Our Divinely-Laid Foundation
Topic: Grace Pulpit Passage: Luke 6:12–6:13
Our Divinely-Laid Foundation
January 29, 2017
We are returning this week in our on-going study of Luke’s Gospel, so you can turn your Bibles to Luke Chapter 6. We are going to be looking at Luke 6:12 through 16 for this morning—Jesus choosing the Twelve Apostles. It’s been our habit to begin by reading the text. So, if you are there in Luke 6, we’ll start reading there. We’ll want to put the Word of God before our eyes and ears and let it inform our minds and shape our understanding. So, if you’re in Luke 6, I’m going to start reading there in verse 12.
In these days he [that is Jesus] went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. 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.
You can probably be forgiven, as you read along with that account, if you didn’t fall over in your seat from shock and amazement in the reading of that text. That is to say, if you didn’t notice the movement of the tectonic plates of redemptive history—you’re laughing, but the tectonic plates that lie hidden beneath the surface of the narrative—if you didn’t see them move as we read those words, if you didn’t see that happen, it’s completely understandable. Many of us grew up in Sunday School, coloring pictures of Jesus and his disciples, particularly these twelve men, these apostles. There may have been a time in our lives when we could even recite the names of these apostles—or at least the Big Three. Okay, what are they? Peter, James and John. We all know those. We probably also remember Matthew as well, because he was a tax collector, and choosing Matthew to join the band of the Twelve is such a wonderful story of grace. And because of Matthew, quite frankly, we’re all thankful that we’re going to be spared because, “Hey, we’re not as bad as that guy—he got in.” So, we’re thankful for that.
Everyone remembers also Judas Iscariot—traitor. No one wants to be a “Judas,” a betrayer. Some of the better students among us might remember Peter’s brother, Andrew, or Doubting Thomas, or they may remember the G=guileless Nathanial or Phillip the Evangelist. But beyond those, our memories get kind of fuzzy, don’t they? Believe it or not, there are only just a few more men to name. Do you know who they are? Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas son of James. Together, all of those make twelve. Just remembering their names for many of us seems to be the most significant challenge about this narrative. And we gave star stickers to the kids for getting all of those names right. And that’s a good thing to do to strengthen their memory. We should keep doing that.
But it’s important to understand the significance of naming the Twelve apostles. What’s going on here in this text? There is a sense in which it seems to come out of nowhere. In fact, we can remove it and go from the previous verse—verse 11—and go right to verse 17. Many of us wouldn’t even notice the difference. Why is it here? The choosing and the naming of the Twelve is found in three other places in Scripture—four places in Scripture all together: three times in the synoptic gospels and once in Acts. These men, as we know, become pretty important in redemptive history and church history, and even though they lost one of their number to treachery—Judas Iscariot followed the path of the devil—the group itself simply became known as the Twelve. When you talk about the Twelve, everybody knows who you’re talking about. Twenty-five times in Scripture they’re called the Twelve. All but two of those references are in the gospels and Acts. They’re a very, very important group, to be sure. We’ve known since our Sunday School days that these men formed the inner circle of Jesus. They were his closest disciples. He spent a lot of time with these men, training them and then sending them out. And to understand just that is actually a very good thing. That is an excellent start. But we’re going to go just a bit deeper this morning to reveal the seismic event that naming these twelve men as apostles represents. Naming these men in particular is important, significant, but more important than that, for Jesus to name anyone as his apostles—when we understand what apostles really are, when we understand what the apostolic office actually is—well, as I said, this text reveals a seismic event. It’s a profound break with the past and the revelation of a new direction in the redemptive program of God.
If I asked you to tell me about the origin of the Christian Church, many of you would take me back, rightly, to the Book of Acts. You’d go back to the Book of Acts, open to Chapter 2 and show me the record of the Holy Spirit falling on those early disciples after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus. And that’s a good thing to do. That’s exactly where we should go. But after this morning’s sermon, if anyone asks you, “Hey, what’s the origin of the Christian Church?”, I want you to go to Luke 6. I want you to go here and explain to them what you learn this morning because the case I want to make this morning is that the origin of the church, the revelation of what Paul called “this mystery,” this spiritual body called the Church—something that was once hidden in the mind of God—was made manifest in time and space through the ministry of Jesus Christ. The origin of the Church and the very first hint of its unveiling—that happened right here in the text before us.
These names—with the exception of Judas Iscariot—Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Phillip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Judas son of James and Simon the Zealot, along with our Lord Jesus Christ—these are the names of the founding members of the Christian Church. This is the very first church roll call. And no matter what size of any local church, whatever size it may be, whether it’s a big or large church, we always need to remember the very first church started with twelve men and Jesus Christ—the Lord Jesus Christ and these eleven men, plus Matthias, who was added later. It’s because of what Christ accomplished first and most fundamentally through his life and death and resurrection, but then subsequently in his ministry in and through the Twelve—it’s because of them, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:19 and 20 that you and I, Gentiles living 2,000 years after the fact, on the other side of the planet, speaking an entirely different language with an entirely different culture—it’s because of them that you and I are “no longer strangers and aliens, but [we] are fellow citizens with the saints and the members of the household of God, [and we are] built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets, [with] Christ Jesus himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined and fit together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” That’s what we’re a part of. And you thought we were just sitting in church in Greeley, Colorado. Oh, no, no, no, no. This is much more important.
