Small Beginnings (2)
Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons… Mark 3.14, 15
One of the rituals of my childhood was sandlot baseball. The best ball field in the neighborhood was right across the street from my house. Nearly every summer day would find boys gradually making their way to the field, until enough showed up to cobble together a game.
Every game began the same way: two captains were selected, and they would flip the bat. One captain tossed the bat, barrel down and handle up, and the other caught it. Then they would make their way, hand over hand, to the top of the bat. The last hand to fit in was first to choose from the assembled players. He would choose one, then the other captain would choose two, then, alternating, each would choose one until all were selected. Then the game could begin, with the team of the captain who chose first taking the field as the “home” team.
As you can imagine, when the choosing began, captains selected the best players, those who could field, run, and hit, leaving the lesser boys to the end. That only makes sense, right?
So what was Jesus thinking? Here “a great multitude from Galilee” had followed Him to that mountain (Mk. 3.7), utterly impressed by His teaching and works, apparently willing to follow Him anywhere. Then an even greater multitude assembled to Him from Jerusalem, Idumea, the Decapolis, and Tyre and Sidon. Everyone wanted to be on team Jesus!
But instead of making it easy for such a large mass of people to join His movement, Jesus climbed a mountain and selected twelve from the throng that managed to make it to the top.
Some might say Jesus missed a golden opportunity to launch a successful effort. But Jesus works from small beginnings, not big productions.
Jesus’ calling for the twelve consisted of two facets. First, they were to be “with Him.” Go with Him, eat with Him, talk and pray with Him, accompany Him in His work, hear His teaching, get to know Him. For three years. After that, Jesus would die, rise again, and depart for heaven.
There must have been something really special about that “with Him” time, for this seems to have been what these twelve disciples did most of all.
Second, the disciples were to wield Jesus’ power against the presence and effects of sin. Specifically, they were to preach, heal sicknesses, and cast out demons. But as the gospel records show, they didn’t do all that much of this. A brief preaching tour here, a failed attempt at casting out a demon there, and no records whatsoever of their healing anyone. Moreover, they seemed forever befuddled by and slow on the uptake concerning Jesus’ most important teaching, especially when He explained about His ensuing death and resurrection.
These were the kind of guys you choose last, not first. Unless, of course, you’re Jesus.
Nothing has changed
The disciples’ beginnings were pretty small. So inauspicious was the role of the disciples in Jesus earthly ministry that the Jews who murdered their Captain didn’t think it necessary to put them away as well.
But the disciples knew enough to believe Jesus when He taught about the coming Kingdom of God, and to stay with Him, to observe and learn from Him as much as they could.
In his indispensable book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert E. Coleman explains the genius of Jesus’ approach to insuring a far-flung and fruitful ministry after His return to the Father. He chose twelve. He poured Himself into them, bore with their dullness and goofy aspirations to greatness, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, let them share in His work – even though they knew but little success – and loved them, loved them, loved them through it all.
When their moment came, the disciples stepped up to the plate and swung with all their might, and the impact of their at-bat is still clearing the bases today, for they taught many faithful people, who taught others also, and are continuing to do so to this day (2 Tim. 2.2).
You and I don’t seem like the kind of folks the Captain of the Lord’s army would choose in the first round. Or the thousandth. We’re little folks, people so small that not even all our neighbors or co-workers know our names!
But if we will stay close to Jesus, daily increasing in love for Him and His Word, allowing His Spirit to transform us into His image, and being ready to make the most of every opportunity for His Kingdom and glory, we will find that, just when we need it, His power will be at work within us to will and do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2.13), exceedingly abundantly beyond all we’ve ever dared to ask or think (Eph. 3.20).
The Captain has chosen you, just as He chose the twelve. Begin each day with Him. Stay close to Him. Sit with Him (Eph. 2.6) and see the world from His vantage point. Feed on Him and His Word. And go forth daily for His Kingdom and righteousness. Every situation of every day is an at-bat for team Jesus. And, like the twelve, you may strike out or be hit by a pitch. But more often than not, you’ll find the sweet spot in your swing, stroke one over or through the opposition, and move some Kingdom runner along.
Or drive some grateful soul home for Jesus!
1. Why is it important to begin each day in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ? How can you improve this time?
2. A disciple is a learner. As the Lord’s disciples, we are to “learn Jesus” (Eph. 4.17-24). What does this involve? How can you know when you’re learning Jesus (2 Cor. 3.12-18)?
3. We all need to “improve our swing” in order to make an impact for Jesus in every at-bat in life. Where do you most need to improve? What can you do to become a “better hitter” in those areas of your life?
Next steps – Preparation: Review the time you spend being with Jesus each day, from morning to evening and throughout the day. What’s one thing you can do to get more time with Jesus and to improve the time you have with Him already?
T. M. Moore
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This week’s study is part 1 of a 3-part series, The Small Stuff. Each part consists of seven lessons and is available as a free PDF download at the end of the study. In the tag for part 7, we’ll give you a link to download part 1, “Little Things.” Why not line up some friends to study through all three parts of this series?
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission.