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The mission of the Twelve

Gospel Reading: Lk 6:12-19
Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God. When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured. Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.

Rising opposition means that Jesus must organize his followers. His selection of the Twelve (vv 12-16) is a preparation for the mission to come (cf 9:1-6; 10:1-12) as well as an anticipation of his future departure in death.

Three facts dominate the list, along with its parallels: 1) Peter is always first; 2) the first four are Peter, Andrew, James and John (though sometimes in different order); and 3) there are three groups of four, with Peter, Philip, and James the son of Alphaeus leading each group. Peter is a key figure. He often speaks for the disciples and takes a key role in the group. His brother Andrew is hardly discussed outside the lists. The sons of Zebedee, James and John, complete the initial group and the sequence of four fishermen. In the second group, Philip is mentioned separately only a few times in John. Bartholomew may well be the same person as Nathanael of Jn 1:45, since many Jews had two prominent names. Matthew is probably Levi, the tax collector. Thomas is the disciple who will have to be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection (Jn 20:24-29). In the third group, we know very little about James the son of Alphaeus. Simon the Zealot was a political nationalist before meeting Jesus. He may have hated Matthew, who as a tax collector represented the despised Roman state. Judas, not Iscariot, may be the Thaddeus of other lists. Judas Iscariot will become infamous by his betrayal of Jesus.

Jesus’ choice of the Twelve shows the grassroots character of his ministry.

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SOURCE: “366 Days with the Lord 2016,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail: books@stpauls.ph; Website: http://www.stpauls.ph.