By the way, the names of the Twelve—they’ll be with us forever, so you better start memorizing. Get those names down. They’re going to be with us forever because their names are inscribed in the eternal city, the New Jerusalem. As John says in Revelation 21:14, “The wall of the city [of the New Jerusalem that came down out of heaven] had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” That’s these guys. That’s these eleven men, plus Matthias, whom the Holy Spirit chose to replace Judas Iscariot, the traitor. You can read about that in Acts 1:15 to 26.
For now, we’re going to get to these men in a week or two. I want you to understand also the significance of what apostleship is—something we take for granted all the time. I want to unpack that a little bit. But for now, we’re going to become more familiar with the significance of what’s happening here, not just the fact of the selection of the Twelve, but in how they were chosen. It started—point one in your bulletin—at the Direction of Divine Providence. If you look again at verse 12, it says, “In these days, he [Jesus] went out to the mount to pray.” And if you stop there, we can understand just on a human level after going through the first five chapters of Luke’s Gospel, into the sixth chapter here, we can understand just on a human level, our Lord needed some time away with his Father. I mean, he had been on the move ever since his baptism. The Holy Spirit had kept him pretty busy on a pretty tight schedule. He was driven first right after the baptism waters into the wilderness to be tested by the devil—forty days without food and water and all of that. And when he came back after his return, the Spirit directed Jesus to minister first in Jerusalem, in Judea and then up to Galilee. His ministry is characterized by public teaching, which, you have to understand, is pretty demanding and physically draining. He began in his hometown of Nazareth, reintroducing himself. Even though he grew up there, he reintroduces himself to his hometown folks—no longer as Nazareth’s favorite son, but now today as the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy. As he explained the Scriptures to them, he told them this moment, this fulfillment, himself fulfilling Isaiah 61—it was the inauguration of what Isaiah 61:2 called “the favorable year of the Lord.”
So the good news started. It started to be proclaimed there in his hometown in Nazareth, and very quickly the message was broadcast all throughout Galilee. He set up his ministry headquarters in Capernaum, a Galilean fishing village. He used that city as a ministry hub for his itinerate teaching ministry to all the cities and towns of Galilee. He told the people of Capernaum, “Look, I can’t stay here. I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns, as well, for I was sent for this purpose.” His itinerate ministry had him on the move all the time. No much time for rest. He would come back to Capernaum for a little refreshment, but then out again. He was always teaching, incessantly preaching, proclaiming, explaining, unfolding, interpreting all the time. As we look back over the last couple chapters, his teaching plans were very profound. They had to do with the prerogatives of divine sovereignty. They had to do with the priority of faith, of the nature of divine grace. They had to do with the ministry of the Son of Man. And along the way, he’s not just teaching, but he’s also healing. He’s demonstrating divine power and prerogative by casting out demons, healing sicknesses and diseases. He’s cleansing lepers with a touch. He’s restoring paralytics; he’s restoring withered limbs so they look brand new. If you look at all that and see that’s amazing, look at the manner—he wasn’t cranky about anything he did. He didn’t get grumpy. He didn’t have a bad-mood-day. His ministry was marked by unparalleled mercy, compassion, kindness, gentleness, tenderness, grace.
I mean just think about your routine day serving around the house, doing the vacuuming, doing the laundry, cooking a meal, cleaning up after cooking a meal—whatever it is. Do you always do that with tenderness and grace, gentleness and kindness, so happy to serve everyone? Jesus did. He saw his life as a living sacrifice. And he sacrificed for people, loving them sacrificially, tirelessly. He worked himself weary to shepherd them. As elders, as men, we sit around and talk about leadership. You know the example we point to? Jesus Christ. He’s the Great Shepherd. He’s the one we want to emulate. He’s the one we want to teach us about shepherding all of you. He’s exhausted. So just on a human level, our Lord Jesus Christ sharing in our full humanity, knowing things like weariness, the need for respite and spiritual refreshment—just humanly speaking, Jesus felt the need to get away and commune with his Father.
There’s something else going on here, which not only added to his weariness, but also informed his Messianic thinking, his strategy, his plan. He was observing, here at this point in the text, something very significant, which called for a total change in strategy. Jesus had come, as we know, as he’s been speaking about—as Israel’s prophesied Messiah. He came to announce the year of the Lord’s favor, he came to announce himself as the fountainhead of the fulfillment of all restoration promises. His promises were thematic in the prophets. They were the dominant source, the foundational source of hope for all of Israel; and yet, Jesus is here sensing a new direction of divine providence as he observed the reception he was receiving in Israel. Because amid this outpouring of divine grace in his teaching, in his healing activity, in this truth and power that are flowing out of his mouth and through his hands, at the same time—inexplicably you could almost say—there is a growing hostility toward Jesus. Not so much among the Galilean population, though. To most of the rural Galileans, Jesus is somewhat of a folk hero; he’s a celebrated figure, someone they really like to be around.
