The Mission of the Twelve (Luke 6:12-16)

The Mission of the Twelve

12 In those days he departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.

13 When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named apostles:

14 Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew,

15 Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot,

16 and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus has been preaching the kingdom of God and healing all over Judea, and the truth he preaches is powerful and attractive.  By now, many followers, that is, disciples, cling to Him.  A disciple is someone who is a student, or follower of a teacher, or master.  However, what differentiates discipleship form an ordinary student is that a disciple follows so completely that he re-orients his life to the doctrines of his master.  One of our most common prayers could be “Lord, grant me the grace to desire to be your true disciple.”

From this group of followers, Jesus is going to select twelve to be apostles.  The word “apostle” means one who is sent, or one who is commissioned by another to represent him.  Eventually, the apostles will represent Christ in a special way.  Indeed, Jesus will later say to his apostles “whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me.” (c.f. Lk 10:16)

We can be confident that by now, Jesus knows his disciples pretty well.  Nevertheless, he isn’t going to just name twelve guys to be his apostles.  Again we see Jesus as a perfect model of prayer. Jesus retreats to a place of solitude and spends a long time in union with The Father.  Much of the time, when we pray, we ask God to give us things – we put our petitions before the Lord.  But it might be interesting to note that the Greek word used here for “prayer”, proseuchomai, more accurately means an exchange of wishes or ideas.  The notion of exchange is essential to prayer.  Jesus doesn’t just ask the Father to give him something.  In essence they have a conversation, but not necessarily in words.  This conversation can be in wishes and ideas as well as words.

Now we have to notice, Jesus has carefully chosen his disciples, and prayerfully selected his apostles.  And yet, Judas Iscariot, His betrayer is among the twelve.  How did that happen?  Why didn’t the Father, in prayer, tell Him to skip Judas Iscariot and select another?

It’s true that God will sometimes help us to avoid the experience of evil in our lives – that is, He gives us divine protection – there are times when he will instead give us the grace to be sanctified by the evil that befalls us.  That is, bad experiences and evil in our lives cannot always be avoided.  But in the great love that God has for us, He will use the bad things, the evil, as an instrument of grace.

It’s my personal belief that Jesus and the Father did have an exchange of ideas or wishes regarding Judas Iscariot.  Moreover I believe that exchange was oriented toward the love of Judas and the good of mankind.  In my humble opinion, their exchange was not centered on anything that would lessen the trials Jesus would endure.

We would do well if our response to this pericope is to ask the Father for a better understanding of prayer.  We can do this by prayerfully reflecting on the night that Jesus spent praying to His Father.


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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