Messengers for the Master, Part 2 (Matthew Sermon 36 of 151)
October 06, 2002 | Andrew Davis
If you would take your Bibles and open to Matthew Chapter 10, we'll be looking again this morning at Verses 1 - 4. We are moving out across the whole New Testament to try to understand who these twelve men were that the Lord chose and how He chooses to work in them. The context of Matthew 10 is Matthew 9, an understanding of the fact that Jesus is setting up a kingdom, and that kingdom has not finished its conquering work. We pray in the Lord's Prayer, "Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." There's still a journey to be traveled. We see in this text a connection between the end of Chapter 9 and the beginning of Chapter 10. At the end of Chapter 9, Jesus looks out over the multitude, He sees all of these people, and His heart goes out in compassion to them. He sees that they're harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd, and He is moved with compassion for them, concerned about their needs.
Prayer Alone is Not Enough
His first call is to his disciples and He says to them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out laborers into His harvest field." The first call from our Lord is that of prayer, a prayer for laborers for the harvest field. At the end of chapter 9 we go right into chapter 10, and right at the beginning it says that Jesus called His 12 disciples to Him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. Then in verse 2, these are the names of the twelve Apostles. We see the movement from disciple to apostle which is a special call that He was calling these twelve out to serve Him in a significant way. Then in verse 5 Jesus sent these twelve out to do a great work. From the Greek word for “sending out”, “Apóstolo”, we get the word apostle. These two actions come together-the intercessory prayer, the concern, the compassion for the harvest, but then the need to go out. Prayer alone is not enough.
This example from the life of shows this. Martin Luther was trained in an Augustinian monastery. He pursued a legal righteousness through the monastic rules and regulations, and eventually came to a saving knowledge of justification by faith alone, freedom from all of that legalism, the very thing that many of you are learning in the Book of Galatians. [By the way, eventually Luther married Katie von Bora. You're not supposed to marry if you're monk or nun, she was a former nun, they came together. And he loved her, he loved the Bible too, he loved the Book of Galatians and he called the Book of Galatians, my Katie von Bora.] He loved the book of Galatians and he understood justification by faith alone, he understood the Gospel. He felt led by God in a mighty way to lead the German nation in reformation. He had a friend, an Augustinian monk who's there with him, and who said, "I'm going to be with you every step of the way through prayer. If you ever have a need, if you ever need anything, come and tell me and I will pray for whatever you're going through." He did and they maintained a close relationship. As Luther was out debating, as he was writing, as he was preaching, as he was confronting the force of evil, as he was moving out, this man was step-by-step with him, by faith and prayer. Who can say what was wrought in the prayer closet? There was a great bond between them, but one day Luther came and met and said, "I'm about to face this debate, and I need prayer." Luther looked at his friend and said, "What's the matter?" His friend said, "Well, I've had a dream and it's shaken me up." He said, "Tell me about it." He said, "Well, I dreamt last night that I saw a vast harvest, a huge, huge harvest, and in the middle, there was one man working and I looked and I didn't understand where the other workers were, and then as I moved in in my dream, I saw it was you, and I realized I can't just pray anymore. I will keep praying for you, but I must go out and teach and preach and minister as you are." The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. It's not enough merely to pray. Jesus calls these twelve and He sends them out.
One of the things about the Christian life that you're going to see after you have come to faith in Christ, after you're justified by faith through the simple belief in the saving work of Christ that God lays before you two almost infinite journeys, overwhelming journeys. One of them is internal and one of them is external. The internal journey is a journey called sanctification, a growth in holiness, where he takes somebody who's living like a pagan, a sinner, and moves them gradually, step by step, dealing with sin, convicting them, shaping them, molding them, like the hands of a skilled potter shaping the clay, until they are more and more like Jesus. That process will not be perfect in this world, but he's working it in us. Alongside that is an external journey, a journey of the Gospel ministry, that we should take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth from Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, even to the utter most parts of the world.
There are two overwhelming journeys. One of them is symbolized by Matthew 5:48, "Be perfect therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect." The other one, a clear command, "Preach this Gospel to all nations and to every creature." What's so incredible is in the text that we're looking at and in Christ ministry, we see the two come together. Our sanctification occurs in the context of the Gospel ministry that he calls us to do. You can't just sit in a monastery and hope you be sanctified, you’ve got to get out and be active, you've got to get out and work, you've got to do the ministry that God lays before you. Neither can you do the ministry without growing in holiness and sanctification, the two go together. We see the shaping and the molding of the twelve; it's part of His plan. Christ called these twelve disciples and designated them to be Apostles. They had a unique role, and we talked about that last time, the strategy of Jesus Christ. They were sent out to proclaim. We saw the centrality of the proclamation of the Gospel: Faith comes by hearing, by the hearing of the preached message, people are going to be saved. He's sending these twelve out to preach the Gospel of the kingdom.