But it was among the political and religious establishment of Judea and Jerusalem, among the scribes and the Pharisees—there was a rising hostility toward Jesus. Their hostile reaction started with his own hometown people of Nazareth. They were offended at him, and their rejection and hostility, which you remember, was not insignificant. They almost threw him off of a cliff. They wanted to kill him. So this rejection in his own hometown foreshadowed an ultimate rejection of Jesus by the entire nation. John wrote in his prologue of his Gospel, “He came to his own”—that is the Jewish people—“and his own people did not receive him,” John 1:11. That opposition, as I said, started in Nazareth and continued to grow and increase and mushroom. The Pharisees, the teachers of the law visited him. They watched him. They listened to him. And not favorably at all, but menacingly. It seems these religious elites were always on his heels, snapping at his heels, dogging his steps. They criticized everything. They had a negative view of him from the very start. They criticized his methods. They criticized his company—after all, association with tax collectors and sinners!oh my! So, they criticized that.
Most particularly, they criticized his lack of submission to their traditions of the Sabbath day; they were really, really irritated about that. That was the ultimate insult because that’s how the scribes and Pharisees held sway over the people. Having studied the rabbinical traditions very diligently, they thought that they and they alone possessed the knowledge to regulate the Sabbath. So they were the self-appointed watchdogs of Israel’s Sabbath. So when Jesus didn’t submit to their traditions, when he ignored their strictures and he was unconcerned about their offense, they couldn’t stand it. They could not stand the insult that his violations represented. Look, it’s not just a matter of hurt feelings or insulted pride on a human level. Jesus spotted in this opposition something even deeper. It was a different spirit animating the leadership of Israel. And he was familiar with this spirit. He was introduced to it having overcome the temptations of this very spirit while he was in the wilderness. Jesus would eventually tell the Jewish leaders, speaking to them face to face, “You are of your father the devil and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning,” (John 8:44). The devil had somehow insinuated himself into the leadership of Israel and become their puppet-master. Pretty shocking when you think about how respected they were in a cultural, social sense, something that many others were unable to see on the surface. But wherever Jesus was active, his very presence, his words, his ministry, his grace—it all exposed the devil’s work. His spiritual ministry just blows the cover off of every covert satanic activity.
In fact that’s where we stopped last time in Luke 6:11, with Jesus’ ministry exposing the murderous intent of the Pharisees. Look at verse 11. It says, “They were filled,” that is the scribes, the Pharisees that were there that they challenging him. “They were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.” In case you missed the point, if you go over to Matthew and Mark, they make it even clearer. It says, “The Pharisees immediately went out and started to plot about how to destroy him.” Murder—that’s what they were after. There was an underlying simmering of hatred, which is always the clear sign of satanic activity. These religious leaders, whatever they looked like on the surface, they’re of their father the devil, make no mistake. He’s been a murderer from the beginning. And whenever you see hatred and murder show up in somebody, you know it’s connected to him. None of this is lost on Jesus. And dealing with the opposition, with this incessant activity, the pace of his work, the workload of his itinerate ministry—all this called for a break. Time to go to the mountain, time to go to a secluded place for the purpose of prayer. And as we often see in Luke’s Gospel, when Jesus retreats for a time of prayer, it signals some kind of a dramatic turning point in the narrative. And we see that kind of a turning point, right here as I’ve already mentioned. This is not just a matter of Jesus needing to get away to take a break from a hectic ministry pace.
As I said, Jesus is here reading the unfolding of divine providence. As he observed the increase in hostility, which would eventually lead to the entire nation’s rejection of him as it crucified its own Messiah. Yes, there’s a reaction of sinful pride-driven men. Yes, it was all fueled by murderous, satanically inspired hatred. But most fundamentally, Jesus knew that in God’s world, no one—not men, not Satan, not any other being—reacts in rebellion to God. Ultimately, even this rejection Jesus knew was according to the sovereign will of his father because it would eventually lead to his crucifixion. And his crucifixion would eventually lead to our salvation. He knew the sovereign will of his father was the determining factor in everything he was seeing going on before him.
And even Jesus’ naming these twelve men as his apostles—that right there in and of itself represents another in the long line of offenses against the leadership of Israel. Why is the number twelve significant? It is significant because this is an indictment of Israel’s leadership. “I’m replacing the twelve tribes with these twelve men,” is what he is communicating to them. He’s choosing new leadership here. And notice that none of them is coming from the religious establishment. He’s choosing twelve nobodies as his apostles. They’re not the wise and noble. They’re not the mighty and the wealthy. They’re not the intellectual elites connected to all of the Jerusalem politics. He is subverting all of human expectation here, surpassing, bypassing the religious somebodies and instead, quite intentionally, he’s choosing these twelve nobodies as his apostles. Why is he doing that? Because he recognizes the term of divine providence.
