In my head I know things. For instance, I know that God is all-powerful and all knowing. I know it because this is what I was taught in those long-ago days when I confidently knew that heaven was simply a tiny round golden-domed room floating high in the sky. It had a small open doorway and God lay on His tummy there, head sticking out far enough so He could look down and track what was going on down here below. I worried in those days how He kept His clothes clean, laying on the floor like that so much. I remember pestering someone with that question; however the reply escapes my memory.
But in spite of knowing in my head that He knows what He is doing, I find that in my heart I question things. I question His choices of people. I heard a phrase once that stuck in my mind. “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” Indeed? Why pick on the Jews here? Rather, why did He choose me? Speaking of an odd choice: I still find myself glancing over my spiritual shoulder to make sure He meant me rather a better person in the background when He beckoned, “Come unto Me.”
They were a motley crew, those original twelve, that’s for sure. I wonder how fishermen smelled in those days before hot showers, myriad choices of soaps and shampoos and deodorizers, automatic washers and closets full of fresh clothes? I have dealt with fish enough to know they tend to leave their mark.
A tax collector!? Was he scrupulously honest and well liked? And a person so full of doubt that he didn’t even believe what he saw with his own eyes?
Surely there were those around with better self-presentation and higher reputation. Maybe with better people skills as well. (You know. . . . Self-effacing folks with strong reflective listening abilities.) A little imagination while reading the gospel accounts indicates that the twelve might have been a bit unruly and antagonistic toward one another. Surely John annoyed Peter, especially with his certainty that he was the “one whom Jesus loved.” Hadn’t John’s primary caregiver taught him better than to exalt him self ahead of others? I wonder if satan tried to convince Jesus to question His choice of intimate followers? (“Aw…get real! Look yonder at that handsome holy-looking guy in the prayer shawl . . . .)
But God knew. Jesus trusted and obeyed, divinely confident that the leadership He had received was the one He had sought. It didn’t happen at once, but the disciples grew, “precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10 NKJV.) Jesus was able to say to His Father in the final hours leading up to the crucifixion, “Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12 NKJV.)
Over time, the motley crew became transformed. After Jesus had ascended, they prayed together with others in an upper room until the Holy Spirit fell upon them. Then under the leadership of the Holy Spirit they set out to change the world, to spread the Gospel they had learned, to fulfill their destiny, and to fulfill our destiny as well.
My dictionary defines a disciple as one who subscribes to the teachings of a master and assists in spreading them, or an active adherent, as of a movement or philosophy. We, too, learn precept upon precept and line upon line, a little bit at a time. Carefully and patiently He schools us and corrects us. He deftly shapes us into disciples.
Are we a motley crew? Pretty much. We cry out with Paul, “Oh wretched man that I am!” Then we look to the scriptures. We are encouraged because we know that when the “disciple ship” sails we are on board, cleansed by His blood, healed by His stripes and filled with His spirit. We are ready to serve, with or without earthly credentials.