The ministry of Jesus Christ is not limited to what He did as recorded in the Gospels. His ministry is still happening right now. And His ministry is leading to an exciting highpoint when He returns and ushers in a kingdom that will have no end. His ministry right now includes a lot. He is upholding the entire universe by the power of His word (Heb. 1:3). That is no small matter. But another area of His ministry is seen Christ building His Church. This is a group of people, who were given to Him by the sovereign choice of the Father before the foundation of the world. Jesus is building and working in and through His Church with the purpose of spreading the message of salvation found in Christ alone.
In this passage we see Jesus at the top of a mountain praying and communing with the Father. He then comes down and chooses twelve men to be His disciples, and then He delivers a sermon to the masses. This is similar imagery to Moses receiving the law on the mountain, and then coming down and announcing it to the masses, from who will come twelve tribes. What is significant about this? The greater than Moses has come, and He is about to set up a Church that will become a people that will spread His fame around the world.
In this message we will consider three actions that relate to His ministry to His people. We will learn about the Master’s devotion (6:12), disciples (6:13-16), and deliverance (6:17-19).
1. THE MASTER’S DEVOTION (Luke 6:12)
This passage begins with Jesus spending an entire night in prayer on a mountain. Luke writes, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God” (6:12). The fact that He did this is not designed to make us feel guiltily or to provide a model for the length of our prayer times. The fact that Jesus spent so much time in prayer does teach us that prayer is important. We are commanded to be a people of prayer (Luke 18:1; Col. 4:2; 1 Thess. 5:17). But the primary purpose of this example is to show us that Jesus prays and that He continues to pray for His Church.
We don’t know what He prayed for during this time, but it seems reasonable that it had to do with those He was going to choose to be His disciples. We do learn a little about His prayers from a prayer on another occasion. The night before His crucifixion Jesus prayed for all His people throughout the ages (John 17). In this prayer, Jesus prayed for their protection (John 17:11-16), purity (John 17:17-19), and unity (John 17:20-26). Jesus continues to pray this for His people. He loves us and longs for us to be with Him in Heaven. Though He is here with us now, He is also at the right hand of His Father pleading for us in prayer.
Another important observation concerning the prayer of Jesus is that He didn’t need to spend time confessing His sin. If we are honest, we need to do this a lot! But confession did not take up any of His prayer life. His prayer life consisted of communing with the Father and pleaded for His people.
2. THE MASTER’S DISCIPLES (Luke 6:13-16)
The one who is greater than Moses now descends from the mountain after an entire evening in prayer. It is now morning and He calls His disciples. The number of disciples was considerable. These are a group of people who have been following Jesus and learning from Him. From this crowd, He chooses twelve,
“And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (6:13-16)
Why twelve and what will they do? The number twelve ought to remind us of Israel and the twelve tribes. I think the picture here is that a new Moses has arrived, and He is going to lead a people. They will be similar yet different to Israel. A people consisting of Jews and Gentiles and they will be spread out across the world. The purpose of this group is that they will be representatives of Jesus and foundational leaders of the Church. In the New Testament, there are four lists of the twelve disciples. It is interesting that in all of them, Peter is at the top of the list. This is because he was the spokesmen of the twelve and was a leader among equals. Also, in three of the four lists, Judas Iscariot is last (The only exception is the list in Acts, and that is because he had died). This is because he betrays Jesus and does not become an Apostle of the early church.
The names of the twelve apostles will be eternally written on the twelve foundations on the wall in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:14). If Judas Iscariot drops off the list, who is the twelfth name written? I will attempt to answer this with more clarity in our exposition of the book of Acts, but for now I think it is Paul. Much could be said if we considered each individual in the list, but here are three things we learn from the list of the twelve.
Firstly, they were chosen men. They didn’t appoint themselves nor did they choose to make themselves disciples. In the upper room Jesus said to His disciples, “You did not choose me, but I chose you” (15:16a). Some have asked if this choice is referring to their salvation or service as apostles. Whether it is referring to salvation or service; Jesus made the choice. Also, this was not a last minute choice. Jesus didn’t enter the scene then suddenly see His need for disciples by sending up an interview process. Before the foundation of the world He made this decision. For this reason, I personally think that this choice includes both their salvation and service because the reason they were chosen to be apostles came as a result of them being chosen to be believers. Regardless, the point is on the sovereign choice of Christ. What about Judas Iscariot? Wasn’t he chosen, and then defected? He was chosen to service, but not to salvation. That is why Jesus could say, “I should lose nothing of all that he has given me” (John 6:39). Jesus later on prayed to the Father, “While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled” (John 17:12). It is interesting that when Jesus made that comment about choosing them in John 15, Judas was not present at that time.
The second thing to notice is that they are common men. That is to say, there are no standouts from a worldly point of view. None of them were considered wealthy, and they even had a reputation of being “uneducated, common men” (Acts 4:13). They were ordinary men and would not have been candidates for a worldly enterprise designed for a global impact.
Finally, they were contrasting men. Compare and contrast Matthew and Simon the Zealot. Matthew was a tax collector, which meant that he worked for the Roman government. The Jewish population would have had a very negative view of him. Simon the Zealot was a Jewish nationalist and they resisted the Roman government. Now these men have been converted and called by Christ to work together. Also, compare and contrast Peter and Thomas. Peter was an outspoken optimist. He spoke big things and attempted big things. Thomas was a practical pessimist. Unless he could see things with his own eyes, we would not be convinced. Among this group were fishermen, a tax collector, a political nationalist, and a variety of others. They were a group of ordinary men, with ordinary abilities, chosen by Christ for an extraordinary task (cf. 1 Cor. 1:26-31).
3. THE MASTER’S DELIVERANCE (Luke 6:17-19)
Jesus then came down with the twelve to a level place. Along with the twelve, there were crowds of His disciples, and a crowd of Jews and Gentiles who came to hear Him and be healed. As they approached Him, “all the crowd sought to touch him, for power came out from him and healed them all” (6:19). This setting in Luke 6:17-19 provides us with a glimpse into what it will be like in Heaven. A more complete picture is recorded in Revelation 7 where there are the 144,000 (12,000 from the twelve tribes of Israel), and a large crowd from every nation, tribe, and language. They are all there in Heaven and they are learning from Christ and living a life free from sickness and suffering. This Heavenly crowd gathers to adore Christ for He is worthy of worship.
While we wait for the day to be with Christ in His coming kingdom, we are to be refreshed by the joy of gathering with God’s people, and adoring Christ now.
There is much this brief passage teaches us, but here are three lessons for us to ponder on.
The Head of the Church is Praying for His Church
We are to take great comfort from this passage because it reminds us that our Saviour Jesus Christ is praying for us. Sometimes we neglect prayer. Our life at times is marked by suffering and struggle. We are to be encouraged to know that our Saviour loves us and prays for us. He prays that we be spiritually protected and spiritually purified. Praise Him for this!
The Church consists of all sorts of people, chosen to serve Christ
The Church that Jesus is building is not bland group of people that are all the same. It is diverse group of people from every tribe, language, and nation. The purpose of this diverse group is to pursue unity and serve Christ as a people loving their Lord.
The Message of the Church is Christ
As the Church, we are to point people to Christ. Each church may be different and have differencing views on some things. But there is one thing we must all be clear on. We are to make much of Jesus Christ. The Church is not about our preferences, our priorities, or our personalities. It is about Christ. He is our Lord and He is our life. We are to learn about Him, live for Him, and long for Him.