You’ve enjoyed reading about it. I mean, it’s very American to rebel against the establishment, isn’t it? I mean we’re good Americans by loving this story. The Galileans also got a kick out of this because they were considered kind of like hicks, rubes, you know—out there in the sticks. Down there in sophisticated Jerusalem, we’re all about the intellectual erudition and our pride, and we don’t partake of hamburgers—that’s too below us. We have wine and cheese. So that was important for the people of Jerusalem. But up in Galilee—I mean, they’re just folks. For them this is like rural verses urban. This is blue collar verses white collar. They’re so happy to see Jesus snub the establishment. The Judean elites would never forgive him for it. Jerusalem would hate him for it. That was what was truly going on. Jesus couldn’t care less about all that. What he was concerned about was on a deep spiritual level—“Who has truly represented my father, who is in heaven?”
This, then, is a turning point in the story. Jesus is an astute observer of humanity. It’s not just what he sees on the surface; it’s what he can perceive in the heart of every one of these people. John 2:24 and 25 says that Jesus “knew all people […], he himself knew what was in man.” And that may not be referring to his omniscience; it may be referring to the fact that he had such clear insight into the human condition. After all, he grew up without sin, he was born of a virgin—no sin in him. He knows what they’re about. And as he looks at the situation here, he knows the tide is turning and that he’s heading for the Cross. He has seen the connection that his inevitable death will have with prophetic fulfillment, most clearly in Isaiah 53, that “he will bear the sins of his people.” He knew that he would be the means that God used to punished sin in his body on the Cross. He knew that God his father himself would put the sins of his people on Jesus and crush him for their iniquity. Why? That he might crush the head of the serpent, the ancient foe. Why? That he might grant peace to guilty sinners, ourselves included.
So we need to see that this grim portent, this foreshadowing of Jesus’ demise, the rejection here at the hands of his own people—it’s not merely a matter of sinful opposition. It’s not even ultimately about satanic opposition. They’re just players on the stage. This turn of events is from the Lord. This is the direction of divine providence bringing all factors into conformity to his decreed will because the lamb of God was slain—slain from before what? The foundation of the world. This is decreed from eternity past.
There was hope, a legitimate offer of salvation to the kingdom of Israel. Jesus did come with a legitimate offer. He did come as their Messiah. He did come to announce the kingdom to them, but their rejection—as we learn especially in the Book of Romans—their rejection opened the door to the salvation of the Gentiles. That’s us. We’re grateful, and Paul would later write to the Romans, helping them to reflect on this turn of events that we’re reading about here. He said in Romans 11:25:
Lest you Gentiles be wise in your own sight, I don’t want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers [this thing that was hidden in time past, but now has been unfolded and revealed in the present, so lest you be wise in your sight, in your estimation, I don’t want you to be unaware, brothers]: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.
And so he goes on to say, “Hey, you Gentiles! Don’t be proud against Israel. Beware, lest pride creep into you like it did to them. You be humble. You be grateful. You be unique people.” Well, here’s Jesus at ground zero. This is ground zero of the event. He is watching it all unfold in front of him, and with the hardening of hearts setting in, he recognized the hand of providence in this turn of events, so he turns his attention not to activity, but to what? Prayer. He turns his attention to prayer. He needed to commune with his Father. That’s point two: the Supplication of the Divine Son. Verse 12 again says, “In these days he went out to the mountain to pray”—that’s showing purpose there, by the way. “He went out to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.” He sought the solitude provided by the mountain and for the purpose of prayer. He’s going to commune with his Father. He’s going to seek his direction and his counsel. He is going to commit himself there to the outworking of his Father’s perfect and wise will. It’s important that we stop and reflect on this for a moment.
Think about this. Jesus—he’s the Son of Man, and yet at the same time he is the Son of God. He comes to a significant turning point in his life, and he devotes himself to prayer. He doesn’t say, “Look, I’m qualified. Okay, Son of Man, Son of God. I’m right there. I’ve got the fullness of humanity and the fullness of deity. What help do I need of anybody? I’m going to go it alone and—trust me. Look—deity, humanity, get it? I’m perfect.” He didn’t do that. He stopped and devoted himself to prayer. It’s a pattern for us, isn’t it? To submit ourselves in prayer as he did. To seek the will of our Father in heaven while we live our lives here on this earth. Look—you feel fatigued, tired sometimes? Jesus felt weariness and fatigue. He needed to be revitalized and energized for the work.