Lessons from the Master’s Men - the Apostles
We see Him delegating the ministry of reconciliation. He knows that his time on Earth is short, so He's going to delegate the work of the church, the work of the Gospel ministry to sinners. That's His strategy, He's going to shape them, and He's going to send them out. The twelve Apostles have a unique role in all history. None of us have been called on to fulfill that role, namely that there were eye witnesses of Jesus' physical life, His incarnation life here on earth, eye witnesses. They wrote down their testimony in the New Testament which we have today. On the basis of that foundation, the church is advanced, the Gospel is built on the foundation with the Apostles and prophets with Christ Jesus Himself [Ephesians]as the chief cornerstone. This is the unique role of the Apostles.
We're going to zero in and try to understand who these twelve were and what were their specific areas of weakness. We're going to look at their sin, because you think, "How can I be useful to God?" It's one of the things that immediately cuts off the work that God wants to do in your life. He wants you to use your gifts. He's given you gifts, spiritual gift, He's given you opportunities day after day. We are His workmanship, His masterpiece, like He's a master craftsman, He's shaping you. We're His masterpieces, “ His workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” [Ephesians 2:10.] Every day you've got some good works He wants you to do. But then Satan begins to accuse you, he begins to tell you that you're not worthy, you're not up to it, you're too sinful, you're too weak, God could never use someone like you. Have you ever felt that temptation inside yourself?
If you look at the Apostles, their story is not one of glorious strength and majesty, is it? We're going to look at the twelve sins of the twelve Apostles. I'm not trying to talk them down, they were Godly men, but they were weak, and they were frail. Yet God took that inferior clay and made fine pottery with it. That's what God can do. We see the twelve apostles, not alabaster saints or marble saints, not perfect people, but rather sinners saved by grace and then used in a mighty way to turn the world right side up for Jesus Christ.
The Humility of the Apostles
Let's look at some lessons from the Master's men. The fact is that they were humble, ordinary men. There was nothing unusual or special about the twelve of them. In the Book of Acts, Chapter 4, Peter and John, going up to the temple at the time of prayer seen in Chapter 3, heal a man, and they're hauled up in front of the Sanhedrin to give an account for the healing. They are convicted, and they're going to have to give an answer for being Christians, and it's amazing what happens. The Apostle Peter stands up, filled I think with the Holy Spirit, overpowered with the strength of the Holy Spirit, and says, "Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." What a bold statement to make, absolutely fearless.
In chapter 4:13, the next verse, "When they saw the courage of Peter and John, and realized that they were, un-schooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took notice that these men had been with Jesus." “Un-schooled” means, they didn't enroll in our seminaries. “We checked the registrations and they were never there. We never trained them theologically. Where did they get this knowledge?” They got it from the Master, they got it from the best seminary instructor ever, Jesus Christ, the Word of God. They were un-schooled, they weren't trained in the Pharisaical seminaries, they were ordinary men. The Greek word used for ordinary here is “idiotes”, from which we get the word “idiot”. They were common everyday ordinary men. They were “idiotes”, ordinary people that God chose and shaped and molded, and as a matter of fact, God delighted in doing this kind of thing. He delights in taking ordinary people and conquering a world with them. He delights in taking regular sinners like us, saving them by grace and then sending them back over the wall of Satan's kingdom of Hades, the gates of Hades will not prove stronger than it. We're supposed to be going up over those gates. Who does He send over those gates? Ordinary people. Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:26 and following, put it this way, "Brothers think of what you were when you were called, not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were influential, not many were of noble birth, but God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of the world, and the despised things, and the things that are not, to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in in Christ Jesus."
God loves to choose ordinary people and do extraordinary things through them. Tertullian, the early apologetic master of the Latin speaking world, was debating with Romans who thought that the church was lowly and below them as Romans and Tertullian conceded the point. He said, in all actuality, most Christians are slaves. But God delights in taking slaves, common people and overturning perhaps even the Roman Empire in three centuries with His power. That's the power of God.
