By Allen White
Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called 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 Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Matthew 10:1-4
Jesus led the first small group in the church. Much like small groups today, Jesus’ group was a mix of very different people. That mix actually made the group stronger.
Matthew was a tax collector. He was about the last person you would expect among other Jews. Tax collectors were Jews who worked for the Romans. They were notorious for not only collecting for Caesar, but also for taking a cut off the top for themselves. On the first meeting of Jesus’ group, there probably was an empty chair on either side of Matthew.
Staring from across the room was Simon the Zealot. If Matthew was the IRS, Simon the Zealot was a Tea Party member. Zealots hated tax collectors. Yet, a Zealot and a tax collector were both drawn to Jesus and joined His group. Talk about small group dynamics.
Then, there were fishermen. When Jesus met Peter and Andrew, they were fishing from the shore. They weren’t pleasure fishing. They couldn’t afford a boat. James and John on the other hand had a boat. Two different classes of fishermen were in the same small group.
Two could have been jealous. Two could have looked down their noses. But, they had Jesus in common. That leveled the playing field.
Thomas was the analytical one. He had to see Jesus’ wounds for himself before he believed the resurrection. Today, skeptical folks are called a “Doubting Thomas,” as his name sake.
Then, there was Judas. You don’t meet a lot of people who name their babies “Judas.” His name has probably been blotted out of the baby name books.
Jesus’ group was an eclectic mix of very different folks. It wasn’t quite the bar scene from Star Wars, but it was approaching that. Yet, different folks from different backgrounds, different political viewpoints and different socio-economic statuses had one thing in common – Jesus Himself.
They learned together. They served together. They are responsible for you and I knowing Jesus today. Because they were special? No. Because they were called, and they learned to share life together.
Some people dread their group because “that guy” might show up. Others avoid groups altogether. But, we are not allowed to leave others in the dust, just because they are difficult. And, that’s a good thing – sometimes we are the difficult one.
You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor (James 3:18, Msg).
Who do you have a hard time with in your group? Why do you believe God put this person in your life? (No, God doesn’t hate you).
Maybe you haven’t joined a group. What’s holding you back? Jesus set the model. His words were important, but so are relationships with other people. People remind us of Jesus’ words. They help us live them out.
Note: Some thoughts inspired by a sermon called “Doing Life Together” by John Ortberg.
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