The Apostles Are Chosen and Sent
Amen, amen, I say to you;
The servant is not greater than his lord:
neither is the apostle greater than he that sent him.
"For in this is the saying true: That it is one man that sows, and it is another that reaps. I have sent you to reap that in which you did not labor: others have labored, and you have entered into their labors."
By the words, "others have labored" is meant the prophets, who had sewn the seed in the Old Testament, in order to bring men to believe in Christ. This was the end of the law, this the fruit which the prophets looked for to crown their labors. Jesus also shows that He himself that sent the apostles, had sent the prophets before them; and that the Old and New Testament are of the same origin, and have the same design. (St. Chrysostom ex St. Thomas)
"And Having called twelve disciples of his he gave to them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out and to heal every disease and illness. The names of the twelve Apostles are first Simon who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother and James the son of Zebedee and his brother John. Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the publican, James son of Alphaeus and Thaddeus (Jude), Simon the Cananean and Judas Iscariot who betrayed him."
Similar verses are also found in Luke 6:13 and Mark 3:14.
After instructing the Apostles for about two years, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to heal all manner of diseases and infirmities, and to cast out devils, called unclean because of the sinful acts in which they delight and lead men to commit. (Matthew 10:1, Mark 3:15).
Jesus further instructs them to "not go in the direction of the Gentiles, nor enter the towns of Samaritans; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 10:5), as the chosen people of God, the Jews were to be called first.
"Whoever receives you (the apostles), receives me (Jesus); and whoever receives me, receives the one who sent me."
"And he sent them to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick."
"And going forth, they went about from village to village, preaching the gospel and working cures everywhere."
Also found in Mark 6:12.
"This anointing with oil cured all manner of diseases, not by virtue of the oil itself, but through the power given the Apostles by our Lord. The Apostles were not at this time adminstering the sacrament of Last Rites, which was instituted later, but their present action of anointing the sick with oil was a forshadowing of the sacrament to which St. James (5:14-15) refers."1
On their return, the apostles "gathered together to meet Jesus and reported to him all that they had done and taught." (Mark 6:30 and Luke 9:10.)
The Apostles, on a few occasions, were also called disciples, but only because they had been
many things along-side the other disciples. That there were a special group of twelve men whom
Christ chose to have more power, jurisdiction and teaching than the others, is seen in
"And the disciples came up and said to him, 'Why do you speak to them in parables?' And he answered and said, 'To you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given'."
Mark 4:11 -
"He that has ears to hear, let him hear. And when he was alone, the twelve that were with him asked him the parable. He answered and said to them: To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to them that are without, all things are done in parables. That seeing they may see, and not percieve, and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."
Luke 8:9 -
But his disciples then began to ask him what this parable meant. He said to them, "To you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, that seeing they may not see, and hearning they may not understand."
Jesus screened His Divine Mysteries from the ill-disposed and bigoted who listened to the parables and could not understand their meaning. When the Apostles came and said to Him, "Why do you speak to them in parables?" He answered them, because "to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" - to the apostles, and not to anyone else.
"We find in the Gospel that whenever the Apostles seemed not to understand, or to misunderstand, the real meaning of His words, He never failed to explain the subject to them, though He did not do so before the multitude, because of the evil-minded persons amongst them. This is why some of the parables are explained, while others are not; for when the Apostles were sufficiently instructed concerning the mysteries of which He spoke in the parables, they needed no explanation, but at once understood their real meaning."2
The dignity and importance of the apostles becomes increasingly evident as Christ reveals that
will also act as judges:
"And Jesus said to them: Amen, I say to you, that you, who have followed me, in the regeneration, when the Son of man shall sit on the seat of his majesty, you shall sit on twelve seats judging the twelve tribes of Israel."
During the initial "training period" of the apostles, Jesus is recorded as having made a few unkind
comments towards the apostles because of their evident slowness to understand or believe. One
more important occasions appears in Mark 8:17-21 -
"Why do you reason, because you have no bread? Do you not yet know nor understand? Have you still your heart blinded? Having eyes, see you not? and having ears, hear you not? Neither do you remember. When I broke the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took you up? They say to him, twelve. When also the seven loaves among four thousand, how many baskets of fragments took you up? And they say to him, seven. And he said to them: How do you not yet understand?"
No, the apostles didn't quite "get it" yet. Neither do you remember, and so, Jesus reminds
them that there were twelve baskets (one for each of the apostles) of fragments left over after a
and also symbolic miracle had taken place. The fact there were twelve baskets was
intentionally done, as Jesus had given the apostles (and some disciples) the bread to
(Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:44, Luke 9:17), and told the apostles to pick up the leftovers - 12
baskets - one for each apostle to individually carry, visibly witness, and return (John 6:12).
