The Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

(If this Sunday is the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, read this devotion in the morning, and the devotion entitled, “The Sunday Before the Season of Lent” in the evening, under this same tab.)

Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16

The Foundation of the Church

These parallel passages from Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us the names of the original twelve apostles.  One might think this a humdrum passage of Scripture to stop and ponder, but we really should.  One of my purposes in writing these devotions is to correct popular misunderstandings, and I hope to do that here.  (By the way, Thaddaeus = Judas the son of James.)

We note that Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus went up to a mountain to pray, and continued so all night to God; in other words, Jesus saw this as a critical decision.  By now he had quite a following.  People from all over pressed in upon him, many probably for their own purposes.  We know that he had already chosen Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew, Philip, and Nathanael.  But now he decides to fill out this chosen band with five more, making twelve, the significance of which was that there were twelve tribes of Israel.  In other words, Jesus is (not so much replacing as) fulfilling the Old Testament, as the old covenant was the type of the new reality to come.  On these men, Christ would build his new people, his Church, these men being the foundation and he himself the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20-22).  Upon them, he bestowed immense authority.  Here, it is to cast out demons, heal, and preach the gospel. In John’s gospel, he breathes upon them the Holy Spirit who would declare the conditions of forgiveness according to the revelation given them by Christ (John 20:21-23).  The Apostle Paul, chosen afterwards, makes clear that he received the gospel “through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11-12).  These were the ones Christ “sent out.”

I write this because we have in our day those who may be called, “red-letter Christians”: they think that if Jesus didn’t say it, then it doesn’t matter (unless, of course, it matters to them).  Jesus said to his disciples just before his crucifixion, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth” (John 16:12-13).  In other words, Jesus didn’t say it all when he walked the earth; it was left to the Holy Spirit to fill out the rest.  And the rest is what Jesus would have said, for Christ goes on to say, “He will not speak on his own authority,” and “He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (16:13-15).  And that is what these men proclaimed and recorded in those writings called the New Testament.  The Church has always viewed the separation of the apostolic writings from the gospels as heresy, and the separation of the Old Testament from the New as well.  These men are the indispensable foundation upon which the Church of Jesus Christ was built and lasts.

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