Reflection: These Guys?
2nd Sunday after Pentecost
June 14, 2020
Lycoming Presbyterian Church
LESSON AND REFLECTION
Matthew 9: 35- 10: 8
35Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. 36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them [the word for compassion literally means, turning one’s guts inside out for another], because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; 38therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness. 2These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
5These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, 6but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. 7As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons. You received without payment; give without payment. [no profiteering, unlike con-artist prechers]
What is that Sunday school sing-song, sung to the tune of “Jesus Loves Me” about the Twelve Apostles?
Jesus called them one by one, Peter, Andrew, James and John, Next, came Philip, Thomas too, Matthew and Bartholomew. Chorus- Yes, Jesus called them, Yes, Jesus called them, Yes, Jesus called them, He called them one by one. James the one they called the less, Simon, also Thaddeus, Twelfth apostle Judas made, Jesus was by him betrayed. Repeat Chorus.
There’s an old joke about these guys too. Ever since the church became a church and the men took over, the men have used the fact that Jesus chose Twelve Men to lead the church. Obviously then only men are eligible serve as his pastors. Jesus chose men, no women allowed. To which a woman replied: “So that means one out of twelve of you is a Judas.”
Steel trap logic. Heck, they all chickened out on Jesus.
Now, we can go with the Hollywood version of these heroic, valiant, brave, faithful, pious, holy apostles from all those famous religious surround-sound spectacles….
….or we can go with the Bible’s version.
We all very grateful that Jesus had compassion on the crowd – helpless and harassed – and that Jesus realized he couldn’t take care of all of them alone. But come on, now, couldn’t he have chosen better folks to work with him. Look at these guys….
What a motely bunch! If I were going to put together a cabinet of the best and brightest, I wouldn’t recruit these jokers. I wouldn’t recruit these guys to be on my softball team. Can you imagine a church filled by these guys? Hmmmm….
All but Judas Iscariot are from Galilee. You want somebody who’s always looking for a fight? Pick a Galilean. Boys from Galilee were the boys from the other side of the tracks.
Peter – top of the list. Gruff, hasty, fools rush in, brash and rash; he might be good at hauling fish in a net, but a guy to hold someone’s hands and express compassion? He probably was illiterate too, certainly unlearned. Hands on kind of guy
Andrew – his brother (it’s interesting how many brothers are among the twelve). Andrew. As hasty as was brother Peter, Andrew is reserved, not one to take charge.
James and John – here’s a pair, intolerant, violent, immature, and very likely Jesus’ cousins, with a pushy mom, Jesus’ aunt (Mary’s sister). Mom wanted to make sure James and John would get positions of power when Jesus became king. Not the purest of motives for joining up with team Jesus. John probably spent some time in Jerusalem training to be a priest like their other cousin, John the Baptist, but I guess it wasn’t for him. Too much religion, too much institutional priestly stuff for him I suspect.
Then we have Nathaniel (aka Bartholomew) – what is he doing with this bunch of unsophisticated louts? Nathaniel the scholar, bookworm, as conservative as conservative gets.
Philip – tending to look for someone to solve the world’s problems for him. First, he’s following John the Baptist until John tells him to stop following him around and go hang out with Jesus.
Levi (aka Matthew) – he’s been hanging out with the Romans selling out his people like a mobster and taking advantage of them to make a profit as a tax-collector.
Simon the Cananean (aka the Zealot) – a knife wielding nationalist eager – zealous, zeal -- to slit the throat of those he thinks traitors, people just like Levi.
Thomas – the skeptic, brave, but a downer, a certified pessimist.
What does the optimist say when he wakes up in the morning? “Good morning, God!”
What does the pessimist say when he wakes up in the morning? “Good God, morning!”
Let’s not ignore the other lesser known James and Jude (aka Thaddeus) – the other set of brothers, likely also Zealots, anxious for the revolution to kick out the Romans and all the corrupt Jewish leaders and kill them.
And last, Judas (who I believe is the brother of Lazarus, Mary, and Mary) – from Judea, likely the most talented, the most schooled, the organizer of this motely band of brothers -- he was the treasurer, holder of the purse, also too smart for his own good. Too convinced he knew what was best for everyone else.
These guys? These guys are our spiritual forebears?
It’s like the proud family in town discovering their ancestor was a horse thief or that their family fortune started by a bootlegging great-grandpa. The Kennedy’s.
These guys are going to be the leaders of the Christian movement? Not for profit if you noted. These are the fellows Jesus chose? I guess it’s one thing if they choose him. If you are doing the choosing then you get to decide when you’ve had enough. Thank you, it’s been a fun ride but now you’re not quite what I wanted in a savior.
These guys were picked by Jesus. The only choice they had was to say yes or say no, to be loyal or betray. By making a few inferences, it’s very likely most of them were familiar to Jesus for a while. He certainly grew up knowing John and James, his cousins – only about 20 miles from each other. From them and the family fishing business, he likely was introduced to Andrew and Peter. He knew them. He knew their mettle, their worth. He saw more in them than they saw in themselves.
Misfit men of mistakes, missteps, misunderstanding. During the whole time they never really understood Jesus or what he was saying.
Well, that gives us hope. A kind of perverse hope, but hope nonetheless.
I find this oddly comforting.
None were qualified.
Who is qualified?
Jesus picked them nonetheless. Him seeing them as disciples willing to admit their weaknesses. As disciples willing to change, grow, to learn. As disciples who understood a people harassed and helpless because they are one of them.
They weren’t the cleverest, the smoothest, the most popular, the most talented, the most polished, the most advantaged.
They simply were men who were amazed Jesus counted on them and trusted them.