Bob Gibson, star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals (1959–75), once spoke about the rough and rugged life of a famous athlete. After telling of many unpleasant experiences with the fans, he said, “I don’t like crowds—and fans, except for a very few, are all fair weather.” I suppose every famous person knows how fickle the crowd can be. Jesus did. Therefore, when he began his work, he did not commit it to the masses who came and went but rather to the 12 men who would be his disciples.
A study of these 12 apostles is most interesting. They were simple, unlearned men who heard and answered Jesus’ call to discipleship. Two things stand out about this group:
One is their diversity of character. They were of every temperament, background, talent, ambition, and political persuasion. This is seen most graphically in Matthew and Simon. Matthew, a tax collector working for Rome, was a traitor to his people. Simon was a Zealot—a band of fiery and violent nationalists. Yet their love for Christ overruled their personal prejudices and they became friends.
The second is their weaknesses. They all had their faults. They were cowardly, jealous, ambitious, doubting, and unstable. In fact they seem to have more faults than virtues. If we’d been on the investigating committee to pick apostles, I doubt if we’d have approved of any one of these 12 men. Yet Jesus took them as they were, with all their faults, and made them into what he wanted them to become.
Here is the wonder of Christ. He sees the possibilities of others and draws the best out of them. He unifies people. In his presence differences fade. And then he empowers them to be his helpers. A study of the 12 apostles should be an encouragement to all of us. If Christ wanted and could use them, he certainly wants and can use you and me.
“Let no man,” said Martin Luther, “lose the faith that God willeth to do a great work through him.”