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jesus the radical pastor
Expectations and Jesus: Part 4- Choosing the Twelve
Does it bother anyone besides me that Jesus was not smart in choosing the Twelve that he chose? I mean, current conventional evangelistic wisdom says that if you want to reach the least among us you must choose the greatest among us. I’ve heard this espoused as the smart way to win people to Christ. We must win “the movers and shakers,” those at the top, the influencers who will in turn reach the lowly, the nobodies. I guess we could call it “trickle down evangelism.” Why didn’t Jesus follow this wise advice?
Jesus could have chosen a couple of Herodians who had access to Roman power–talk about influencers! He could have chosen a Pharisee to two to reach the religious niche. He could have chosen a wealthy Sadducee or two to show that wealth in itself doesn’t disqualify one from be a disciple. No one from the correct political and religious class was chosen by Jesus. How dumb. Who did he choose?
Jesus chose men who “come from a variety of backgrounds emerging from everyday life” (Bock,
Jesus according to Scripture
, 122). “The variety in the selection indicates how Jesus brought people from diverse perspectives together. It also shows that he wanted ‘everyday folk’ to take his message to their peers” (ibid). Everyday folk? That just isn’t culturally relevant.
Neither Simon the Zealot nor Matthew the tax-collector were politically correct choices. They represented polar opposites of the political extremes, like mixing oil and water, cats and dogs. And four fishermen? A little top-heavy on the fishing industry, right? I would have chosen Zebedee, the father. He had more social clout. But, there they are the Twelve Jesus chose. It’s not what we expected from a rip-roaring Scriptural fulfillment of Messiah and his entourage. We expected VIPs and end up with “everyday folk.”
What has created the prevailing, culturally-relevant template for choosing disciples? How was trickle down evangelism created? Was it really for influence or for income? Was it really about strategy to reach the poor among us or to reap support from those at the top? I don’t know for sure. I’m just asking.
Can you imagine if Jesus had chosen Nicodemas? That would have been a foothold in the door to the Sanhedrin, Israel’s supreme court! What if Jesus won Israel’s supreme court? But to choose Thaddaeus? Who’s Thaddaeus?
I love the observation mentioned in Acts 4:13 where the religious opponents to Peter and John acknowledged that the two disciples were unlearned, unschooled, ordinary men. The other observation was that “they had been with Jesus.”
Living water is like ordinary water: it flows to the lowest points. The Gospel runs in street gutters (as Mother Teresa so ably demonstrated). Not too many influential, smart, movers and shakers made up the Corinthian church, but when they gathered together Jesus was in their midst. Don’t get me wrong. Jesus and the Gospel do not by necessity ignore the rich and famous, the upper, influential crust. A centurion or two gets saved as well as some in Caesar’s household. That is good.
But as you look around at kingdom of God folk, don’t be surprised if some are not who you expected.