“One of these must become a witness with us to his resurrection.”
This is a line from our scripture from Acts today. The disciples are beginning to build the early church, to take up their mission and go forward in the spreading of the Good News, now that Jesus has ascended to heaven.
But Jesus began the leadership of the church with twelve apostles, and since Judas’s death, they are down to only eleven. They need someone to replace him, to be a witness as Peter says.
In the crushing tragedy of the crucifixion and the giddy uplift of the resurrection, the disciples have been broken down and remade.
They are actually no longer just disciples; they have become something else.
The word “disciple” means “one who is taught.”
When they followed Jesus on earth, listening to his preaching, seeing his miracles, receiving his instruction, they were disciples, ones who were taught.
But now they have crossed over.
Their personal, visceral experience of abandoning Jesus when they wanted to stay by his side, feeling their hearts break in two when he died on the Cross, and then suddenly knowing themselves to be healed and whole when he came to them, alive again, has changed them forever.
They are no longer disciples, ones who are taught. They are apostles.
The word “apostle” means “one who is sent.”
They have been sent by Jesus to go forward and spread the Good News, to preach liberation to the captives, bind up the brokenhearted, and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
And what does it mean to be an apostle, one who is sent?
How does one qualify for it?
I think although we easily identify ourselves as “disciples,” followers of Jesus who seek to learn from him and imitate him, we think of the apostles as “others,” just the Twelve, big, important, historical people that we have little to do with.
They’re heroes and martyrs, leaders and prophets, bold preachers and architects of the early church.
There were only Twelve of them.
We’re not apostles.
We could never be that great.
And frankly, we don’t really want to.
We’d rather outsource work that hard and that grand to someone else, comfortably far away in a dusty old Bible story.
But I have challenging Good News today: we’re all called to be apostles as much as we are called to be disciples. Continue reading