And after the apostles had forgotten or overlooked the event, Jesus reminds them that there was a significance, as seen in the passage above. This significance, of course, is His establishment of the New Sacrifice of His Body and Blood which we recieve during the Mass.
The apostles remembered the miracle, of course, but weren't given to understand there was a deeper significance to it. Jesus was fully aware of this - He didn't make His intentions obvious - "gather the fragments that are left over, lest they be wasted." (John 6:12).
"The very fact that the Apostles were slow in believing also shows that they were not deceived; only when they were convinced did they proclaim their belief in Jesus."3
The Holy Spirit is Promised
"But the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, that one will teach all things and will remind you of all which I said to you.
"Send in my name", as proceeding also from Him: as Christ says in the next chapter,
"When the Paraclete comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me, and you will also witness because from the beginning you are with me."
Jesus will send him from the Father. The Spirit of Truth will give you (the apostles) a more perfect knowledge of all those truths, which Jesus had taught them. And on their own authority they will also be able to testify, as they were eye-witnesses, and with Him from the beginning of His ministry.
"But I speak the truth to you. It is better for you in order that I go, for if I do not go, the Paraclete (Advocate) will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you."
Jesus leaves them, as to suffer death for the redemption of all men. According to the order of divine decrees, If I do not go, the Paraclete will not come. The coming of the Paraclete was to sanctify the apostles with divine gifts, and to teach them after His Ascension.
In the three years the apostles spent with their Master, was it really possible for them to learn everything they would need to know? Even a well educated and most reasoned intellect would have had a hard time digesting the wealth of information given to the apostles, and Jesus seemed to agree, so He provided for their "continuing education" after the Ascension, through the operation of the Holy Spirit:
"Many things yet I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, has come, he will teach you all the truth. For he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he will hear he will speak, and the things that are to come he will declare to you." John 16:12-13. Jesus tells the apostles not to worry about what to say.
Luke 21:15 -
"I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adver-saries shall not be able to resist."
and Mark 13:11 -
"And when they shall lead you and deliver you up, be not thoughtful beforehand what you shall speak: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, say that. For it is not you that speak, but the Holy Spirit."
"As you have sent men into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for them do I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth. And not only for them do I pray, but for them also who through their word shall believe in me. That they all may be one, as you Father, in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me."
Here Jesus speaks of that mission where He became man for the salvation of mankind, to which also the apostles, and their representatives were to cooperate, as the ministers and instruments of Christ, by virtue of their mission from Him. For the same intention as Christ Himself was sent, the apostles were sent also, and is why St. Paul says, "God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, and he has placed in us the word of reconciliation." (2 Corinthians 5:19).
"Jesus said therefore to them again: Peace be with you. As the Father has sent and is sending me, so I am sending you. And when he said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven them, whose sins you may retain, they have and are being retained.'"
The Apostles recieve their commission and authority after the Resurrection, before the Ascension of Jesus, and before the descent of the Holy Spirit (Pentacost). Remember, they had already recieved the Holy Spirit once before, in the passage directly above.
"And Jesus drew near and spoke to them saying, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you all days, even unto the consummation of the world."
"And he said to them, "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptised shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned. And these signs shall attend those who believe: in my name they shall cast out devils; they shall speak in new tongues; they shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands upon the sick and they shall get well."
Had Christ only said, "I am with you all days", it might in that case, had been limited to the natural lives of the apostles, but as he adds, even to the end of the world, He must also expect the apostles to make successors in the ministry, until the end of time.
Of course, the only part of this passage some non-Catholic denominations are interested in imitating are the "signs" - "they shall cast out devils; they shall speak in new tongues; they shall take up serpents;" - and pay no attention to whom these powers had be given - the apostles, who were commanded to make disciples. Jesus will be with them until the end of the world. Of course, in order to be a true disciple, it is necessary to follow all the teachings of your master, and not just a few, or even most. There are, unfortunately, some would rather deal with the devil (pretend to "cast out devils") than be subject to another human being in matters of faith! And to these, Jesus has told us He will say -
"Many will say to me in that day: 'Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in your name, and cast out devils in your name, and done many miracles in your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you evildoers.'" (Matthew 7:22-23)
With all of these promises and power, Jesus must also warn the apostles of the opposition they
will endure as a result:
Matthew 10:16 -
"Behold, I am sending you forth like sheep in the midst of wolves. Be therefore wise as serpents, and guileless as doves. But beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and scourge you in their synagogues and you will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a witness to them and to the Gentiles." (and Mark 13:9, Luke 10:3; 21)
For those who do choose to follow the the apostles and their teachings, a reward is granted:
Matthew 10:40, Mark 9:40, Luke 9:48, and Luke 24:49 -
"And I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city till you be endued with power from on high."
