The New Testament is not only an amazing narrative about the life of Jesus and the establishing of the early church following his resurrection. It is also an account of the strategy of the triune God to build a people who are branded with the identity of Jesus, taking his place in the world following his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension.
It is fascinating to read about Jesus’ ministry of pastoral care and teaching to a people who were overwhelmed by his unusual leadership gifts. Word spread quickly that Jesus had power and authority like nothing anyone had ever seen before. Though it wasn’t exactly his objective, he quickly became a national hero to the common people of his day. If he had wanted to, he could easily have launched a political revolution to take back the land for the Jews or for his own purposes.
But his was a much larger purpose for coming. He was coming to establish a kingdom of righteousness and peace that would go on forever. Eventually, as the parable of the mustard seed becoming a huge tree illustrates, his kingdom would eclipse every earthly kingdom in this world. Yet to do so would cost his very life as well as the pain of suffering with his church through all the years of its history. But the glory of what he had in mind was nothing short of the very glory of God seen among those who had been bought and paid for by the very blood of his own dear Son.
While Jesus’ ministered to the multitudes in all kinds of ways through his teaching, compassion, and power to heal he was also engaged in another important work as well. In order for his mission to be fulfilled he had to see that it would continue in much the same way after he was gone. He needed those who would catch the vision and take it forward after he was gone.
And so it was that he called twelve men to be with him continuously that he might later send them out to do his works in his name. (Mark 3:14). They would literally live with him, walking the roads, meeting the people, listening to his teachings, obeying his commands, and experiencing his power at work through their lives. Slowly but surely they were learning about what it meant to minister like Jesus and to lead as he did. So the story of the New Testament from the perspective of the kind of ministry Jesus had is really two stories – one in which he reveals the wonders of his person to a world in need, but also one of training twelve men to be prepared to take over after he was done.