The Authority of the Apostles
We see also the order and the authority of the Apostles. In Mark 6:7, it says that Jesus called the twelve to Him and sent them out two by two, and gave them authority over evil spirits. You see also in Verses 2-4, a pairing up for witness: Peter and Andrew were paired up, James and John were paired up, Phillip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, James and Thaddeus, Simon and Judas. There's a structuring here for ministry. We also see in Verse 2, the word “protos” which is first connected with Peter. "First Simon, who is called Peter," the word “protos” indicates that he's the first, he was the leader of the twelve. We're going to talk more about Peter in a moment, but this is not an accident. In every list of the twelve Apostles, given throughout the New Testament, Peter is always listed first. He was their leader. In the same way Judas is always listed last, because he was the traitor. Every time Judas is listed in any of these lists, he's always mentioned as one who betrayed Jesus or as the traitor.
But then even deeper, there's a structuring and ordering here that you can only get if you look at all the lists and put them side by side. This is the work of New Testament commentators. They show us that in the ordering, there tends to be three groups of four. The first four are always together in their group, the second four are always in their group, and the third four are always in their group. The first group is Peter, John, James and Andrew, with Peter the leader. Peter's always listed first in that group of four. The second group is Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew, and Philip is always listed first in the second group of four. The third group of four is James, Thaddaeus, Simon and Judas, and James is always listed as the leader. There is a structure, a hierarchy even within the twelve. Everything in Christ kingdom is order. We also see the possibility of some family ties here. Peter and Andrew were brothers. James and John were brothers. If Levi and Matthew were the same person, and most commentators think they are, it turns out that Levi's father was Alphaeus [Mark 2:14]. James’ father was also Alphaeus. Could be that Levi or Matthew and James were also brothers as well? But whether they were or weren't, it's pretty clear that God loves to work along family lines, He loves to work within families. It is so important for Christians to raise up their children in the fear and nurture of the Lord, because God delights to work in Christian households and along family lines.
The Apostles’ Commitment to Jesus
Finally we see how hatred and political ties can be overcome by a greater commitment to Christ. We see that in the juxtaposition of Matthew, the tax collector and Simon, the zealot. A zealot was a member of a political party, who was dedicated to the overthrow of Rome. Matthew was not looking for the overthrow of Rome before he met Christ, instead he was hoping that Rome would go on and on because he was making money off the Roman Empire. Could the two of them naturally have sat down and shared a meal? They would have hated each other. But in Christ, there is unity; in Christ, there's genuine brotherhood. We look at some of the problems in the world today. Is there any possibility of peace and harmony and unity, let's say between Serbs and Croats, or between Palestinians and Jews? There’s a long, long history of hatred in those groups. But as believers in Jesus Christ, Palestinians and the Jews, brothers in Christ, can love each other. It's the only way that that dividing wall of hostility can be torn down.
Description of the Apostles
Let's look a little more closely at each of the twelve. First, Simon Peter. Simon Peter, we know more about than any of the other Apostles. He's very well-written about, we have almost a full character study of this man. Someone said of Simon that He was a “ready-fire-aim” kind of guy. He would speak first and pick up the pieces later. He was often wrong, but never in doubt. You remember when John and Peter ran to the tomb the morning of the resurrection, John got there first and stood and hesitated, a sense of holy fear coming over him, not wanting to go into the place of the resurrection. Did Peter hesitate? Not at all, he went right into the tomb. That is Peter. He was very, very self-confident and that was his greatest weakness. But as one of the twelve he was the greatest natural leader. He was a man full of faith. Ultimately, after his denial of Christ, God put him back together and presented him still as the leader, so that it was he that stood up and gave the great Pentecost sermon, just a short time later. I think about Peter as a symbol for all of the twelve, all of his weakness, all of his sin put on display. In Luke 22, Jesus said to Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan demands to sift you like wheat. But I've prayed for you Simon that your faith may not fail. After when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers." He's been doing that for 20 centuries, hasn't he? If God can use a sinner like Peter, even after a terrible fall like that, he can still use me. The thing about Peter is that he had the boldness to say “never” to Christ four different times. Four times he told Jesus that he was wrong. That takes incredible courage. One time in Matthew 16, after Jesus complements him and says, "You are Peter and on this rock I'll build my church.” Not long after Jesus reveals that He's going to be crucified. Peter takes Him aside and begins to rebuke Him. He begins to rebuke Jesus, the Son of God! Yes, he did. In the text in Matthew 16, "Never Lord," he said, "This shall never happen to you." Jesus turned and said to Peter, "Out of my sight Satan, you're a stumbling block to me." The last time he said "never" was in Acts 10, after He had received the Holy Spirit. A sheet came down with all kinds of animals. “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” What did Peter say? “Never, I've never eaten anything unclean.” “This is not a suggestion, Peter, this is a command. What God has declared clean, let man not call unclean. You have no right to declare the Gentiles unclean.” But this is Peter. It's actually, kind of in a perverse sort of way, wonderful to see him still doing it after the Holy Spirit came. He's still weak, still sinful, and yet God is still using him. He had to be talked into going and ministering to the Gentiles, that is Peter.
