If I were choose my team to conquer the world, I’d be looking for intelligent, affluent people with good looks, organizational ability, great communication skills; and I’d be looking for a blend of youth and experience, an ethnic and gender mix; and I’d probably want to throw in musical aptitude and a capacity to connect with a younger generation. When I begin to think like this, two points strike home to me. First, I wouldn’t pass my own selection process! Second, I don’t think I’d have ever selected the team JESUS did!
I’m always amazed by the way Jesus managed to find a bunch of misfits like the disciples to the change the world. He got Matthew, a tax collector for the Romans, to work alongside Simon the Zealot, who wanted nothing more than to damage to anything Roman! He transformed a bunch of fishermen to fishers of men. He used the hotheaded Peter and the equally thunderous James and John to bring peace into people’s live.
One small, seemingly significant phrase help us understand how the disciples changed from fear to faith, from confusion to courage, from misunderstanding to ministry. In Acts 2 we read the familiar passage about the Holy Spirit coming down from heaven on the day of Pentecost:
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. – Acts 2:1-4 NIV
Without getting drawn into too much theology, I want to focus on the simple words ” as the Spirits enabled them.” It’s these words that help us understand how the disciples were transformed into world changers. God’s presence was upon them, and he gave them the power and the ability to carry out the Great Commission.
Andrew preached in what we now call Bulgaria and Georgia and died on a cross in a Greek colony. James the brother of John preached in Judea and was beheaded, while John himself was exiled to the island of Patmos and wrote his gospel. Tradition has it that Thaddeus preached to all of Mesopotamia and was killed by arrows, and after writing his gospel, Matthew was crucified in Alexandria, and Simon the Zealot became the second bishop of Jerusalem. The first bishop was James the beaten to death. Nathanael preached in India; Philip preached in Turkey, while both Peter and Thomas ended up preaching to about five significant people groups each, before being killed for their faith.
Now the ending of all those disciples maybe quite frightening but the point is this: God never calls you to a task or a mission without equipping you to carry it out. The Holy Spirit will enable you.
Just as the good news of Jesus didn’t end with Jesus, it also didn’t end with disciples. It carries on with us today – we are no less charged with the Great Commission than were those first followers of Jesus. They weren’t simply spectators, and neither are we. We are called to serve and to share and to bring the light into a dark world. At times we may feel daunted and ill equipped; often we will be tired and discouraged; occasionally we may believe we have little to other or have been disqualified from the task; but because the Holy Spirit enables us, we can rely on the power of God and not on our own feelings or abilities.
But when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, you will receive power and will tell people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. – Acts 1:8 NLT