Who would be apostles today?

Jesus with the apostles. Image courtesy of pixabay.com

Jesus departed to the mountain to pray, and he spent the night in prayer to God.

When day came, he called his disciples to himself, and from them he chose Twelve, whom he also named Apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called a Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Up until this time in Jesus’ ministry there was little organization. He was an extremely popular itinerant preacher and teacher that increasingly attracted crowds from far away. At this point you have two classes of people, the crowds and the disciples. The crowds came to hear him, but a growing band of followers trailed him wherever he went. These were called “disciples”. If the movement was to grow and mature, Jesus must choose leaders.[1]

All Night in Prayer on the Mountain (Luke 6:12)

If you’ve ever been a manager, you know that one of your most difficult and important tasks is hiring the right employee for key positions in your organization. When mistakes are made here — and they are far too often made — they are extremely difficult and expensive to repair. Sometimes they can deeply hurt the organization for years to come.

Luke records, “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God” (6:12). Neither Matthew nor Mark mention this all-night prayer session. But Jesus’ prayer life is one of Luke’s themes; we will see Jesus’ example of prayer again and again in Luke. Luke uses a Greek word here that is used only once in the New Testament: dianuktereuo, “spend the whole night.”[1] It was vital that Jesus hear the Father correctly in this matter. An error could cause disaster.

Disciples and Apostles (Luke 6:13)

“When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles” (6:13) Notice the distinction Jesus makes between disciples and apostles. Jesus has many disciples, but he only selects twelve to be designated apostles. We see later that Jesus appoints 70 others for a preaching mission (Luke 10). It is important that we see that the apostles are being selected from a considerably larger group of followers.

While “disciple” means “learner, pupil, devoted follower,” the word “apostle” means something different. Our English word “apostle” is a transliteration of the Greek word apostolos, “ambassador, delegate, messenger,” from the verb apostello, “to send away or out.” These men are designated apostles because they are given a particular commission or set of orders. “The Great Commission” was given first to the apostles, and then, by extension, to the Church they established. Often the New Testament refers to these twelve apostles as “the disciples,” but there is a distinction we need to keep in mind: disciples are learners and followers; apostles are disciples who have been given a particular commission.

I think that a number of Christian leaders in history would fit this definition, for example, St Patrick (who evangelized Ireland), St Francis of Assisi, and St Ignatius of Loyola. Who would be apostles today? I would place Pope Francis in this category.

Fr Michael Smith SJ
Richmond Catholic Parish

[1] Source:  http://www.jesuswalk.com/luke/016-apostles.htm

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