So what did he do? He sat and watched sitcoms all night. No, he didn’t binge on TV to rest himself. He prayed. Jesus faced hostility and he faced opposition. And you know, he’s unlike us—we face hostility and opposition sometimes because we’re knuckleheads. Sometimes because we deserve it. We’ve done something stupid, and we’re getting blowback for the stupid thing we did. Not Jesus. Whenever he faced opposition, whenever he faced hostility, he never ever deserved it. He was righteous in everything, and simply for being obedient to God and righteous in all his acts, he got blowback, hostility. He not only felt the tension, but he knew this was going to break out one day in physical violence against his own body. What did he do? Did he go online and start a campaign? No. Did he go to his congressman, write a letter and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on. I need to inform you.” No. Did he go to the cops? No. He prayed. He’s on the brink of a momentous decision—to select this special group of men. He’s about to lay the foundation of the institution that would unite the true people of God—Jew and Gentile alike—in one body, and that body would last for two millennia—so far anyway; It could last for three or four millennia, who knows? What did he do before laying that significant foundation that is going to bear the weight of the entire church age? He prayed. Look, do we seek that kind of close communion with God in prayer? Do we seek after the direction of our Father as Jesus did with his Father? We should. We should, right? We’re foolish not to.
Drawing near to God in prayer, we need to understand, is not about changing God’s will. It’s not about bending God to us. It’s not about the Creator doing the bidding of the creature. Prayer is about changing us. That’s what prayer is. We draw near to God—why? So that we might change. So that we might conform ourselves to his thinking. So that when we’re better aligned with his will, which is clearly articulated in his Word, we’re not listening for the voice of God. It’s all here. You want to listen to the voice of God? Read audibly. It’ll give you the voice of God. He wrote it down. We come near in prayer so that we might align ourselves with his revealed will—and with our will aligned to his will, we’re going to do his work. We pray so we might be sensitive to his leading. We pray so we might carry out his wise and perfect purposes here on this earth. Look, what we do on this earth may seem like just trivial, mundane, routine activity. I can tell you when we are aligned with the purposes of God, it’s moving mountains, whether you see it or not. So that’s why Jesus ascended the mountain that night.
It says in verse 12, “All night he continued in prayer to God.” All night. It’s a very unique expression, actually. It’s uncommon in Greek literature. It’s used only here in the entire New Testament. It means to pass the entire night like passing a night watch, but not just a certain block of the night, but the entire night watch. It means to spend the whole night. And there’s a grammatical construction that Luke uses here that indicates passing that night, but it’s a continuousness of activity, it’s a perseverance throughout. So he goes up on the mountain for the purpose of prayer and when he got there, he prayed and he did not take a break. Continuously, fervently, his mind did not wander one instant. He was focused. He’s intent. He’s insistent in prayer, as it says, “All night he continued.” It was his work up on the mountain, sustained outpouring of energy in fervent prayer to God. Well, how long was he up there praying? It says all night, but we don’t know exactly. But if sunset was around 7 or 9 p.m., and daybreak around 6 in the morning, Jesus would have spent at least ten hours in prayer. Ten hours. A long time, isn’t’ it? Concentrated prayer.
What was on his mind? Well, since he came down the mountain in the morning and he immediately chose his twelve apostles, we have a pretty good idea of what was on his mind. Them. The text doesn’t take us into the secret communion he had there with his Father, but we do have enough revealed in Scripture to give us a pretty good idea of the way he prayed, if not some of the content of his prayers that night. We could start by assuming he spent some time praying over the list of men he intended to choose as his apostles. We see those names there in verses 14 to 16. Perhaps he’s verifying that list. Perhaps he wrestled a bit over the last name—the name of his betrayer. John 6:64—we find out there that Jesus knew from the beginning who did not believe and who would betray him. Jesus’ betrayer didn’t take him by surprise, not even from the beginning, not even from this point. And yet, I imagine he pored over that detail in prayer with his Father. How would it affect his other disciples? How would it affect the church? How’s he going to teach? How’s he going to prepare?
We can also imagine he prayed about the manner of their appointment, which we’re going to see in just a moment in verse 13. We can also imagine he prayed about the training that he was about to commence with them. And that training would prepare them for the unique and foundational role they would play in redemptive history, in the eschatological program that involved this heretofore hidden entity called “the church.” There’s one other thing I think he was praying about, one other way he was praying. I’d like you to turn over to John 17 verse 6 to see this. Keep your finger in Luke 6; we’ll be right back. But here in John 17—this is Jesus’ high priestly prayer—this is how he prayed for these very men, and it was just a few hours later that he faced death on the Cross. In Luke 6:14 to 16, we read the name of all twelve of Jesus’ apostles, and that list, as I said, is provided in three other places in Scripture: Matthew, Mark and the Book of Acts. And we should never forget that that list indicates Jesus knew his people, and he knew these men by name. And so I’m going to make the case that he prayed for them by name. He cared for them by name. We have every reason to assume he prayed for each of these men, not only by name, but according to character, according to weakness, according to strengths that he had put into them by their creation. And if we think about the time he spent that night—it’s about an hour per man, isn’t it?
Just to get the idea of the tenor of his prayer for them, here in John 17, we’ll fast-forward to his high priestly prayer on the night of his betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Here in verse 6 is the part of the prayer in John 17 where he focuses on these men—the apostles in particular as he intercedes for them, as he asks his Father to protect and strengthen and preserve them, to sanctify them in the truth. Look at John 17:6. He says, “I have manifested your name to the people.” It says “people” in the ESV, but it’s actually “men.” “I have manifested your name to the [men] whom you gave me out of the world.” That makes it clearer that he’s talking about the apostles because that is who he’s talking about. He says:
I have manifested your name to the men [the people, the apostles] whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you have sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those you whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.
