©2014 by Charles Strohmer.
At the start of his public ministry, Jesus chose twelve close followers, and most of them were so different that they would never have come together on their own in any sort of initiative. We do not know much about any of them from the Gospels, and some we don’t know anything about. But here are some things we do know.
There were four professional fishermen, a tax collector, a political zealot, a guy who was sort of the “nobody” of the group, a man who held huge doubts about who Jesus really was, and the guy who betrayed Jesus. Some of these guys would have had some pretty serious issues, if not hostility or enmity, with some of the others.
If there is any one thing this motley crew had to get to grips with early on, together, it was that Jesus didn’t start discipling them – his inner circle – by bringing a bunch of friends together. This would have been deliberate on Jesus’ part and disruptive for the disciples. On the road with Jesus, they were now not only away from their old friendships, family, and established careers; they were also traveling physically with the other in their midst, and for the express purpose of learning from Jesus about fleshing out, modeling, the life of the kingdom of God.
Here is why we should grasp this. In these current posts we have so far chiefly been focusing on ways in which Jesus taught his peaceable wisdom among the diverse peoples of ancient Palestine and counseled them to apply it, whomever they were. Stories and incidents in the four Gospels show different responses. Some got the vision and applied it. Some said, That’s interesting; I’ll think about it. And to others it was either foolishness or a stumbling block. At the very least, almost everyone was surprised by Jesus’ way, even if they did not take that wisdom to heart.
Personally, I think many were surprised, if not shocked, by Jesus’ teaching when they understood, and at times saw in action, the shapes of that peaceable wisdom applied, for instance, in family, social, political, or economic life after folk took Jesus at his word and changed how they lived or worked. Jesus called to repentance those whose obedience to attitudes, ideologies, or actions were, through various ways and means, tearing apart the fabric of life. In the four Gospels many, though not all, of the narratives focus on this.
Mind you, Jesus was not putting this on others and not on himself. I think one of the most stunning things that the people of his time saw and learned about Jesus was that he wasn’t a hypocrite. He personally modeled his wisdom, quite publicly, in his own daily actions, from the get-go. It was by bringing together the twelve – with their diverse, and sometimes conflicting, interests and visions; with their grievances, fears, and biases; with their partialities, rivalries, and prejudices – that Jesus first gets everyone’s serious attention about what he is on about. It is the strange witness and potential of shalom amid diversity amid ancient Palestine with all of its strife, conflict, violence, oppression, conspiracies, and everything else that tears at the fabric of life and that has analogies today to which we may find ourselves in obedience.
Jesus deliberately stuck himself with twelve others into an ongoing initiative in which the thirteen of them had to grapple for three years with contradictions, competing interests, misunderstandings, personal issues, perceived lack of parity, and much more. And I haven’t even mentioned, and won’t here, what the twelve must have thought about their teacher at times.
This motley crew of twelve diverse disciples had to learn to get along with each other. No, I did not say that right. It was more than that. They had to understand which values, ideas, and principle informed the choices they made that militated against expressing their diversity among one another peaceably everyday. This wasn’t about uniformity. It was about learn where and how to shake off the bogus stuff and follow Jesus in their diversity but a diversity focused on fleshing out Jesus’ vision of life, which was meant to become their normative public witness amid the cosmopolitan diversity of ancient Palestine. It would change them personally. And it was what Jesus himself, their teacher, was modeling. “A student is not above his teacher,” Jesus said, “but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Of course the twelve failed terribly at times. But Jesus was afterward always showing them what course corrections they then needed to make, if the were going to continue to follow him, Sar Shalom, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Sure, what Jesus was modeling was controversial, and in the next post we will explore some of those narratives.
©2016 by Charles Strohmer
A note from Charles: If you want more of the perspectives that Waging Wisdom seeks to present, I want to invite you to follow this blog for a while to see if you like it. Just click here and find the “Follow” button in the right margin, enter your email address, and then click “Follow.” You will receive a very short email notice when I publish a new post. Thank you.