A few years ago I came across the following tongue-in-cheek letter on the theme of Jesus choosing the twelve:
To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop
From: Jordan Management Consultants
Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.
The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.
As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee.
It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.
Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.
One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.
We wish you every success in your new venture.
Jordan Management Consultants
The above letter is a rather tougue in cheek reminder of how Jesus chose ordinary, fallible, down-to-earth, people to be his disciples.
One of the things that struck me about Rev. Sam when I first met him two years ago was how down-to-earth he was. No airs and graces. No sense of superiority, and in that sense an ordinary person in the best sense of the word.
Alan Peden had shared a few weeks ago that while still working as a purchasing manager, Sam Peden took almost everyone by surprise when he expressed a call to become a local preacher. I imagine the surprise was just as great if not greater when at retirement age, when most people his age were beginning to gear down, Rev. Sam began to study theology and prepare for ordination into the ministry in response to a sense that God was calling him in that direction.
In our passage today, we read of Jesus calling his followers and appointing 12 of them as disciples. As suggested by the opening introduction to this sermon, this may have come as a surprise to some… maybe even as a surprise to themselves.
Rob Bell an American pastor and preacher explains how in the Jewish education system, between the ages of 6 -10 all Jewish boys would have gone to what was called Bet-Sefer. During that time they would have learned the first 5 books of the Bible off by heart.
From about the age of 10-14, the best of those students would have been chosen to go on to Bet Talmud – in which they would have learned the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures off by heart. The rest of the students who were not the best normally went off to ply the family trade… carpentry, fishing, or something like that.
Finally, from the age of about 12-14 the best of those students would have gone on to what was called 'Bet-Midrash' in which they would have applied to become a disciple of a well-known Rabbi. The student would apply to a Rabbi, and only after careful testing would the Rabbi say whether or not he would take the student on.
What is interesting about Jesus, is that Jesus chooses not the best of the best of the best. The fact that some of Jesus disciples were fisherman and tax collectors means that at some point they had dropped out early from the education system. They hadn't made the grade.
When Jesus chooses his disciples, in effect, Jesus is choosing the 'B' team.
Jesus chooses 12 ordinary people to become part of a movement that would renew the people of Israel that they might become a light to the nations. Jesus chooses not the best of the best, but the 'B' team.
As Rob Bell suggests, people often speak about believing in God. A person might ask you: Do you believe in God?
But Jesus seems to suggest that the most important point is not that we believe in God, but rather, that God believes in us.