In most paintings Christ and the disciples are depicted as bearded middle-aged men, pious, boring. Perhaps painters were trying to make them holy. The images, though beautiful to look at, don’t bring out the subjects’ personalities.
The truth about the disciples? The twelve men in Jesus’ inner circle ranged in age from fourteen to thirty-something, John being the youngest and Peter the oldest. Most were fishermen but Luke was a physician, Matthew a tax collector and Simon, a political zealot. Not one was rich or famous.
Jesus’ interest in people never hinged on their popularity, the balance in their bank accounts, physical beauty or education. He looks into hearts and sees the real person, as He did with Nathaniel. After Philip met Jesus he found his friend Nathaniel taking shade under a tree and invited him to meet Jesus. When Jesus saw them coming, he said of Nathaniel, “An Israelite who has no guile.”
Do you know me?” asked Nathaniel.
“Before Philip called you I saw you under the fig tree,” Jesus answered.
This impressed young Nathaniel so much he said, “You must be the Son of God!”
Were the disciples all as perfect in heart as Nathaniel? We know that Judas wasn’t. But the others had flaws too. James & John were nicknamed the sons of thunder by Jesus for their stormy personalities. Peter was often driven by emotion to speak before he thought and Thomas doubted Christ’s resurrection.
Jesus spent much of his three years of public ministry teaching these imperfect young men because He looked beyond their flaws and saw what they would become after they received the Holy Spirit, passionate followers of Christ and devoted messengers of the gospel.
Catherine Marshall tells how she worried about her son Peter’s lack of interest in Christian matters. “No more of that Sunday school stuff for me,” he told her and went off to university. After graduation he attended a conference of Christian athletes mainly to rub shoulders with some of his favorite players. These young athletes spoke with passion about their faith. By the fourth day of the conference, Peter Marshall made a personal commitment of his life to Jesus Christ.
“It’s an awesome thing when you meet Jesus for the first time,” he told Catherine after the conference. He had met the real Jesus, a living person, the Son of God, not a religion-clad bore. He felt the vibrancy of true Christianity, the joy, the action.
Jesus left His message in the care of an unpredictable group of young men. All but one, John, died as a martyr. Not one would’ve died for a moldy religion. They sacrified themselves because the Savior of the world meant more to them than anything else.
Are you looking for spiritual passion? You’ll find it in Jesus.