt, Alex Bregman, James Harden, or David Pastrnak have nothing to worry about from me!
A look at the 12 disciples whom Jesus chose as his apostles (sent-ones) might reveal a different approach than the playground team captains took. Jesus wasn’t trying just to win a ball game. He was setting out to win the world. He was establishing an approach to discipleship that defies current common perceptions of church workers, Bible characters, and missionaries. He didn’t want superstars on his team. He wanted devoted followers, men and women who would eventually be accused of turning the world upside down (cf. Acts 17:6).
But it was not their intellect, persuasive powers, charisma, or charm that Jesus was looking for. He was looking for people who needed purpose and direction, who had a willing spirit, and who had experienced his grace for themselves. Matthew – a tax collector – was tapped by Jesus and given a better way to live. Peter the fisherman left his nets and began fishing for men. Thomas in the end proclaimed, “My Lord and my God!” Each were chosen by Jesus and sent out to proclaim the presence of God’s rule and reign in Jesus of Nazareth.
A mock letter from the make-believe Galilee HR Consultants Group takes each of the disciples in turn and shares with Jesus why they should not be chosen for his team – with one exception. They rank Judas high on their list because they saw in him a strong desire to succeed, his savvy ways of handling money, and his ability to relate to the religious leaders of his day. Sometimes the most obviously-qualified persons are least effective servants of the King. And sometimes fishermen who have a tendency to say the first thing that comes to their minds have a leadership calling from God.
Jesus’ choice, and God’s, is by grace. There is nothing in us that makes us more valuable to him than anyone else. There is nothing in us that sets us higher than others in the economy of God. And while some may be given greater or lesser talents and responsibilities, we are all recipients of his grace and trust in whatever measure it is given, and whenever he chooses to give it. He never chooses us under duress or as a last resort.