And He Loved Them Anyway

In my teenage years I started to listen to heavy metal music, one of my favorites being Motley Crue.  At that time, I never thought about names of bands, but I later learned that motley is phrase referencing diversity but it generally has a negative connotation.  I am not writing on a metal band today, but a different motley crew, the apostles.

These men were hand-picked by Jesus and they had some issues.  Of course, only Jesus could manage to bring together a zealot (generally a political assassin) and a tax collector (the favorite target of a zealot).  We do not know much about several of the apostles, but one thing that we do know is how messed up these men were.  We will examine their faults today and reflect on the God’s love on all of us.  Are you numbers among the apostles?

A Friend of Tax Collectors and Sinners

Matthew (Levi) was the author of the first Gospel, but we have very little information about him.  Pretty much all we know is that he was an apostle and he was a tax collector.  But we also know that he was the friend of sinners.  Jesus knew this fact about him before Matthew was called, but we do know that he was a friend of many tax collectors and sinners.  After his calling he held a huge feast for Jesus, and it was this feast that famous moment when Jesus declared that it is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick (Luke 5:27-32).  We know that the types of friends we have will be a great dictator of the type of people we become.  Matthew was able to fill his house with tax collectors and sinners, but as for Jesus…He loved them anyway.

Failing the Test of Belief

Philip was a good friend of Andrew, Peters brother, and they hailed from the same town in Bethesda.  Most scriptural references at least in the Gospel it is clear that Andrew is next to him.  Philip was the apostle whom Jesus asked, “where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat (John 6:5)?”  Philip responds by saying a whole lot of bread would be needed, but this was a test to see how he would respond.  It was Andrew who brought Jesus the fish and loaves that would be spread around the crowd to feed 5000 men and their families.  It is clear by John 14 that Philip still does not understand.  He asks Jesus to should them the father but Jesus directs his reply directly back to him: “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip?”  This apostle did not yet understand the faith that Jesus was teaching, and he loved them anyway.

Drunk with Power

Jesus gave the brothers James and John the nickname ‘Sons of Thunder’ probably because of their forceful desire for converts to their cause (Luke 9:49-50) or else death (Luke 9:51-56).  Maybe they were full of themselves because of being two of the three inner circle that Jesus selected for even more revelation than the other apostles.  Regardless, they came to Jesus with a totally bold request:

James and John, the two sons of Zebedee, came up to Jesus, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your glory (Mark 10:35-37).”

Jesus, of course, turns this idea on its head with His bold clarification to the apostles after they began to look down on these two men.

You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:42-45).

These two men wanted to call down hellfire on those people who would not embrace Jesus and stop people from working in His name because they were not in their little group…any He loved them anyway.

Doubting Thomas

The famous phrase Doubting Thomas is pulled straight from the scriptures as the apostle that doubted the resurrection.  It is deeply ironic that this is also the apostle that will follow Jesus back to Bethany because he believes that certain death will come to them (they did leave Judea because of the high chance of death by stoning after all – John 11:8).  Thomas was also the apostle whom asked Jesus about the way to the father giving us the famous verse, “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me (John 14:6)”.  After the death and resurrection of Jesus, Thomas was not with the disciples during the times with Jesus appeared to them.  Thomas famously said: “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe (John 20:25).”  Jesus makes an appearance to Thomas:

Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus *said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed (John 20:27-29).”

We see that Thomas doubted Jesus up until total evidence was presented to him…and He loved him anyway.

Sifted Like Wheat

The failures of Peter are the most widely known and most occurring in scripture.  Peter is also the only original apostle with a recorded fault after the day of Pentecost (not that we have a lot of specific details about others) by Paul calls him out for looking down on the Gentiles when other Jews were present (Galatians 2:11-14).  Peter is the apostle that received the high of being told that God revealed who He really was to Peter but immediately after a stern rebuke of, “Get behind me Satan! (Matthew 16:13-23)”.  Perhaps the greatest and most significant failure that Peter faced was to deny Jesus.  Though Peter insisted that he would never fall away, it happened exactly as Jesus described:

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me (Luke 22:31-34).

Having arrested Him, they led Him away and brought Him to the house of the high priest; but Peter was following at a distance. After they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter was sitting among them. And a servant-girl, seeing him as he sat in the firelight and looking intently at him, said, “This man was with Him too.” But he denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him.” A little later, another saw him and said, “You are one of them too!” But Peter said, “Man, I am not!” After about an hour had passed, another man began to insist, saying, “Certainly this man also was with Him, for he is a Galilean too.” But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” Immediately, while he was still speaking, a rooster crowed. The Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how He had told him, “Before a rooster crows today, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly (Luke 22:54-62).

Jesus knew that Peter was going to deny Him, and He loved him anyway.

The Love of God

One of the greatest tricks that the Devil plays on us is to convince us that we are not worthy of Christ.  The fact of the matter is just as Jesus knew all of the failures of the disciples, He also still loves them.  He knows all of our failures.  He knows our past, our present, and our future failures…and He loves us anyway.

The great ending of these stories (except for Judas) is to see what happened to them after the Spirit came upon them.  Peter because a bold preacher, John preached in the vary town that he wanted to call fire and brimstone upon.  Thomas believed and Philip taught the Scriptures and faithfully lived a life in Christ.  We are no different if we only set aside our clever scheming and trust in the Lord.  God loves us as we are, but He never expects us to stay that way.

**Footnote – I did not leave out Judas…he has his article here.