His brother, Andrew, was much quieter and not so ready to lead, but John's Gospel shows him constantly, quietly bringing other men to Christ. He actually brought his own brother Simon Peter to Christ. He's a symbol of those unsung heroes from church history who were always bringing people to Christ.
James, son Zebedee, with his much better known brother John, was a fisherman in his father's business, successful enough to employ other men. He was willing to leave his fishing business when Jesus called him. He was willing to call down destruction on the Samaritan City. He was also the first martyr of the twelve, beheaded in Acts 12.
John, we know better than James or anybody, except Peter, also a son of Zebedee, was probably originally a disciple of John the Baptist. God got hold of him and transformed him. He was arrogant enough along with his brother to ask for a place of honor in Jesus' kingdom. “Grant that I might sit at your right and my brother at your left. We don't care right or left, as long as it's us.” He was that kind of prideful person, but when the time came for him to write his gospel, he didn't even put his own name in it. He just consistently called himself “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. God did incredible work in him.
Philip, like Peter and Andrew, was originally a disciple of John the Baptist but left him to follow Jesus. His hometown was Bethsaida. He was the one that called Nathaniel to follow Jesus.Philip had connections to the Greek community. A large number of Greeks came to Philip and it was Philip who brought them to Andrew and Andrew who brought them to Jesus. Philip itself is a Greek name. At the feeding of the 5000, it was Philip who was tested. Jesus spoke to Philip, "Where are we going to find food for all of these people to eat?" Philip failed the test, saying, "Eight months wages wouldn't be enough to feed all these people. I don't have the first idea how we're going to feed them." But it was Philip who answered that, and it was also Philip who said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father and it will be enough for us.” Jesus said to Philip, "Don't you know me? After I've been with you all this time, anyone who has seen me has seen the Father."
It was Bartholomew [many scholars say he was the Nathaniel of John 1, and I think that he was] who said of Nazareth, "Nazareth, can anything good come from there?" He was a straight shooter. He was a true Israelite, said Jesus, in whom there is no guile.
Thomas also called Didymus [that means “twin”], had a twin. We don't know anything more about the twin, but he's famous for one thing, isn't he? Famous for his unbelief in the resurrection, so he is called doubting Thomas. Yet he is the one who makes the greatest confession of Christ in the entire New Testament. The absolute pinnacle of the Gospel of John is Thomas's confession. He had said, “Unless I put my fingers in His wounds and see his wound, I will not believe the resurrection.” Jesus showed Himself to Thomas as an eye witness and said, "Go ahead, convince yourself." And Thomas then said to Jesus, "My Lord and My God." That is the confession every sinner must make in order to have eternal life, and Thomas makes it so beautifully. Jesus said, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.
Matthew, the tax collector, we talked about several weeks ago, and so there's no need to add anything. He was living a life of sin, collecting taxes, and then Jesus called him and he got up and left immediately and followed Jesus.
James, son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus. We know almost nothing about either one of them. They're symbolic again, even, of the hidden unsung heroes of church history. They slipped to the background, we don't know much about them.
Simon the Zealot was willing to befriend a tax collector, willing to be friends with Matthew, to be part of the twelve apostles, willing to give up his hopes for the overthrow of Rome by the sword, and rather contribute to the overthrow of Rome spiritually by the preaching of the gospel. He was transformed by Jesus.
