Reestablishing the Twelve Tribes - Part 2

The Twelve
The Twelve

The Mountainside Confirmation

We find a landmark passage in 6:17-19 that serves as a bookend to the work that Jesus started back in chapter four. In Luke 4:1-13 Jesus faces the devil alone in the wilderness as he also faces a hostile crowd alone in the synagogue of his hometown in Nazareth. The passage answers the Nathanael’s question in John 1:46 when he asks, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And out of Nazareth came the bearer of good news of the kingdom of God. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jesus to bring good news and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (4:18-19).

The news about Jesus was like a drop in an ocean whose rippling effects spread through the surrounding countryside of Galilee (4:14). These tiny ripples of water continued to widen its circle of influence as it covered the neighboring Galilean towns bringing to Jesus scores of people in need of healing and deliverance. This wave of broken humanity started to swell as the ever-growing crowds spilled upon the doorstep of Simon Peter’s house (4:40), splashed upon him by the lake (5:1), swamped him from every quarter from within a house (5:19), and swirled about him in a great banquet of tax collectors and sinners (5:29). Jesus’ tiny drop of a ministry that started in the countryside transformed into a tidal wave of a mission that ended on the mountainside.

Jesus comes down with his chosen apostles and stands on a level place before this great sea of humanity. Standing on a level place alongside his chosen twelve confirms his divine commission before the multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon who have congregated at the foot of the mountain and awaited his descent. The four geographic areas mentioned in verse 17 encompass the complete cross-section of God’s chosen people from the southern kingdom of Judea, to the central capital of Jerusalem, and up to the farthest regions of the coastal north from Tyre and Sidon.[i] All the tribes of Israel were present and accounted for in this multitude of representatives.

In verse 17 to 19 the word adjective “all” is repeated three times. Luke is emphatic in that not some nor a handful of people, but “all” who encountered and touched Jesus were healed of their diseases and delivered from demons. Jesus meets out these needs with his anointed authority and accompanied power from above. In 4:14 Jesus is “filled with the power of the Spirit,” in 4:36 the Capernaum crowd witnesses Jesus’ authoritative word and power, in 5:17 “the power of the Lord was with him to heal,” and finally, in 6:19 “power came out from him and healed all of them.” From the countryside of Galilee to the coastline of Tyre and Sidon, north, south, east, and west, the power of the Holy Spirit freely flowed through Jesus in a most tangible way that the crowd could actually touch and take hold of this divine power and experience a mass, nationwide deliverance from diseases and demons.

What’s amazing is that with all these tribal representatives in one place, Jesus was able to confront the demonic forces that had all Israel in its satanic grip for years. This was a unique spiritual showdown wherein Jesus, in one fell swoop, bound Satan, the strongman, plundered his prison house of human souls, and set the captives free. Like Joshua in the Old Testament, Jesus, the second Joshua, battles sin and temptation in the wilderness through obedience, baptizes and crosses with his people through the waters of the Jordan, evicts his enemies and conquers the land, and apportions to each of the twelve apostles the ancestral inheritance of the twelve patriarchs and their tribes. And in the coming passages and chapters, Jesus equips his apostles and disciples with the blessed keys of the kingdom life (6:20-38), the revealed secrets of the kingdom parables (6:39-49; 8:4-21), the opened doors to the kingdom outsiders (7:1-17; 36-50; 8:26-39), and the authorized orders of the twelve apostles sent out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal (9:1-6). John the Baptist prepared the way through the water and the word, Jesus paved the way through discipleship and deliverance, and his twelve apostles proclaimed the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:5).

It’s also interesting to note that if I were to ask Christians to name the twelve apostles they would probably start with Peter, then throw in John, think really hard and add Paul, George, and Ringo! The other names would be lost in a cloud of forgetfulness. In fact, by the time that Luke was writing his gospel, there was every indication that the names of the twelve were no longer accurately preserved in the early church.[ii] This special group, though important at the initial stage, gradually lost its significance, even to the extent that the Christians in those days could no longer recall those who once made up the twelve.[iii]

I believe Jesus intended it to be this way. Do you recall Jesus’ personal revelation to Peter? In Matthew 16:18 he tells his apostle, “…you are Peter [Petros], and on this rock [petra] I will build my church.” Indeed, the household of God or the body of Christ, which was also known as his church on earth in Ephesians 2:20, “…was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.”When a building is built, everyone admires the beauty of the building and quickly forgets about the foundation upon which it stands. The beauty about Jesus’ design is that today, when you see the church, you see a multitude of followers who make up Jesus’ body in the world. God answered Jesus’ prayer not only in behalf of the twelve but also on behalf of those who will believe in him through their word, “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:20-21).

