Skip to main content

When does a disciple become an apostle?

Matthew 9.35-10.8
Often the terms apostle and disciple are used interchangeably, especially when referring to the twelve men whom Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us Jesus chose to be his first missionaries. However, Luke diverges slightly from the others. For him The Twelve are just the first wave of missionaries and he links Jesus’ challenge to go out and bring in the harvest with the call of seventy missionaries. Are they apostles too? Strictly speaking they ought to be because the word ‘apostle’ simply means ‘messenger’ or ‘someone sent out with instructions’, whereas a disciple is an ‘apprentice’, or someone who 'follows' or 'learns' from their teacher.
Clearly The Twelve, and Jesus’ other followers, started out as his apprentices or students, but at some point on their journey he commissioned many of them to become messengers too. This applies, for example, to Mary Magdalene and even to people who never met Jesus during his earthly ministry. Paul was fiercely determined to insist that he too was an apostle. In fact he liked to think of himself as ‘the last of the apostles’. And that idea has stuck. If you weren’t commissioned directly by Jesus to do something you can’t style yourself an ‘apostle’, but we’re all ‘disciples’.
What if we called ourselves ‘messengers’ or ‘missionaries’? The term ‘apostle’ seems then to be a good description of what all disciples are eventually called to be. We have all received the good news ‘for free’ and we should all be prepared to ‘give for free’. The harvest is still plentiful; the labourers are still few. And Jesus still has compassion on the crowds of people in our towns, cities and countryside. Luke is surely right to see this as a challenge extended to other disciples, and not just to a special handful. Our call is to bring spiritual healing - Matthew calls it ‘a cure’ - to those in need.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

I don't believe in an interventionist God

Matthew 28.1-10, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 I like Nick Cave’s song because of its audacious first line: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. What an unlikely way to begin a love song! He once explained that he wrote the song while sitting at the back of an Anglican church where he had gone with his wife Susie, who presumably does believe in an interventionist God - at least that’s what the song says. Actually Cave has always been very interested in religion. Sometimes he calls himself a Christian, sometimes he doesn’t, depending on how the mood takes him. He once said, ‘I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it.’ But his lyrics often include religious themes and he has also said that any true love song is a song for God. So maybe it’s no coincidence that he began this song in such an unlikely way, although he says the inspiration came to him during the sermon. The vicar was droning on about something when the first line of the song just popped into his head. I suspect …

Giotto’s Nativity and Adoration of the Shepherds

John 1.10-18
In the week before Christmas the BBC broadcast a modern version of The Nativity which attempted to retell the story with as much psychological realism as possible. So, for instance, viewers saw how Mary, and Joseph especially, struggled with their feelings.

But telling the story of Jesus with psychological realism is not a new idea. It has a long tradition going back seven hundred years to the time of the Italian artist Giotto di Bondone. This nativity scene was painted in a church in Padua in about 1305. Much imitated it is one of the first attempts at psychological realism in Christian art. And what a wonderful first attempt it is - a work of genius, in fact!

Whereas previously Mary and the Baby Jesus had been depicted facing outwards, or looking at their visitors, with beatific expressions fixed on their faces, Giotto dares to show them staring intently into one another’s eyes, bonding like any mother and newborn baby. Joseph, in contrast, is not looking on with quiet app…

Why are good people tempted to do wrong?

Deuteronomy 30.15-20, Psalm 119.1-8, 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Matthew 5.21-37 Why are good people tempted to do wrong? Sometimes we just fall from the straight and narrow and do mean, selfish or spiteful things. But sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re still good people even though we’re doing something wrong. We tell ourselves that there are some people whose motives are totally wicked or self-regarding: criminals, liars, cheats, two-timers, fraudsters, and so on, but we are not that kind of person. We’re basically good people who just indulge in an occasional misdemeanour. So, for example, there’s Noble Cause Corruption, a phrase first coined apparently in 1992 to explain why police officers, judges, politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and so on sometimes get sucked into justifying actions which are really totally wrong, but on the grounds that they are doing them for a very good reason. A famous instance of noble cause corruption is the statement, by the late Lord Denni…