By Shawn McMullen
It would have been difficult to pull together a more eclectic entourage. The Twelve included common fishermen, a tax collector, and a zealot. Jesus chose a skeptic, a doubter, and a betrayer. Some in the group appear to have been naturally quiet and others outspoken. Two of them, brothers, must have been known for their unusual boldness or fiery tempers—or both.
Few, if any, of the men Jesus called to follow him would have made Palestine’s “Who’s Who” list. But that seems to be why Jesus chose them.
These simple men bore testimony to the transforming power of Christ. So much so that even the hard-nosed religious leaders of their day recognized the change in their lives, the force of their convictions, and the source of their strength. “When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).
The Lord turned humble fishermen into persuasive preachers. He united a Roman sympathizer and a Jewish nationalist. He fashioned an apostle of love from a son of thunder.
Paul, the latecomer apostle, also experienced this transforming power. He entered the scene as one of the church’s fiercest opponents but became one of its strongest proponents. Paul never forgot who he was before he came to Christ, nor did he lose his sense of gratitude to God for setting him apart as the apostle to the Gentiles (see Galatians 2:8). He recalled to Timothy, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy. . . . The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly” (1 Timothy 1:13, 14).
Paul also saw that same transforming power at work in the lives of those he led to the Lord. He wrote to the Christians in the church at Corinth,
Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:26-29).
Often the people God chooses to do his work aren’t impressive by human standards: the unwise, the insignificant, the ordinary, the foolish, the weak, the lowly, and the despised. But that’s the beauty of it. If it were any other way, we might think we have reason to give ourselves credit for the work God does through us.
Let’s be grateful that God works through imperfect people. And let’s humbly identify with Paul who concluded, “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us” (2 Corinthians 4:7).