We’ve noticed that Jesus changed the world by setting an example for others, having an extraordinary relationship with God, and growing the kingdom of God by helping others, telling the good news of the kingdom and teaching others about the kingdom. It is also important for us to recognize that he equipped the twelve to do these same things. The training of the twelve was an indispensable part of how he changed the world because it provided for the continuation of his mission after he left earth.
Mark tells us, “… he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons” (3:14-15). The reasons mentioned here for appointing the twelve include preaching and casting out demons, which correspond to two of the specific aspects of his ministry (see previous post). I’m not sure if the omission of teaching from this list was coincidental or due to their not yet understanding the nature and way of life in the kingdom well enough to teach others about it. Regardless, there is a third reason mentioned here for which Jesus appointed them. It is an important reason, but one that is easy to miss. He appointed them that “they might be with him” (3:14).
- Spending time with the twelve was a key component in how Jesus trained them. They learned much about what they were supposed to do by spending time with and watching their leader and Lord. We already noted Jesus’ example was a powerful part of how he changed the world, not the least due to the effect it had on the apostles.
When Peter and John, uneducated fishermen, stood up to the wealthy, powerful Sanhedrin and courageously proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ whom the Jewish leaders had condemned, those leaders were astonished. The text goes on to say that the authorities recognized that Peter and John had “been with Jesus” (Acts 4:5-13). When ordinary uneducated people spend time with Jesus they can be transformed into people of tremendous courage and power.
Likewise, when James and John first followed Jesus, they were angry and reactionary enough that he nick-named them “sons of thunder” (Mark 3:17; cf. Luke 9:51-56). But after “being with” Jesus for three years, James was transformed into a leader willing to die for his faith (Acts 12:1-2) and John into the apostle of love (so called because of how much he talks about love in his writings). Setting the example and showing the apostles what to do were vital ingredients in Jesus’ equipping of them.
2. Jesus also literally empowered the twelve for their mission. He gave them authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal disease (Matthew 10:1). Later he would empower them with the Holy Spirit as well (Luke 24; 49; Acts 1:8). By virtue of the time, teaching and relationship they shared with Jesus, they were also empowered in the modern, emotional sense of becoming strong and confident.
3. Another important aspect of Jesus’ training of the twelve is that he gave them much instruction. You can see this throughout the Gospels. Matthew 10 is an especially important example because there he taught them specifically about continuing his mission. After underscoring the need for workers (Matthew 9:35-38), Jesus instructed the twelve (Matthew 10:5 and the whole chapter) and sent them out as workers (10:10). This leads to another key part of the training.
4. Jesus involved the twelve in actually doing what he was training them to do (Matthew 10). In keeping with the description of their calling in Mark 3, Jesus sent them out to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven was near (Matthew 10:7) and to heal and cast out demons (Matthew 10:8). Jesus trained them through “classroom instruction” (#3) but not just that. He also involved them in “practical application” (#4).
Jesus equipped and prepared his apostles to continue his work in the world through his example, empowering, instruction, and involving them in actually doing what he wanted them to do. They would never be above him, but he prepared them well enough that they could become like him (Luke 6:40). He then commissioned them (see previous posts), and they went out into all the world, continuing to change it like he did.
It is important to notice that Christ’s followers imitated him not only in doing good, preaching, and teaching, they also imitated him in equipping others. For example, Paul invited Timothy to accompany him (cf. “be with him”) on his missionary journey (Acts 16:1-5). He empowered him both literally (2 Timothy 1:6) and emotionally (1 and 2 Timothy). He gave him much instruction through those same two letters, and he regularly involved him in actually doing the work he was training him for (Acts 17:14-15; 19:22; 1 Corinthians 4:17; 2 Corinthians 1:19; Philippians 2:22; 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 6). Paul extends this principle to yet another layer when he urges Timothy, likewise, to take what he had learned from Paul and entrust it to other faithful followers who could then teach others still (2 Timothy 2:2).
As I look back over forty-plus years of ministry, some of the times I feel best about are those times when I intentionally gathered a few people for a short term (3-12 months) focus on growing in a particular aspect of the faith. Those training opportunities always included “basic training” in living the life we are called to, plus whatever specific area we were focusing on, such as leadership or evangelism. They would also always include the four aspects of how Jesus equipped the twelve: being together so we could rub off on each other, emotional empowerment to do what we were focusing on, much instruction, and practical application of what we were discussing. My current ministry of Empowering Subjects seeks to follow Jesus’ example of equipping as well.
Unfortunately there have also been plenty of times when I got away from training people, due to busyness, discouragement or distractions. Any of us who serve as church leaders, need constant reminders of our calling to “equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:11-12). It is one of the primary purposes for which we were given our leadership roles.
What is your church doing to people to continue Jesus’ mission and ministry where you are located? Who are you personally training to be like Jesus and to continue his mission in some specific way? If we want to change the world like Jesus, we will make time to equip people like he did.