I think a lot about the 12 Apostles. I think of how amazing it must have been to have been so ordinary, living an ordinary life of fishing and raising families and going to Sabbath services, and then suddenly meet the Messiah. These men were raised in the Jewish faith. They certainly knew the prophesies and the scriptures. They were faithful and intelligent. Just like you or me.
Imagine if we were raised in a faith and learned the scriptures but suddenly a man came walking along who spoke like none other you have ever heard. The rumor going around, as he gathered followers, was that he is a prophet or an angel or a king. As you study and match the prophesies with the scriptures and look at the man, would you dare to apply them to this man? It is a big step. And yet each of the 12 took that step of faith.
It is all the more extraordinary that they did so without the Holy Spirit. In the Old Testament times, the Spirit came upon a person, and anointed them. It wasn’t until after Pentecost that the Spirit came inside them to illuminate truth to their minds and heart.
Acts 1:8: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Acts 2:4: “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”
So they were just men, unadorned with any indwelling Spirit, going about their workaday routines, when BLAM! They met up with eternity walking in their midst. That they recognized it and even better, hung in there, is amazing.
Here is a short .pdf titled Twelve Ordinary Men, that you might enjoy. A paragraph is devoted to each Apostle.
We tease the apostles in our minds, chucking at Peter’s impetuousness, or mourning over his denial of Jesus on that fateful day, thinking, “HOW could he have done that?” We shake our heads when the Apostles wondered where they were going to get dinner after Jesus had just fed the 5000, and we tut-tut when we see them panic in the stormy boat and ask Jesus to wake up and do something. Even the Lord called them slow learners and spiritually dense. (Luke 24:25). But they had walked so far with Jesus on faith alone, carnal faith, not in the Spirit. That is amazing. Even more, they had seen miracles and heard words and seen Jesus transfigured into glory itself. How did their minds compute it? What they were experiencing was an upside-down life so far from the realms of normalcy, and yet they hung in there.
When many followers left Jesus after he preached a hard thing, Jesus turned to the Apostles and asked them if they were going to leave too, Peter said,
“Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69)
And again, Peter nailed it when Jesus asked the Apostles “Who do you say that I am?” and Peter said “You are Messiah.” (Luke 9:20)
Would you have done as well? A man coming into your workplace and saying ‘Follow me (John 1:43) and you do?
So here’s the thing. I like to focus on Jesus and His justice. He is the judge. He is Holy. “Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power,” (2 Thess 7b-9).
But here is another piece of justice to focus on. Thanks to these 12 ordinary men, they turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6). We owe them a heavy debt of gratitude they that indeed took up their crosses and followed Jesus every day, unto their own deaths. Our faith is founded upon their acts which is founded upon Jesus’ great act.
“for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, (Eph 2:18-21)
Therefore, the city New Jerusalem will also have a foundation of the apostles. Literally.
“And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev 21:14)
For anyone who has gone to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC and seen the wall, you know it is a simple design. It is highly emotional, though, to stand before it. Why? It is the names. The names of those who served and those who died in honor of that service evokes a tremendous flood of tears. It is the names that does it.
For all of eternity, as we walk the streets of New Jerusalem, we will see the Apostles’ names emblazoned on the foundation stones. Along with the chief cornerstone being Jesus, we will be reminded of His great sacrifice upon which our faith is built, and the Apostles faithful witness and service to Him, upon which our religion is built. How much more emotional will it be to see those names there? Highly, I’m sure. I’m grateful to such men who built up the faith by being witnesses to the great things Jesus had done. I’m very glad each of them has a named stone in the great City of God. It is just one more thing to look forward to when we get there.