On what date did Jesus choose his disciples?
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The disciples of Jesus and the circle of twelve
|Abstract:||The New Testament distinguishes between the sometimes skeptically judged twelve, and the men and women who, in the stories of their encounter with Jesus, become models of the Christian way of life.|
|Published in:||Wiener Kirchenzeitung of March 21, 2004, p. 2|
The twelve apostles: The Gospels tell us how they were chosen by Jesus, what names they were called. Some are still tangible in the stories: there is Peter, the rock, who at the same time has great faith in Jesus and yet denies him three times. There are the brothers James and John, who leave their father and the small fishing company behind to follow Jesus and would like to sit to the left and right of Jesus in the kingdom of heaven. They are called by Jesus "Sons of Thunder". Levi could be named, the tax collector who gives up his disreputable trade, or Philip, who converts Natanael. We only know the names of others. Mark, Matthew and Luke each give us a list of names, while John does not. In the letters of the NT, Paul only mentions the twelve once. In passing, he mentions her as one of the groups to whom the Risen One appeared. But it is precisely this casualness that shows how natural the twelve were for the early Christians. Jesus himself chose twelve disciples as companions. The number twelve symbolizes the tribes of Israel, which God gathers from the dispersion into his new people of God. The kingdom of God begins on earth with the twelve apostles of Jesus.
But they were not undisputed. Paul reports that he was at odds with Peter and James and was not afraid to call Peter's face a hypocrite. Mark goes to great lengths to draw the Circle of Twelve as a group that followed Jesus unconditionally and left everything for him, but did not really understand. Mark even reports that Jesus caused irrepressible horror in them. At the same time, however, they are also the witnesses of the resurrection. With Mark, the disciples become characters for the readers of the Gospel with whom believers of all times can identify well: it is often difficult to recognize Jesus and to understand his meaning for us. Sometimes we may be scared of its power. But ultimately it is believers, with their doubts and limitations, who are called to witness the resurrection.
This mixed, sometimes negative image of the twelve is, however, broken again and again. Figures in the Gospels that show great faith serve this purpose: the woman with the flow of blood, the synagogue ruler Jairus or the centurion under the cross in the Gospel of Mark, Martha and Mary in the Gospel of John, the Samaritan woman or Nicodemus. Luke tells of the women who follow Jesus on the way and of the grateful Samaritan, Matthew of the centurion of Capernaum. Here it is made clear by means of individual fates what concrete discipleship could look like. If the circle of twelve is a sign of the beginning of the kingdom of God, individual persons become figures on which a Christian life plan can be oriented.
In the early Church, the twelve apostles were honored as the first followers of Jesus, but they were also viewed with some skepticism. The quarrel reported by Paul testifies to disagreement among the apostles. Later, bishops consider themselves successors of the apostles because they wanted to connect the tradition of faith with the first eyewitnesses of Jesus. But all believers are called to be disciples. The call goes out to all who want to let their lives grow in grace, blessing and salvation in the encounter with Jesus.
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