I look forward to that glorious day in the very near future, when we will see a new heaven and a new earth. And we shall all see the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Rev 21:1-2). In the book of Revelation 21:12-14 the author beholds the holy city with the glory of God radiating from it saying, “It has a great, high wall with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates are inscribed the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites; on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. And the wall of the city has twelve foundations, and on them are the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”

I’d like to close with a question. When Jesus spent the entire night in prayer to God on the mountain, was Judas Iscariot an answer to his prayer? If Jesus knew what people were thinking, perceiving their thoughts from afar, wouldn’t he have known the thoughts and intentions of Judas’ heart? We cannot doubt that in choosing Judas out of a great crowd of his disciples, Jesus ultimately knew what he was doing. And although Jesus could read him like a book by just observing all his actions, why on earth did he choose Judas to fill such a monumental position as one of the twelve? That question continues to baffle Christians the world-over. But it’s so like Jesus to always be one step ahead of us. His choice of a future traitor was done deliberately with much wisdom. It teaches the church of Christ an all-important lesson.

Jesus’ choice of Judas is designed to teach disciples then, as it does today, an eye-opening lesson in humility.[iv] The church of Jesus Christ in the world is likened to a field with good seed sown in it as told in a parable (Mt 13:24-30). Then an enemy comes along and secretly sows weeds among the wheat. When the wheat came up the weeds made its unexpected appearance. The wheat and the weeds will grow together side by side until God’s great harvest. It is impossible to find a church today that is weed-free. The Master in the parable cautions us not to uproot these weeds lest we might uproot the wheat as well. Jesus kept his friends close and his enemies even closer. For the moment, we will have to trust in God’s unfathomable wisdom and learn to live with the weeds until the harvest season.

If you think about it, our own divine election, like that of the twelve apostles, was just as special and monumental. Remember that the apostle Paul encourages us in Ephesians 1:3-4 saying, “God chose and blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”I encourage you to read the rest of Ephesians 1 and learn how you can rejoice in God’s choice.

In the mean time, Jesus’ faithful following will be found mingling together with unsuspected traitors in all our congregations. Wasn’t Judas found among the twelve? And he remained in the company of the twelve until the time had come when Satan demanded, “to sift all of them like wheat” (22:31). While it is true that there is a Judas in every church of God, we will also find a Judas in every human heart. And who knows, if the price is right, any disciple for that matter, is capable of selling Jesus out. Esau sold his blessed birthright for a measly meal of lentil soup (Gen 25:29-34). Judas sold his blessed Lord for thirty pieces of silver (Mt 26:15). And the saints today may sell their blessed salvation for the temporal things of this world. Every disciple of Jesus Christ should pay heed to this painful lesson. Whoever among us thinks that he or she is standing safely in Jesus’ choice, should watch out that they do not fall (1 Cor 10:12). The apostle Paul likened us to runners who compete, but only one would receive the prize. We ought to run in such a way that we may win the prize. Beware that after proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ to others that you yourself should not be disqualified (1 Cor 9:24, 26).

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Endnotes

[i] A contrast is noted in 4:26 when Jesus first mentions Sidon in reference to the biblical account when Elijah was sent to none of his own people, the Israelites, except to a widow at Zarephath in Sidon. Then in 6:17 Sidon surfaces once again as it is represented not by just one lone individual but by a great multitude of people who like the ancestral widow receive the miraculous healing of her dead son by one greater than Elijah (1 Kings 17:1, 8-16). Sidon is the last listed city in Palestine located in the far north comprising the land given to the tribe of Asher while all Judea occupies the southern most section of Palestine given to the tribe of Judah.

[ii] Joseph A. Fitzmyer, The Anchor Bible: The Gospel According to Luke (X-XXIV) (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 620.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] J. C. Ryle, The Crossway Classic Commentaries: Luke (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997), 77.

© 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.

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