The Training of the Twelve

I would like to begin with a question: At the ascension of Jesus were His twelve disciples adequately prepared to fulfill their kingdom mission?

It is interesting to me that when Christianity starts a new church or wrestles with a ministry question, we usually turn to the book of Acts and the Epistles often overlooking the four Gospels. Yet it is in the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John that we find the account of Jesus training His twelve disciples to advance the kingdom of God. This is not to say that the other New Testament books do not contain essential truth for us today, but it is in the Gospels that we learn what it means to be a follower of Jesus and where Jesus demonstrates for us how to make followers of Jesus.

Church planters and missionaries have studied and restudied the book of Acts and the Epistles to learn how to start and build churches in order to reach their communities with the good news of Jesus. What I propose is that we broaden our study with a fresh look at the gospels as a guide to kingdom ministry today.

The answer to my original question I believe is yes. Jesus trained his men perfectly, and they were prepared to fulfill the mission entrusted to them in a complex pagan Roman world. The disciples did not wait around for 10 years for Paul to show up and give them further direction for the advancement of the kingdom.

Here are a couple of action points I am pursuing:

  1. We should study the four Gospels for what Jesus taught, how He trained and how He did ministry.
  2. If I could interview any of the twelve disciples, what would their counsel be for me for ministry based on their training from Jesus as seen in the Gospels?

7 thoughts on “The Training of the Twelve

  1. LC,

    I, too, think they were ready, although I would wonder if they thought that about themselves. I also agree with you in that we need to study the model Jesus gave us with the twelve. As one who is sending out others to make disciples I have seen so much in the model Jesus left. I look forward to your posts on this pursuit and a continued dialogue on what it looks like to make disciples of all nations…


  2. Lewie,

    Wouldn’t it be necessary to say that the 12 disciples (-1 Judas, +1 Matthias) were not prepared to fulfill their kingdom mission until they received the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost?

    Otherwise, your thoughts are provocative, as always. Perhaps we become guilty of reading the gospels as “the coming of the kingdom,’ but Jesus was very much building the kingdom as well. He was doing exactly what he commissioned us to do.

  3. I would agree that the Holy Spirit was a necessary component for the success of the mission. I should have mentioned it.

    You brought up Matthias-I have wondered what training he and other non-12 disciples had from Jesus.

  4. Lewie,

    You said “I have wondered what training he and other non-12 disciples had from Jesus.”

    They certainly would not have been loved by Jesus as Jesus said he loved the Twelve. I wonder if Jesus ever even had the chance to call them friends. They would have likely had to receive these messages after the resurrection, after the ascension, or even after Pentecost.

    But on the other hand, Jesus’ message that the 70/72 were to go out preaching was not merely a “salvation” message. It was the message of God finally establishing his kingdom on earth and cleansing the people of all things unclean. This message certainly would have pointed the 70/72 and their hearers back to the Torah. The Torah contained God’s instructions on how to live in peace, generosity, purity, and love with one another. In short, how to live like the kingdom of God. Match this “kingdom message” with Jesus’ bold assertion that the second greatest commandment is “like the first: to love your neighbor as yourself,” and I think that the peoples around Jesus (even outside the 12) would have come to grasp that Jesus was ushering in a sustainable fulfillment of the Torah way of life…the kingdom way of life.

    It seems to me that Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is not that much different than Exodus-Deuteronomy laws of how to live in community. Once people were reminded of the true Spirit of the law, were given the hope of success via a coming kingdom, Messiah, and Last Days, and were subsequently given the power of the Spirit to fulfill the law of love, then they were likely well equipped for the advancement of the kingdom, whether or not they had much face-time with Jesus.

    Regarding discipleship, I can only assume (somewhat safely) that prior to stories of Jesus’ intimacy with the Twelve, the average 1st century guy and gal would have been somewhat familiar with the discipleship models of rabbis, philosophers, and master-apprentice relationships. If they knew that Jesus had his own disciples, they might likely have automatically responded in kind. Then when they found out some juicy details of how Jesus’ model of discipleship was specifically superior, they might have tried to adopt his Way.

    Despite the grumblings of some people over the early church, it appears that many early followers were involved in marvelous loving, friendship-based discipleship (the Jesus Way) until the mid-second century. Unfortunately, partly due to the Gnostic problem, around that time the emphasis shifted away from community and discipleship to catechism and teaching.

    What do you think? What do you think Jesus spent time talking about to his larger following in the days between the resurrection and the ascension?

  5. Brandon,
    I agree with you thoughts and you ask a good question.

    It is interesting to me how Jesus waited until the last night before his crucifixion to give instruction about the disciples love for one another-their community. Why does He wait until the last night? He also prays for their unity that same evening.

    After the ascension/Pentecost the larger disciple community loves one another/cares for one another/prays together.

    So, after the resurrection did He give further instruction about their community/love for one another?

    We do know on the road to Emmaus Jesus taught some of His larger following concerning Himself beginning with Moses and all the Prophets (Luke 24)—So, we do know Jesus did teach His larger following after the ascension. I guess the question we may never be able to answer is, what did He teach?


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