Again, he’s praying for the oneness, the unity of these apostles—this select group. Verse 12:
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. But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have joy fulfilled in themselves. I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
That last sentence is a reference to consecrating himself to the death he would die on the Cross. Why? Because that would secure them being sanctified in truth, being set apart. Jesus carried great concern for them, didn’t he? He prayed as a high priest prays for his people. He prayed like a Great Shepherd praying for his sheep. And he still carries that great concern for his people. You need to understand this as you sit here 2,000 years later, long after these events. You need to understand that he’s praying for you. If you belong to him, he’s praying for you this way. He cares for you, not just by name, but by character. He sees all your failings and he loves you and he wants to strengthen you and grow you in the truth. He wants you to be sanctified in the truth. He commits you to his Father for protection, for preservation. And he prays. You think he’s gone too far? No, he’s sitting at the right hand of the Father as if space had anything to do with it, right?
He’s our advocate—1 John 2:1—interceding for us. Not only that, but he has sent the Holy Spirit as our abiding comforter, who also intercedes for us—Romans 8:27. He intercedes according to the will of God. Not only that, but the Holy Spirit intercedes with passionate interest. Romans 8:26 says, “He intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” On this occasion, spending all night in prayer, he demonstrated his concern, his deep concern over these men, praying for them all by name.
You can go back to Luke 6. One more thing, though, we need to recognize here. When Jesus prayed on this occasion—as was true every time he prayed—we see the intimate communion and fellowship of the triune God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Trinity is in conference, holding counsel together. That’s a holy mystery that we behold as we stand at a creaturely distance. We have a creaturely wonder about us and an awe about the Trinity coming together to pray for us. But apart from observing a Trinitarian mystery, which we can’t fully comprehend—we can’t even come close to comprehending—why is it so significant that the persons of the Trinity are connected here and convened on this occasion? What is so significant? Beloved, it’s the Church. The Church—that’s what’s significant. And we need to see this direction, this decision to appoint these twelve men to apostleship, to name these men, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, but to name these men as the foundation of the Church. You know what? This decision is divinely sanctioned. This is the Holy Trinity on display. The will of God on display. The foundation that these men represent—all of them named in verses 14 to 16—originated in the divine will. It’s a matter of settled decree. It became a reality by the initiative of the triune God. We need to pause and wonder. We need to realize the profound reality that even this body right here—this local church, situated, nestled here in Northern Colorado—we’re built on that same foundation. We belong to them. We have been built upon them, the foundation that they laid as long as we stay connected to it by truth, right? That’s really the ministry of Jesus Christ himself still continuing on this earth, right now—today—and it all started here in Luke 6. It’s no accident.
As I said, this is not an adjustment of God’s plan. He’s not going a different direction because, “Whoa, I thought Israel would accept their Messiah, but, boy”—hand-wringing— “Guys, what do you think? Okay, let’s come up with a new plan. I know. Church!” No! This is from before the foundation of the world. This is intentional. This appointment of the Twelve, the foundation of the Church, has happened according to the sovereign will of God revealed in providence and confirmed that night in prayer with Jesus. Even the existence of our church, Grace Church of Greeley—it’s all by divine appointment, decreed in the holy counsels of the Trinity itself.
Well, Jesus discerned this divine will through prayer; he made supplication for these men. This appointment is the sovereign will of God, and we see that sovereignty coming out even further in verse 13, which is our third point for this morning—the Selection of Divine Sovereignty. Look at verse 13. It says, “And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles.” He’d just spent ten or more hours in prayer, communing with his Father, praying by the Spirit. Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Son of Man, comes down the mountain to execute the will of the triune God. He has been directed by his Father in heaven, and he is eager to carry out his will so he gets right to work, wasting no time, naming these men as apostles. Notice in verse 13 three action verbs—all three indicating Jesus’ exercise of divine sovereign authority. First Jesus “called,” then he “chose,” then he “named.” A very clear picture of decisive, sovereign authority. He called, he chose and he named.
First of all, Jesus called. The word prosphoneo literally means to call out to, but more particularly and especially here, it’s to summon to oneself. Look who he summons. Who does he summon? It’s his disciples—and it’s not just those named in verse 14 to 16. He summons all of his disciples. By this time, many would have been following Jesus as his disciples. The word “disciple” merely means learner. We know there were many—at least dozens, maybe there could have been hundreds by this time—following Jesus as disciples. In John 6, we see some of Jesus’ harder teachings serve to thin the ranks of his disciples—people who weren’t really committed to him. And he separated the true disciples from the false disciples. And how did he do it? With the dividing line of teaching. Do you remember that? After feeding the five-thousand-man crowd, women and children besides, the Jews followed him back to Capernaum. They wanted more food. Who wouldn’t? He was teaching them, and he was using the metaphor of feeding on his flesh and blood, which sounded just as creepy to them as it does to us. But what he was saying there by metaphor was that they needed to embrace his work on the Cross to be his true disciples. It says in John 6:60:
When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” [And they took off.] Jesus [responded], knowing in himself that his disciples were grumbling about this, said to them, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning who those were who did not believe, and who it was who would betray him.)
