Christianity 201

October 23, 2019

Bible Numbers: Twelve Disciples

Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. Mark 3:13-14

When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James (also known as Thaddaeus, the name that is used in Matthew and Mark), and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.” Luke 6:13–16. The accounts of the calling of the disciples are also found in Mark 1:16–20, Luke 5:2–11, and John 1:40–42.

I don’t believe we’ve covered this particular topic before. The answers to the question, “Why 12?” below should whet your appetite for further study on this and other significant numbers in scripture.

■ From the NIV Bible Website:

It was no accident that He chose twelve.

God’s chosen people, the Israelites, were divided into twelve tribes. And as Jesus calls out a new people for Himself, He starts with twelve men who will form the basis of a new Israel.

The power of God was clearly at work in calling these men, but it is doubtful whether they knew the full extent of what they were signing up for when they began as Jesus’ disciples. They knew that they had to leave their current jobs and the security that those gave. But it was only as Jesus neared the end of His earthly life that He explained to them the real cost of discipleship.

Ultimately, what Jesus required of His followers was the willingness to give up everything for Him. He put it in very stark terms when He said that anyone who wanted to follow Him must take up his cross (Luke 9:23) and follow Him. In other words, they were to be prepared to die for Him. For some, their allegiance to Christ resulted in their being killed. And yet what Jesus asked of His disciples wasn’t more than He was willing to do Himself as He demonstrated when He freely gave His own life on the cross as a once-for-all sacrifice for human sin.

Before Jesus ascended into heaven, He “graduated” His disciples, as was the custom of the rabbi. He instructed them to go and proclaim the good news of the kingdom and in addition, He told them that they would be able to do everything that He had taught them to do (Matthew 28:19–20). The book of Acts and the subsequent history of the Church reveal that Jesus’ disciples did precisely that…

■ From the website AllAboutJesusChrist.org:

The 12 Disciples – Why Twelve?
In the Bible, twelve, like seven, frequently suggested completeness and perfection. In the Old Testament, twelve represented “all Israel” (Genesis 49:28; Joshua 13-19). The Book of Revelation provides numerous references to twelve.

  • 12 tribes of Israel, which are sealed and protected (Revelation 7:5-8; Revelation 21:12)
  • 12 stars in the woman’s (Israel) crown, symbolizing the 12 sons of Jacob (Revelation 12:1; Genesis 37:9)
  • 12 gates of the great high wall of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 12:12)
  • 12 angels guarding the heavenly gates (Revelation 12:12)
  • 12 apostles of the Lamb, part of the church and body of Christ (Revelation 12:14)
  • 12 pearls or precious stones of different colors, adorning the 12 foundations (Revelation 21:14, Revelation 19-21)
  • 12 crops of fruit, continually producing wholesome and pleasant fruit (Revelation 22:2)

The mention of “twelve” appears in other areas of the New Testament as well.

  • Jesus first spoke in the Temple at 12 years of age (Luke 2:42, 49-52).
  • Jesus raised Jarius’ 12-year-old daughter from a death-like state (Mark 5:42).
  • The miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes, providing 12 baskets of leftovers (Matthew 14:19–20; John 6:13).

As Jesus’ immediate followers, the Twelve’s faithful obedience would be challenged repeatedly. A promise of eternal honor was extended to these chosen men. “Jesus said to them [disciples], ‘I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’” (Matthew 19:28). This promise shows the glory and status reserved for these saints who had suffered persecution on earth for the cause of Christ. “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Revelation 21:14).

The 12 Disciples – Why These Men?

…The selection of the Twelve demanded the utmost deliberation as well as sacrifice. Prior to Jesus choosing these men, He fervently sought to fulfill the will of God, the Father. “. . . Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (Luke 6:12). These men would not only be His followers, but individuals who would be closest to Him. In every way, the Son of God chose to be vulnerable to these individuals. They would witness His fury against the moneychangers, His grief at a dear friend’s death, and His misery as they abandoned Him in the Garden of Gethsemane (John 2:13-16; 11:35; Mark 14:32-42). Still these men were the sort of people God has always desired—the humble. Despite their faults, the Twelve were teachable. Jesus wanted men who could understand the struggles of the broken-hearted, the poor, and the afflicted…

■ Finally, Christianity.com quoting Doug Bookman:

Since the multitudes had turned away from their promised Messiah, Jesus began a six-month period of private instruction with the Twelve, those He would prepare for the time of this death, resurrection, and departure…

…Seeking seclusion to instruct the Twelve, Jesus retreated to what would then be known as “heathen lands.” The leaders in Israel harassed him because of their animosity to His teaching, and no place within the region would allow Him a time of true private instruction. The Twelve Apostles would serve as the core of the future church, and this time would prepare them for—from their vantage point—the catastrophe of His death. His instruction during this time culminated in the Transfiguration, witnessed by the three members of the “inner circle,” Peter, James, and John, an event that fortified their faith and left an indelible impression on their later ministry (see 2 Peter 1:16-21).

 

 

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