Sermon title: “CLERGYMEN, SCHOLARS OR FISHERMEN?” Matthew 12:1-14
Immanuel Baptist Church – April 15, 2018
Since the beginning of December
we’ve been going through the Gospels
looking at everything Jesus said and did
in the order of those events.
And the section we’re looking at today
is very important
because it includes the part
where Jesus selected his Twelve Apostles.
It’s a very important passage,
because the Twelve Apostles
make up the foundation of the Christian Church,
resting on the chief foundation cornerstone,
In Revelation, Chapter 21, the Apostle John sees a vision
of the Church, the bride of Christ,
as new Jerusalem.
And in Revelation 21:14 he says
14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations,
and on them were the names
of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
The Apostles are the ones Jesus chose
to take his message to the world.
Who would he choose?
One might think that the chief priests in Jerusalem
would be a logical choice.
They served at God’s temple.
They were the leaders of the Jewish people.
Would Jesus choose them as Apostles?
they are NOT the ones he chose.
And, what about the religious scholars and teachers?
They were experts on the Scriptures.
They knew the Scriptures about the coming Messiah.
Would he choose them as Apostles?
It might seem logical.
they are NOT the ones he chose, either.
Instead, Jesus chose
what might appear to be a motley crew:
at least four fishermen, a tax collector,
and some other ordinary men
from small towns in Galilee.
Before we look at the twelve he chose,
let’s see why he didn’t choose
the scholars and religious leaders.
We can see this in this morning’s responsive reading
in Matthew, Chapter 12.[ OPEN ]
This passage shows the religious and intellectual leaders
were arrogant and self-righteous.
They rejected Jesus and his teachings.
Beginning at Matthew 12, Verse 1, we read,
1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields
on the Sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.
2 When the Pharisees saw this,
they said to him,
"Look! Your disciples are doing
what is unlawful on the Sabbath."
3 He answered, "Haven't you read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry?
4 He entered the house of God,
and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread--which was not lawful for them to do,
but only for the priests.
5 Or haven't you read in the Law
that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?
6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.
7 If you had known what these words mean,
'I desire mercy, not sacrifice,'
you would not have condemned the innocent.
8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath."
So, when the disciples grabbed handfuls of grain to eat
as they walked through the grain fields,
the Pharisees considered that
to be harvesting and threshing grain—
work forbidden on the Sabbath.
But that was according to their tradition
and their rabbinical law, written by their rabbis.
It didn’t say that in God’s Law.
Jesus showed that their traditions
actually ran counter to God’s Law.
Mark 2:27 tells us Jesus also said,
"The Sabbath was made for man,
not man for the Sabbath.”
God gave Israel the Sabbath law
to benefit people—to give them rest—
not to tie their hands
and trip them up
with all sorts of petty regulations.
But that’s what the Pharisees were doing.
Then, continuing at Matthew 12:9,
we see another example
of the bad attitude of those religious leaders.
9 Going on from that place,
he went into their synagogue,
10 and a man with a shriveled hand was there.
Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?"
11 He said to them,
"If any of you has a sheep
and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath,
will you not take hold of it and lift it out?
12 How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath."
13 Then he said to the man,
"Stretch out your hand."
So he stretched it out
and it was completely restored,
just as sound as the other.
14 But the Pharisees went out
and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
Why did they want to kill Jesus?
Because they were jealous.
It wasn’t that they wanted to enforce God’s Law.
It was that they were jealous of Jesus’ following,
and they wanted to keep
their own hold over the people.
The parallel passage at Mark 3:6 tells us,
“Then the Pharisees went out
and began to plot with the Herodians
how they might kill Jesus.”
So, this proved the Pharisees
were not really zealous for God’s Law.
The Herodians were the political followers of Herod
who worked closely with the pagan Roman occupation forces.
The Pharisees would normally avoid Herodians,
but they were so eager to kill Jesus,
that they “began to plot with the Herodians.”
That was hypocrisy on their part—besides being downright evil.
So, it becomes clear
why our Lord did not choose his Apostles
from among those hypocritical religious leaders,
scholars and teachers.
If we continue in Matthew, Chapter 12
and look one verse beyond
what we read in our responsive reading,
Matthew 12:15 tells us Jesus escaped their plot:
15 Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place.
Many followed him, and he healed all their sick,
16 warning them not to tell who he was.
And Mark 3:8 tells us where this crowd came from.
“When they heard all he was doing,
many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan
and around Tyre and Sidon.”