That is to say, Jesus knew from the very beginning who were only so-called disciples. They were actually false disciples who would wither away under strong teaching. That’s exactly what happened. He said in John 6:65:
And he said, “This is why I told you that one can come to me [that is ability] unless [what?] it is granted him by the Father.” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Simon Peter answered him [because Simon Peter is always speaking up], “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
Have you ever thought about walking away from it all? And then you return to these very words and you say, “Where am I going to go? Jesus has the words of eternal life. Why would I depart?” That’s the heart of true discipleship—to stick with the Lord Jesus Christ no matter what because you recognize that he has the words of eternal life, and if we walk away from him, we walk away from the words of eternal life. In apologetics terms, we walk away from the starting point of all intelligibility if we walk away from words of eternal life. When it comes to Jesus, true discipleship means we are all in.
Back to Luke 6:13, it’s this larger group of disciples—some of them true, some of them false, some of them undecided—Jesus summoned to him that morning. Some were true disciples, many weren’t. All of them, though, were identifying him, following him at this point. They recognized his teaching, his authority; they saw his miracles, his mighty works—at least at some level they counted him “Rabbi.” They wanted to know him, they wanted to follow him. So, he summoned them, all of them.
Next word. Second, Jesus chose. He chose. That is to say he chose from this larger group of disciples. As I said, it was a mixed group oftrue and false disciples. He selected from that larger number, and he chose a smaller number. We see Jesus here discriminating, making a distinction, making differences. The verb translated here as “chose” is the common New Testament word for divine election, for sovereign election—the verb eklegomai. Interesting word, by the way. The root word is lego, which means to say or to speak, to express will and intention through verbal communication. And on the front of that lego verb is the preposition ek, which means "from out of.” It’s prefixed to the front of the verb. The form of the verb itself is in the middle voice. The omai ending is indicative of advantage or for one’s own sake. Now that may be a mouthful, but it conveys the basic idea of this verb eklegomai to express the will through choice, selecting some out of a larger group and for one’s own sake. That’s election. That’s exactly what we see here portrayed in what Christ is doing. He exercises the prerogative, his sovereign choice by choosing these men—not all those others—these men to be his apostles.
He didn’t choose them here at this point in the narrative for salvation. That’s already happened. They are, just like we are, elect from before the foundation of the world, Ephesians 1:4. Their election to salvation had been revealed in the earliest days of Christ’s ministry. All these men had joined Christ in discipleship, as Acts 1 tells us, during the ministry of John the Baptist. Several of these men we were introduced to in John Chapter 1: Andrew, Simon, Philip, Nathaniel. They’d become acquainted with Jesus very early on. Simon got his close friends—business partners—to join them: the sons of Zebedee, James and John. And all of them together were following Christ. That’s half the group right there just introduced in John 1. Luke records how Jesus called them after their salvation, though, into permanent discipleship. In Luke 5:1 through 11, we have the incident of that catch of large fish. Remember that? That was to permanent discipleship. “Leave your nets, drop everything, you’re no longer going to be fishing for mere fish; you’re going to be fishing for me now.”
Here, though, Jesus has stepped it up even further. He’s chosen them, he’s elected them not to salvation, not permanent discipleship, but to this ministry of apostleship. After choosing them, he commenced their training—actually right away. We go right into the instruction on the Sermon on the Mount next in the narrative. That’s the instruction of the Twelve. The training continued with an internship as Jesus commissioned them and sent them out two-by-two in Luke Chapter 9. He’s extending his ministry through them. Their apostleship finally commenced in full measure after his resurrection and his ascension, which is the story of the Book of Acts. It continues. Jesus continues. He continues ministering, in the church, in and through the apostleship of these men. He’s still continuing his ministry through the church, through the apostleship, of these men, which we unpack every single Sunday and all through the week through the Word. It all started here, though, with Jesus’ sovereign choice.
He confirmed their selection again here after the departure of the false disciples in John 6. Peter had said in John 6:68:
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.”
Remember how Jesus responded? Affection, loving affirmation, reaffirming his choice in a voice of fondness and deep love and affection. He says, “Did I not choose you, the Twelve?” Keep in mind that Jesus chose these twelve in the presence of other disciples. What’s that about? Well, he’s discriminating, isn’t he? He’s making a difference between them. He chose these men to be his apostles, not other men. Not everybody has the right to be an apostle. Did you ever meet a modern day apostle? You know they are lying. And you can tell them that. “Hey, I’ve read Luke 6. You’re not listed.” Like the other offices in the church, apostleship is an office that is granted by Christ. It’s not taken by anybody who wants it. It’s significant here that Jesus made this choice publicly. He did it in front of other disciples. He’s letting all of them know that these men—not others, but these men—are his apostles. The publicity isn’t just about promotion, about getting the word out. It’s also about the necessary accountability that such a public decision provides. There are no questions. Everyone knows who’s in charge. Everyone knows who Jesus did and didn’t choose as an apostle. They can all go back to that one day, and in case we miss it, it’s written four times. These are the apostles. Messengers of Satan insinuated themselves into the early churches as false apostles. All they had to do is say, “Wait a minute. Your name’s not on the list.” It became a matter of public record.
