27 January 2021Luke 6:12-16
And when day came, he [Jesus] called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles (v. 13)
Yesterday we studied the conflicts in the synagogue (Luke 6.1-11) and the fury towards Jesus from the scribes and Pharisees. With only one exception, Luke's Gospel does not give any further examples of Jesus teaching in a synagogue.
A new phase must begin in his mission. Three steps spell out the transition to the new phase. At each step the person(s), the time and the location are deeply symbolic.
Jesus prays alone, on a mountain (v. 12). Traditionally this was a place close to God in heaven above. It is night. Everything is silent and dark, although the stars are awesome. Doubts, fears and fantasies spring up. Throughout his vigil Jesus seeks God’s will.
This step (verses 13-16) starts at daybreak. Sunrise is traditionally the time when faith and hope are rekindled, when energy returns and the power to make decisions starts afresh. Jesus is still on a mountain – now to be interpreted as a location where a teacher speaks with authority. He summons his disciples and chooses 12 to have a special role. He calls them ‘apostles’ - people with whom Jesus chooses to share his authority and vocation, his message and actions.
The appointment of 12 completes a process already begun (Luke 5.1-11) with Simon Peter, and James and John, the sons of Zebedee; and with Levi (Luke 5.27-28). They had all left their trades and families to accompany Jesus wherever he went. Presumably the much larger body of ‘disciples’ were deeply influenced by Jesus but maintained their everyday responsibilities. Now the core group, who must abandon everything except devotion to Jesus, is made up to 12 from among the disciples. The number 12 is significant: it represents the whole people of Israel (who were originally 12 tribes).
Strangely Levi is not listed here among the 12, unless he was also known as Matthew. In the New Testament there is no fixed list. Peter always comes first, however; and Judas Iscariot always last – with the fateful comment added ("who became a traitor") about his later treachery.
If you are wondering about Step 3, it will follow, tomorrow!
- The Spirit of Jesus makes the presence of God intimately close to us, in the depths of our hearts. So we do not have to share in all-night vigils to pray. Even so, prayer is demanding. What are your struggles and joys in the life of prayer? With whom do you share your experience of trying to pray?
- In the body of Christ we all have different gifts and vocations and we need one another, to complement our inadequacies and blind spots. What is your experience of ‘mutuality’ in your congregation? Who affirms you in the particular ministry you are to develop in the Church? How may ‘fellowship’ be enriched?