These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means Sons of Thunder); Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
The university that I attended is renowned for the diversity of its students. We had a great number of students from overseas; I was fortunate enough to befriend people from Spain, Finland, Poland, the USA, Canada, China, and even Yorkshire. And that was just in the Christian Union! At CU we had people whose parents were multi-millionaire businessmen, police officers, lawyers, shop workers, postmen and more besides. We were a very diverse lot indeed. Had we met anywhere else, we would probably not have been friends. We were, however, and that was due in no small part to a mutual love for Christ, and an awareness that he loved all of us too.
What strikes me when reading through this list of Jesus’ twelve apostles is the diversity of the people he picked to serve him. Particularly noticeable is the fact that a Zealot numbered amongst Jesus’ closest followers, and also Matthew, a tax collector. We’ve met Matthew before in Mark’s gospel, and have seen how he was regarded as a traitor to his people, since he collected taxes for the Romans, the occupying forces. Yet Simon the Zealot was also amongst the apostles; Zealots were vocal, and often violent revolutionaries who wanted to overthrow the Romans. One would not expect Simon and Matthew to get on particularly well, and yet they lived and worked together serving Jesus. They were able to put aside their differences because they shared a love of Christ, and an awareness that he loved them too.
Jesus’ apostles were a diverse band of people, yet he called them all and he loved them all. There is not a “Christian-type.” Jesus calls us all to share in his love for us, no matter who we are, where we are from, or what we do. He also shows us that it is possible to put our differences aside and love each other.
Let’s try and be a little more loving in the days ahead.