Who? Exactly! In every generation, the church is made up of those who find themselves for one brief moment in the spotlight: numbered with those destined to shake the world. Sharing a room, a place, a time, with people whose names will be on everybody’s lips when theirs has been forgotten. Thaddaeus was such a man. Why should we care? Because Thaddaeus stands for that great class of believers, the unknown, unremembered majority, who arrive, do what they are supposed to and slip away unnoticed and unrecorded. Yet they matter! You ask why?
1) Because they are called by God - Math. 10:3
Thaddaeus was not the first, nor even the second, to be called by Christ personally. That distinction belonged to Peter and to his brother Andrew. He was not third nor even fourth – that would be James and his brother John. Truth is, Thaddaeus was not fifth, sixth, seventh or eighth. He was in fact tenth! Only Simon (‘the zealot’) and Judas came after. Peter at the head, remains known as the archetypal leader. Rough-hewn, impulsive, reckless both in loyalty and betrayal, his success and his failures are equally headlines. And Judas, at the tail: known and noted as dramatically and unforgettably as Peter; though for quite a different reason.
Ask anyone who they remember among the apostles; if it be only two, it will be Peter and Judas. Those a little better informed will think of James and John who left the family business to follow Jesus. Or even Mathew, the tax-collector who left a lucrative if suspect business opportunity, to do the same. But Thaddaeus? Thad-who?
There are those who have attempted to describe a history for this man. Some believe they can trace his life as a Bishop in or around Syria. Certainly the Bible includes no reference to his acts or influence on the emerging church.
Yet the same Jesus who called Peter and James, called Thaddaeus. The circumstances of it are not discussed; we do not know his family, or his profession – if he had one. But this unknown, un-described man was one of only 12 to be sought-out personally by Christ; for the beginning of his ministry. As such he was undoubtedly a key part in his plans. We don’t know what he left to follow, but we do know he followed. He stood with eleven others as Jesus imparted to this small group of ordinary men, an extraordinary gift and an extraordinary purpose. Called by name and given authority to cast out demons and to heal every kind of disease and illness. Thadadeus went out with the others as a personal emissary of the Messiah. (Math. 10:3-5).
2) Because they matter to God – Mark 3:10-19
Mark gives us clearer insight into what lies under the surface.
i) ‘…Jesus called the ones he wanted to go with him…’
ii) ‘…and they came to him…’
iii) ‘Then he selected twelve to be his regular companions…’
iv) ‘…calling them apostles…he sent them out to preach…’
v) ‘…and he gave them authority…’
vi) ‘These are the names of the twelve he chose…’
This man mattered to God – he wanted him! God mattered to this man – he came to him! He too was an apostle – the unknown apostle. We don’t know where he went. Did he stay in Jerusalem after Pentecost? Was he forced to go on the run with the others on whom such bitter persecution fell and who were ‘scattered’? If so, did he end up in some small provincial town or village, far from the hub of everything? Did he spend the rest of his life as a travelling preacher – helping and encouraging the new believers to hold on to faith and righteousness in a world bitterly hostile to both?
We know that he was sent out to preach. That he carried the gospel. Not just its words, its power. Because when the apostles returned from their highly effective mission, all returned in a state of enthusiasm, wonder and joy at what had followed their preaching. He was given power from God to achieve what God intended. This man was once a somebody and yet no-one ever heard of him again!
3) Because we need to be reminded of something
There are two important lessons to be learned here. One for ourselves and one for others. For ourselves, we should understand that it isn’t who we are remembered by, which is the measure of our worth. Jesus knew this man. Loved him, called him and trusted him. That makes him of immense value, even though no-one knows for sure where he lived or how he died. There are no books about him, but his life is written into the Lamb’s Book of Life and that is what counts.
For others, we should learn never to measure people by what is known and told about them. Not any people, but especially God’s people. Some lives catch the sunlight and God is honoured by what is clearly seen in their righteous and influential living. Others are called differently and spend their lives quietly in the shadows. The depth and strength of their love and commitment to God and his ways only to be told when this life is over and the books are opened.
When so much of our culture is driven by appearance, the child of God more than ever must judge neither by what they hear or by what they see, ‘but with righteousness’ (Isaiah 11:3).
You may be a Peter, a John, or a James. But if, like most of us, your name is Thaddaeus, remember that you are in the same company and called to the same high purpose, though they are known and you are unknown. In a hundred years it won’t matter whether anyone remembers what you and I did. In a thousand years, it won’t matter whether we were famous or obscure. It will always matter that He called us and we came. When eternity opens before us, it won’t matter if no-one else knows our name. It will only matter that He does.