So the public nature of his choice was important, but there’s a third word here in verse 13. Just quickly. Jesus called, then he chose. Third, Jesus “named.” And that’s not just an expression of sovereignty; it’s an expression of authority and ownership—the superior, the one in authority names the inferior, the one in submission. It’s the right of the one in authority, the superior, the maker, the master, the owner—it’s his right to name what he owns, what he made, what he created, what he instituted. Jesus said in John 13:16, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger.” That word “messenger” is the word “apostle.” An apostle is not greater than the one who sent him.
So providence drove Jesus to prayer. Prayer drove Jesus to elect. And this election to apostleship leads to a fourth point, very quickly—the revelation of divine mystery. From that very morning that Jesus summoned these disciples and then elected and named the Twelve, there were only about 18 months remaining until his crucifixion. So in the rest of Luke’s Gospel, we’re going to be preparing for these men to carry out Jesus’ work until he returns to the Father. This is going to involve instruction—that happened in the rest of Chapter 6. It’s going to involve mentorship, some kind of internship as he sends them out in Luke 9. Preparation, training—it’s going to involve living life together, interpreting things for them, warning them, assuring them, comforting them, teaching them. Listen, that’s the pattern that we all try to follow in developing leadership in the church, too. Same thing. There is so much that Jesus needed to prepare these men to face, and at this point, they have no idea what’s coming. They’re like babes in the woods. They’re weak and vulnerable, weak in faith. They’re vacillating in their commitment. At this point, they have no idea what difficulties are coming, what challenges they’ll face, what persecution they’ll suffer. They didn’t know, at this point, even what this honor meant to be named as his apostles. They didn’t even know what apostleship would mean. They didn’t understand the foundation of the church. They had no idea what a church was. Nor did they know what it would cost. All of them, with the exception of the apostle John, would die as martyrs for the testimony of Jesus—this one who summoned them for apostleship, the one who elected them, the one who named them. If you were to ask any single one of them about the cost, they would all echo the words of the apostle Paul, who said—he, by the way, was “an apostle untimely born,” and he said, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
In Acts 5 when they suffered at the hands of the religious authorities—the Sanhedrin—these very apostles were arrested and thrown into jail and had to stand trial and be questioned and harassed and suffer persecution. They left the presence of the council in Acts 5:41, “rejoicing that they had been counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name of Jesus Christ. Every day in the temple and from house to house, they didn’t cease teaching and preaching that Christ is Jesus.” Hey, apostles, is it worth it? Oh yeah, it’s all worth it. Look, they didn’t know at this point the significance of this calling, electing, naming to apostleship. But they know now. They all know now to a man. What they couldn’t see is their significance of their role as the very foundation of the church, Christ Jesus himself the cornerstone of that foundation, all of them being built, lined up along him. They couldn’t foresee also the longevity of the perseverance of this institution of the church, nor could they see the dominance of it as it spread throughout the entire world.
I know some of you have traveled like I have, and you have been in other church contexts. I sat and listened to “Holy, Holy, Holy” being sung in Mandarin. Beautiful. I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying, but I understand what they are saying. And they open up the Word of God in Hong Kong just like we do. And they preach just like we do from the Word of God. What explains that? It’s Christ seeing a right foundation, building his church that spread throughout the entire earth. It’s dominant. Peter proclaimed in Matthew 16:16:
“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you. Simon Bar-Jonah! Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church [and what?] and the gates of hell will never prevail against it.”
Look, despite every opposition, despite every persecution, despite the maligning, despite the ostracizing, despite all of that, here we are. Is it our own doing? Oh, no! Who of us is sufficient for these things? It’s God’s doing. We’re here because he planned it, he decreed it, he preserved it all the way through so that we persevere. Wherever the good confession that Peter proclaimed—wherever that’s proclaimed, wherever it’s defended—the church stands. We also, here in Greeley, Colorado—we’re a part of that spiritual temple as well, being built to glorify God, the one that Christ instituted here in naming the Twelve, and if we remain connected to that foundation in truth, in right doctrine, in clear understanding and articulation, in proclaiming and defending the truth because the Church is the pillar in the buttress of the truth, we remain connected with this foundation, which is holy, which is divinely instituted.
Let’s pray. Father, we thank you for this special privilege and honor that we have, to see how it all started right here in Luke Chapter 6. We didn’t come to the text intending to discover that;we just found it. We’re grateful that you’ve shown us the truth of this, how the naming of these twelve apostles is the revelation of this reality we know today—that we assume and take for granted today—this reality called the church. We’re grateful to stand in it, to give glory and praise and honor to you in the name of Jesus Christ who bought this church with his own blood. Amen.