Grace, Knowledge, and Purpose
In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: 14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15 and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, 16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17 And he came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, 18 who came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. And those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19 And all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all.
20 And he lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said:
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.
21 “Blessed are you who are hungry now, for you shall be satisfied.
“Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh.
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! 23 Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets. – Luke 6:12-22 [ESV]
Years ago I read a farcical report from the Galilee HR Consultancy Firm. It detailed the various strengths and weaknesses of the 12 men Jesus had chosen to be his traveling companions. It pointed out Peter’s tendency to blurt out ideas without thinking, Thomas’ skeptical nature, Philips slow-wittedness, James’ and John’s quick and fiery tempers, and so on. Their no to the most likely to be effective in aiding Jesus’ venture was Judas. Good with money. Tight with religious leaders. Artful planning and strategic thinking.
Thankfully it was only a pretense. Jesus didn’t pick disciples on the basis of what man values. As God says, “The Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7) But even in that case, there are moments that make us wonder. After all, Jesus did call Peter Satan on one occasion. And James and John were ready to call down lightening on some who didn’t tow the line. Thomas wouldn’t believe until he saw. Jesus even said, “You, being evil…”! (Matthew 7:11)
So what gives here? What did Jesus see in the hearts of these 12? I suspect it was the same things God sees in our hearts today. We’re all a mixed bag. Sometimes we actually do get it right. Like Peter, we confess that Jesus is the Christ. Like John, we do respond to Jesus’ love with our own, and rejoice to be a disciple Jesus loves.
I think Jesus saw people in need of grace, knowledge and purpose. And we are much the same. We need God’s grace. He must call us. He must extend the hand. We need to know who Jesus really is and what he is capable of. Healing. Teaching. Leading. Blessing. We also need purpose. And Jesus gives it. The highest calling. After all, “He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:15)
That’s a good thing for me to remember today. How about you?
Finding purpose, perhaps a change in purpose, especially after a trauma, a separation, a time in the wilderness, a time of being “laid on one’s side” completely out of service, or a needful chosen abiding always reminds me of God, the master potter using and repairing the broken or the God the sower and the vinedresser declaring that you are not the chaff and unfruitful vine to be burned up but are instead seen as His imperfect, loved and forgiven faithful. We are His children who he loves without bounds. It is he who lifts us with the hands of His servants and set us aright with his Word of Life and points us to the good works he has in store for us. Amazingly done with such damaged vessels. It is quite shocking when He shows us a path we’d not have chosen as our own. It feels a little like being pushed off a cliff, until you land.