It all started with the simple question, “Teacher, where do you dwell?” and the equally simple invitation, “Come and see.” And with that simple invitation Jesus began to assemble the eclectic group of eyewitnesses who would eventually testify to His sacrificial death AND His subsequent resurrection as well as all that He had taught them.
They were, as I said, an eclectic collection of individuals. The inner-circle of twelve would include not only older men like Peter, but also mere youths like young John, who was but a teenager. They would come from vastly different political persuasions too. Simon the Zealot was part of a militant group bent on driving out the Roman occupiers and bringing back David’s united Israel. While on the other end of the spectrum Judas, the man from Karioth and the only true Judean amongst the Twelve, favored the status quo, with the administration of the Roman rule done through the Temple system albeit backed up by the ever-present Roman army. Their occupations were different too. While several had been fishermen, at least one had been employed as a publican (the proverbially hated tax collector). Temperament was all over the map from the impetuous nature of Simon Peter to the youthful storminess of James and John (whom Jesus nicknamed “Sons of Thunder”) to the never-ending skepticism of Thomas. Yes, the Twelve Apostles were all very different from one another, but Jesus used them all as His witnesses and as His appointed representatives.
But looking beyond that inner-circle, the group of eyewitnesses was even more eclectic. For Jesus even recruited women (as well as men) as His disciples something that was not only controversial at the time, but was downright scandalous. We’re told that a group of women even travelled with Him, and provided for Him out of THEIR resources at a time when women didn’t have resources, but were expected to be entirely dependent on the men in their lives. And Jesus even commissioned one of those women, Mary from Magdala, to carry the message of His resurrection back to His male disciples, who were all in hiding on Easter morning. While many of His followers were plain, ordinary, common folk, others had rather checkered pasts. Some had been demon possessed, others prostitutes, while still others had been unscrupulous business people, even embezzlers. But eclectic as the group was Jesus touched each of their lives and changed them, and then called them all to be eyewitnesses of His resurrection of His life beyond the bounds of death. Paul says the group was large, numbering more than five hundred.
Now Jesus had a teaching style that was unlike what we usually use today. Rather than starting with a long series of lectures, He first had people simply follow Him, to see what He Himself was doing. Then He would intersperse their watching with some explanation. And when He thought they were ready, He would send them out for a test run of what they had learned, each time bringing them back to tell the stories of how it had gone for them. And then, when He had them prepared, He was “handed-over” to the powers of the world (according to the plan of God, the Father) and submitted to a sacrificial death and on the third day, rose from the dead!
It was from the testimony of this eclectic group of eyewitnesses that the good news of Jesus’ sacrificial death and His resurrection began to flow out, giving hope and new life to all who believe it even to us! So, how do WE keep the fire burning for the generations yet to come?
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