©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. If there is any one thing this motley crew of disciples learned early on from Jesus it was to include the other in their midst.
Here is why we should consider this. In these current posts we have so far chiefly been focusing on ways in which Jesus taught his peaceable wisdom in ancient Palestine and counseled people to apply it. Stories and incidents in the four Gospels show different responses. Some people accepted Jesus’ wisdom and applied it. Some said, That’s interesting; I’ll think about it. And to others it was either foolishness or a stumbling block. And almost everyone was at the very least surprised by Jesus’ wise words, even if they did not take them to heart.
But what we see taking place with Jesus in ancient Palestine is not just about other people. For Jesus personally modeled his wisdom, quite publicly, in his own daily actions. Now those actions themselves surprised people. I don’t think they were surprised because they expected the teacher to be a hypocrite. I think they were surprised, even shocked at times, to see what the shapes of that wisdom would look like if applied in family, social, and political life. It challenged the normal shapes of things in Palestine. It did not square with their own wisdom – their own ways of seeing life and living in it.
It is by his choice of the twelve, with their diverse, and sometimes conflicting, interests and visions, that Jesus starts to get everyone’s serious attention about the shape of his peaceable wisdom – across the spectrum of life. The strange witness of shalom amid diversity starts in ancient Palestine with Jesus and the twelve.
Jesus deliberately stuck all thirteen of them into an initiative in which the group had to grapple for three years with its contradictions, competing interests, misunderstandings, personal issues, perceived lack of parity, and much more. And learn to live with it. No, I did not say that right. It was more than that. The twelve had to learn wisdom for expressing their diversity peaceably, everyday. It would change them personally. And it was meant to become their normative public witness amid that cosmopolitan diversity – for that 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).
And it went on from there, full speed ahead. After assembling the twelve, Jesus continued not just to teach his peaceable wisdom but to personally model it. And it was almost always controversial. We will explore some of these narratives in the next post.
©2016 by Charles Strohmer
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