Last of the twelve, always last of the twelve, is Judas Iscariot, because the fact of the matter is he really wasn't one of the twelve, was he? In John chapter 6, Jesus challenges people, saying, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you." And many of his disciples went away at that point. Jesus turned to the twelve and said, "You don't want to go away too, do you?” Peter spoke for all the twelve and said, "Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” Then Jesus said this, he said, "Have I not chosen you, the twelve? And yet one of you is a devil." He was referring to Judas Iscariot who later would betray Him. Judas is not an example of someone who believed and then lost his salvation. He's not an example of a believer who turned away later from his faith. He never believed in Christ, he was always a devil. Specifically I believe Jesus gave him the role of taking care of the money bag because something had to hold Judas there. Jesus wasn't foolish, He gave Judas control of the money bag, and would judge him for his pilfering of it which of course, he did. It seems that money or love for money was the unifying theme of Judas' life. Seemed everything he did was out of love for money. I think he followed Jesus out of love for money. He betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver out of love for money. Eventually, it led to his own death and destruction, his suicide.
Jesus Uses Weak Men to Proclaim His Message
As you look at these twelve, we see their faith. We see their determination to follow Christ except Judas, but we also see their weaknesses, don't we? I went through the scriptures and I found twelve areas of weakness in which they fell apart.
First, ignorance or dull-wittedness, lack of understanding. How many times in the New Testament does it say that they did not understand the parables. They had to come and ask Jesus for special instruction. They didn't understand the miracles, they didn't understand the foot washing, and they certainly didn't understand that Jesus had to die and rise from the dead. They were constantly, it seems, clueless. They did not comprehend what God was doing through Christ.
Second, we see argumentativeness. They were constantly bickering, it seems like they couldn't get along. You would think that apostles would rise above this, but they were always arguing about something. In Mark Chapter 9, as they were coming into Capernaum, Jesus went to the house and asked them, "What were you arguing about on the road?" It seems every time they're arguing they try to hide it from Jesus, "Oh everything's fine Jesus, everything's fine." They're arguing almost always about the same thing, which of them was the greatest. That's why Jesus had to call in the twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the last and the servant of all.”
In Matthew 16, they're crossing the lake, and they start to argue about forgetting to bring bread. This is a very insightful moment, isn't it? “I thought it was your turn to bring bread. I got it last time, it was your turn.” The problem is there's no McDonalds or anything on the other side. That meant they were going to go hungry that day. It was a big deal. They argued, they tried to blame shift. That was the disciples, always arguing.
Thirdly, we see their lack of faith or their unbelief. Over and over, five times in Matthew's Gospel, He calls them "You, of little faith.” They had enough faith to be saved, but they did not have enough faith to trust Him for bigger things. When Jesus was up on the Mountain of Transfiguration with Peter, John, and James the rest of the apostles were down below and a father brought his son to be healed. In John 17, the father comes to Jesus later and says, I brought my son to your disciples, but they couldn't heal him, and Jesus answered this way, “Oh, unbelieving and perverse generation. How long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me.” When the demon is driven out, the disciples came later and said, "Why couldn't we drive him out?" He said, "Because you have so little faith. Jesus had in this chapter, Chapter 10, given them authority to drive out demons. They'd already done it, but this time they couldn't do it because they lacked faith. Over and over, this was a problem.
Fourthly, we see pride and jealousy, repeated arguments over which one was the greatest. The most scandalous of them all was the night before Jesus was crucified. Can you imagine, Jesus is about to die on the cross, He's about to lay down his life, He's going to give them all of that incredible instruction in John 14, 15 and 16, He's going to pray for them in John 17, He's going to love them, and what are they talking about as they walk in that room, which of them is the greatest, they're still arguing about it. Jesus in response took off His robe, put a towel around His waist, got down and washed their feet to show them what leadership in the church was supposed to be like. The context was their arguing over which one was the greatest. Pride and jealousy.
Fifthly, a yearning for power. I already mentioned John and James and their desire to sit at Jesus' right and left. It didn't come from them originally, it came from their mother. The mother came and said, "Grant that one of these sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left." Some of you mothers can relate to this. I want great things, not for myself, but for my sons. Jesus said, "You don't know what you're asking. Can you drink the cup I'm able to drink?" "We can," they said. And Jesus said, "You will drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. Those places belong to those for whom they've been prepared." When the other ten apostles heard about this, they were indignant with these two power-hungry apostles.
We also see over-confidence. The night before Jesus was crucified, Jesus told them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me, for it is written, I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered. But after I've risen I'll go ahead of you in to Galilee." Peter applied, "Even if all of them fall away in account of you, I never will." Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows. You will disown me three times." But Peter answered, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." There is that word 'never' again. “No Jesus, you're wrong about me.” In the next verse the other disciples said the same. They all proclaimed that they would never leave Jesus but they would be with Him. About two or three hours later, they were running for their lives. They were self-confident, they were overconfident, and I think it's demonstrated by the fact that they wouldn't pray in the garden of Gethsemane.