Judea and Jerusalem were Jewish areas,
but those other places were Gentile lands:
Idumea, the regions across the Jordan, and Tyre and Sidon.
The Bible uses interchangeably
the expressions “Gentiles” and “nations”
because the word “Gentiles” means
nations aside from Israel.
So Matthew Chapter 12 goes on to tell us at Verse 17
how this was a fulfillment of prophecy
that non-Jewish Gentiles from the surrounding nations
would turn to Jesus.
17 This was to fulfill
what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 "Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
19 He will not quarrel or cry out;
no one will hear his voice in the streets.
20 A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he leads justice to victory.
21 In his name the nations will put their hope."
So, Christ didn’t come
just to be the Jewish people’s Messiah.
He came so that people of the nations would put their hope in him.
And that includes us today.
But, despite the fact that Jesus preached and performed miracles
in the sight of the religious leaders of the Jews,
and their rabbinical scholars.
they showed their hearts to be hard
and unreceptive to him and to his message.
They conspired to have Jesus put to death.
So, when Jesus chose Twelve Apostles,
he obviously wasn’t going to pick them
from among the religious leaders.
He chose fishermen and a tax collector
rather than clergymen or scholars.
But the first thing Jesus did
when it was time to choose twelve Apostles
was to turn to his Father in prayer.
And that sets an example for us,
that prayer should be our FIRST resort
in everything we do—
not our last resort when everything else fails.
We may think to ourselves,
“I can handle this!
I’m intelligent and capable—so why pray?”
But Jesus didn’t approach it that way.
He was the Son of God.
He had created the universe.
He knew what was in the hearts of men.
Still, he turned to the Father in prayer
before selecting his Apostles.
And, as we read the account in Luke Chapter 6, [ OPEN ]
we’ll see that our Lord spent the whole night
in prayer to the Father.
It was important, so it took a lot of fervent prayer.
Jesus didn’t just say to himself, “I can handle this.”
He spent the night in prayer to his Father.
Luke, Chapter 6, beginning with Verse 12, says
“One of those days
Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray,
and spent the night praying to God.
When morning came,
he called his disciples to him
and chose twelve of them,
whom he also designated apostles:
Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus,
Simon who was called the Zealot,
Judas son of James,
and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.”
Simon Peter was a fisherman—
a successful businessman in the fishing industry.
His parents named him Simon.
Jesus called him a rock,
and so gave him the name “Peter”—
from the Greek word for “rock.”
or “Cephas”—from the Syrian language word for “rock.”
Jesus knew Peter would be firm, steadfast, unmovable—
solid in his faith—like a rock.
He was also energetic, enthusiastic, a natural-born leader
who often acted as spokesman for the Twelve.
Tradition tells us Peter was crucified in Rome.
And that he insisted on being crucified upside down,
thinking it too great an honor
to be killed in the same manner as his Lord.
Andrew, Peter’s brother,
was his partner in their fishing business.
Church tradition says
that he traveled and preached the Gospel
in the lands that we today call
Turkey, Greece, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.
By the way, that was 500 or 600 years
before the Muslim invasion—
before Mohammed invented Islam.
Countries like Turkey accepted the Gospel
and became Christian countries
centuries before they were conquered
by Islamic armies.
The two sons of Zebedee, James and John, along with their father,
were also partners in the same fishing business
with Peter and Andrew.
Mark 3:17 tells us that
Jesus nicknamed these two brothers, James and John,
“Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder.”
An incident in Luke Chapter 9
seems to be the reason for that nickname,
although we don’t really know for sure.
In Luke 9, beginning at Verse 52,
it says that Jesus
sent messengers on ahead,
who went into a Samaritan village
to get things ready for him;
53 but the people there did not welcome him,
because he was heading for Jerusalem.
54 When the disciples James and John saw this,
"Lord, do you want us to
call fire down from heaven to destroy them ?"
55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them,
56 and they went to another village.
That seems to be why Jesus called James & John “Sons of Thunder.”
James was killed very early-on by King Herod.
Acts 12:1-2 tells us,
“It was about this time that King Herod
arrested some who belonged to the church,
intending to persecute them.
He had James, the brother of John,
put to death with the sword.”
James was the first of the Twelve Apostles
to die a martyr’s death for the faith.
James’s brother John apparently lived the longest
of all the Apostles.
It was in his old age
that he wrote the Gospel of John.
He also wrote the three letters
that we call 1st, 2nd and 3rd John.
John never compromised the faith.