The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost (Acts 2), but not before the apostles had already acted "on their own authority" (through prayer to God) and elected another to replace Judas (Acts 1).
Also in John 13:20, and Romans 10:14-15.
The Apostles teach - Acts 2:37-42, 1 Corinthians 11:23 (the same also in 1 Cor. 15:3),
and Hebrews 6:1-2:
"Therefore, let us leave behind the basic teaching about Christ, let us go on to things more perfect, without laying the foundation all over again; of penance from dead works, and of faith towards God, instruction about baptisms, and of the imposition of hands, and of the resur- rection of the dead, and of eternal judgment."
"Penance from dead works" refers to having sorrow for sins. "Instructions about baptisms" suggests a formula constructed by the apostles, since Jesus only gave one ("baptise in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit") and we see here "baptisms". There are three types of baptism in the Catholic Church: infant (where the recipient recieves no Christian instruction beforehand), adult (where the recipient does recieve Christian instruction), and conditional, where the recipient does not know if they had been baptised as an infant, and so recieve Christian instruction and are baptised, understanding the condition that this baptism does not replace a previous baptism, but only insures they have recieved the sacrament. None of these requisites or precautions are mentioned specifically by Jesus in the Scriptures.
The Apostles punish - Acts 5:1-11 and 1 Corinthians 5:1-5,
"It is heard for certain that there is fornication among you, and such fornication, as the like is not among heathens: that some one has his father's wife. And you are puffed up: and have not rather mourned, that he might be taken away from among you, who has done this deed. I indeed absent in body, but present in spirit, have already judged, as though I were present, him that has so done, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, you being gathered together and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit might be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ."
As he was already doing the work of the devil, "deliver such a one to Satan" meaning to excommunicate him, or cut him off from the sacra-ments, prayers and possibly even the conversation of the faithful, until he will, as a result of this punishment, correct his ways and his "spirit might be saved".
The Apostles stand up to those who oppose them - 2 Timothy 3:8,
"Now as Jannes and Mambres resisted Moses: so these also resist the truth, men corrupted in mind, reprobate concerning the faith."
St. John Chrysostom states that Jannes and Mambres (Jambres in the Greek) were the names of the magicians who resisted Moses in Egypt5, and though not mentioned in Scriptures, their names are known by tradition, and apparently, commonly known to the recipients of this letter.
The Apostles administer the sacred rites - Acts 6:5-7 (also 16:33; 20:11),
The Apostles provide successors - prefigured in Jeremias 3:15 -
"I will give you pastors according to my own heart, and they shall feed you with knowledge and doctrine."
The government and high priesthood of the Old Covenant were made hereditary in Simon Machabeus, by whose means the Jews were discharged from all foreign tribute. Simon and his two sons were murdered by his son-in-law, Ptolemee in 1 Mach. 16. Hircanus succeeded his father, Simon, in the high priesthood. (Josephus Ant. l. xiii. c. 12.) Judas or Aristobulus, surnamed Philellan, eldest son of Hircanus, succeeded him as governor and high priest. (Jos. Ant. l. xiii. c. 19.) As the jewish priesthood was made hereditary through blood relations, so to is the priesthood of the Catholic Church really hereditary through blood relations. We are all brothers in Christ, incorporated into one body through baptism, and sharing in His Divinity through the Sacrament of His body and blood.
"In the office of the apostles there is one aspect that cannot be transmitted: to be the chosen witnesses of the Lord's Resurrection and so the foundation stones of the Church. But their office also has a permanent aspect. Christ promised to remain with them always. The divine mission entrusted by Jesus to them "will continue to the end of time, since the Gospel they handed on is the lasting source of all life for the Church. Therefore, . . . the apostles took care to appoint successors." [CCC 860]
1. The Four Gospels with A Practical Critical Commentary, Rev. Charles J. Callan, O.P., Joseph F. Wagner Inc., 1918.
2. Divine Parables Explained, Fr. Joseph Prachensky, S.J., London, 1890.
3. A Companion to Scripture Studies, John Steinmueller, S.T.D., S.Scr.L., 1958.
4. Exodus 7:11.