They also had a lack of compassion for the lost. One time when they came to a Samaritan city the Samaritan City would not welcome Jesus in. So the Sons of Thunder, James and John said, “Lord, you want us to call down thunder and lightning on them, destroy the city?” He rebuked them saying, "You don't know what spirit I have." They had no compassion for the lost, not naturally, so they were frequently out of step with Jesus. Parents would bring the little children to Jesus for Him to pray for them and place His hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. They thought Jesus was too important for children. Jesus was indignant with His twelve at that point, because they were out of step with Him, He said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
Worldliness was another weakness. Worldiness means looking at things from the eyes of the world not through eyes of faith. In Matthew 23 Jesus had just finished giving the seven curses — “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites, . . .”and at the end of that, He says, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you. How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing. Look, your house, the temple is left you desolate, for I say you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Then He leaves the temple, and at that moment, the twelve apostles come up to Him and say, "Master what incredible buildings, what great architecture, what incredible stones," worldly thinking. He said, "Do you see all these stones.Not one of them will be left on the other, every one will be thrown down."" They had no idea the significance of what Jesus was saying.
We also see prayerlessness. How many of us can confess to that, that we do not pray as we should. Jesus commanded them in Gethsemane, "Watch and pray." The spirit is willing, but the body is weak, but they couldn't stay awake even for one hour. And that prayerlessness in Peter's case led I believe directly to his denial.
Ad also, cowardice. They were constantly afraid —afraid of drowning in the storm, afraid of Jesus walking on water. They thought He was a ghost. They were afraid at the Mount of Transfiguration. They were afraid to ask Jesus a question, they were afraid to go up to Jerusalem and they were afraid to be arrested with Jesus. After Jesus had been crucified and been raised from the dead, and had appeared to them, they were still in the upper room with the doors locked, for fear of the Jews. They were afraid.
And then finally and most significantly, they rejected the crucifixion and did not believe in the resurrection. Is that not the center of our faith? They could not accept that Jesus, the Messiah, would die on the cross, Peter rebuked Him over that very issue, and none of the others could understand the crucifixion. A dead Messiah made no sense to them even though it was all laid out in the words of the prophets. They were not expecting it, and they could not accept it. Neither could they accept or believe in the resurrection. Some people say, "Why did Jesus not appear to the skeptics after His resurrection, why did He only appear to the apostles?" Can I tell you something? The apostles were the skeptics. None of them believed in the resurrection initially, they all had to be persuaded.
Twelve ways of weakness: ignorance and dull-wittedness, lack of understanding, argumentativeness, little faith, unbelief, pride, jealousy, yearning for power, over-confidence, lack of compassion for the lost, being out of step with Christ, worldliness, prayerlessness, cowardice, rejection of the crucifixion and unbelief in the resurrection, my goodness. And yet, with these, and people like them, Jesus conquered the world. He conquered the world. Do you see yourself in that list of twelve? Do you find yourself in there? Unbelief, prayerlessness, weakness, cowardice, do you find yourself there? That's us. Jesus has conquered the world, but He's not finished yet. There's still work to be done, but don't you see that He's winning? Don't you see that the Gospel is extending to the ends of the Earth? He will complete what He has promised to complete, and He's going to do it through people just like you and me. He's going to shape you and mold you in His school. He's going to work with you, He's going to train you, and He's going to conquer the world through people just like you.
Now what application can we take of this? First of all, be active, get involved in the discipleship, get involved in evangelism, Christ can use any one. Banish forever the sense that you're too weak, too sinful to be used by God. Secondly, be humbly confident, human sinfulness cannot stop Christ's kingdom. God is going to use sinners, just like you and me to advance and our sinfulness will not derail His plan at all. Thirdly, be molded. Look at the cover of your bulletin.Jesus says, "I'm the potter and you are the clay. I know how to train sinners to be perfection under my hand.” But the thing that's fascinating about that is that the potters wheel has to be turning in order to work, right? It's got to be moving, there's got to be activity, there's got to be a context for the shaping of the pot. You must be active in ministry in order to be fully growing and sanctified in your walk with Christ. More than anything pray. The Lord of the harvest will send out laborers, but go and be active using your gifts in ministry and let the Lord shape you.