He boldly preached the Gospel
and the message of the coming judgment.
As a result, the Romans persecuted him and put him in prison.
John was a prison inmate
on the penal island of Patmos—
which was like the Roman version of Alcatraz.
He was a prisoner there
when God gave him visions of heaven
and of the end times,
and John wrote down those visions
in the book of Revelation.
While Jesus was on earth,
Peter, James and John were especially close to him.
They formed an inner circle.
Jesus took Peter, James and John with him
to witness the Transfiguration
when he spoke with Moses and Elijah.
And Jesus took Peter, James and John with him
when he went to pray alone in the Garden of Gethsemane
just before he was arrested.
Philip had a Greek name,
and that may be why some Greeks
who wanted to see Jesus
approached Philip to introduce them.
But Philip was a Galilean Jew
from Bethsaida, the same town as Peter and Andrew.
Tradition has it that he later traveled
to areas that are now part of modern-day Turkey
and preached the Gospel there.
Bartholomew appears to be the surname of Nathanael.
He was the first one Philip led to Christ,
although he was originally skeptical
when he heard that Jesus came from Nazareth.
Nathanael Bartholomew was from Cana in Galilee.
So, that may be why Jesus and his disciples
attended a wedding feast there,
where Jesus turned water into wine.
According to tradition,
Bartholomew preached the Gospel
in a number of foreign lands,
including the territorywe know today as Persia or Iran.
Again, that was hundreds of years
before the Muslim invasion.
Matthew Levi was the tax collector we spoke about last week.
When the Lord called Matthew from his tax booth,
he left everything behind to follow Jesus.
Like other tax collectors
who worked for the Roman occupation
Matthew had become wealthy.
He immediately gave a huge banquet
for Jesus and his disciples,
inviting his tax-collector friends
and other Roman-sympathizers
who the Jews viewed as sinners.
Jesus attended so that he could call them
to repent and be saved.
Thomas was a twin,
but we don’t hear anything about his twin brother.
Thomas himself seems to have been
brooding, gloomy and skeptical in his outlook.
He was the last one of the Apostles
to accept the fact that Jesus rose from the dead.
And so, we get our expression “doubting Thomas” from him.
But, once he came to believe,
he was zealous in preaching the Risen Christ.
Tradition tells us that Thomas
preached the Gospel in Syria, India
and the land we today call Persia and Iran.
We don’t know much about James the son of Alphaeus.
Some scholars see him as related
to Mary the wife of Clopas,
who witnessed Christ’s crucifixion.
And some see him related to one of the two disciples
Jesus appeared to on the road to Emmaus.
Tradition says he preached the Gospel
in the Promised Land and in Egypt.
Simon the Zealot was apparently a member
of a very nationalistic sect—
the very opposite of Matthew who worked for the Romans.
But that’s all we know about him.
Judas son of James was NOT Judas Icariot.
He is the one also called Thaddeus and Lebbaeus.
Tradition says he preached the Gospel
in the lands we know today as
Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
The Aramaic-speaking Christian churches in Iraq today
trace their founding
to the ministry of the Apostles Thomas and Thaddeus.
The last of the Twelve Apostles is, of course,
who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver.
He was from the town of Kerioth in Judah,
the only one of the Apostles not from Galilee.
And John 6:64 tells us
that Jesus knew from the beginning
that Judas Iscariot was the one who would betray him.
So, these are the ones our Lord chose
to be his witnesses,
and to carry his Gospel to the world.
What sort of men were they?
At least four of them were fishermen.
One was a tax collector.
We don’t know the occupations of the others.
But they appear to be ordinary men—
not Jewish priests or scholars.
The risen Christ later called to himself
scholarly, educated men
like the medical doctor Luke who wrote the Gospel of Luke,
and the Pharisee Saul Paulus,
who became the Apostle Paul.
But these Twelve
seem to fit the description we find in Acts 4:13[ OPEN ]
when the high priest
and other religious leaders
interrogated Peter and John
before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court.
Acts 4:13 says,
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John
and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished
and they took note
that these men had been with Jesus.”
So, our Lord Jesus surrounded himself
with ordinary men and women.
And the inner circle of the Apostles,
the three Jesus was closest to,
were three fishermen—Peter, James and John.
That should encourage us today.
God isn’t looking for us to get a degree in theology,
in order to draw close to him.
He is just looking for sincere, humble hearts.
Each of us needs only to look to Jesus as our Savior,
and turn over our lives to him as our Lord.
He will supply the rest.