June 15, 2017. Safety in Numbers

These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him. (Matthew 10:2-4)

Notice anything about this list? Aside from giving Peter “first place” and Judas “last place”, two important things. First, 3/4 of the disciples are related to each other, and all are named in pairs. Most came from the same town, and all were Galileans. This isn’t a random group of guys set out on the road. They are related or at least known to each other. These are twelve best friends from high school. Their parents know each other, they had sleep overs and got into mischief together. They were bound together before they followed Jesus.

In His “Apostolic” commission (apostelo means “to send” in Greek), Jesus paints a grim scene: persecution, inhospitable towns, violence , vulnerability, and danger. They aren’t even allowed to take “extras” along the way to protect themselves when times get tough. All this is to illustrate the central truth of the passage: relationships and the trust that those relationships are built on will get you through the tough times more than extra money and underwear. (Matthew 10:9-10)

Peter and Andrew are brothers. So are James and John. And James bar Alpheus, Thaddeus and Matthew. That strong bond will carry them through as they do their ministry amongst the wolves. (Matthew 10: 16-17) It is impossible to say what the basis for the other pairings were. Perhaps Jesus saw how they interacted and decided to pair them up on the basis of friendship and compatibility, kind of the way our teachers did for field trips. Sort of an Apostolic BFF.

My conjecture does ring true for the last pair: the “bad boy” apostles: Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot. Both were looking forward to the Messiah, to rid their birthright from Roman filth, and restoring the fortunes of Israel. Instead of separating them, Jesus pairs them up, thereby concentrating their mission. With a shared vision and a common purpose, they could count on each other in times of crisis.

This Apostolic wisdom is relevant for us today. Ministry, especially pastoral ministry, is best done in pairs. One will pick up on what another has missed. Mutual support takes some of the burden of “doing it alone” off. Relationships are the best resources, more than budget funding. The stronger the relationship, the stronger the ministry. Material resources will get wasted if there is no shared and deeply held vision and purpose. In times of crisis, friendships can literally save you. Friends offer protection. You can’t go it alone. If we hold these Apostolic teachings and do them, we can change the world into the Kingdom of God.