What is obvious about the 12 apostles of Jesus, is that the reason why they were chosen is not obvious. At least it is not obvious at first glance. If you were writing a book to advise people on how to start a religious movement that would turn the world upside down, you would certainly not make recommendations that your top leaders be of these kinds of men. The group lacks education, experience, wealth and influence. They are working class men, from different backgrounds, who possessed huge differences in their political and social affiliations. Why then did Jesus choose these men? We don’t know all everything behind the selecting of the 12, but I would suggest 4 reasons:
First, so that the glory would belong to God. When a self-sufficient person works hard and succeeds, the next step is usually taking responsibility for the accomplishments. If success was going to come from this group, no one would say, “Naturally, what did you expect from such a well qualified group.” This is exactly what happened in Acts 4:13 “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus.” Many times God goes out of his way to work through apparently fragile means, and weak people so that no one will steal the glory. In the Old Testament, God whittled down the army of Gideon to an astounding 300 soldiers in order to defeat the enemies of Israel. Why? “ And the LORD said to Gideon, ‘The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, My own hand has saved me. (Judges 7:2)’”
Second, I would suggest another reason these men were chosen: To show that grace unifies different people. Politically there could not have been two more polar opposites than a tax collector (a.k.a. Collaborator!) and a Jewish zealot. It is amazing that the tolerance and diversity that the world so desperately wants, is nowhere so typified as in the Church of Christ. Sure there is racism and division in the church. But find people that have really been transformed by the gospel and you will find a group who love people different than them. Grace shines bright when it overcomes the natural prejudices that we have towards others. The full realization of this will be in heaven, which will be more diverse than the United Nations, with people from every language and family on earth! When we unite around a common worthy focus, we show that the cause is more important than our differences.
Third, I believe that these men were chosen to show that usefulness is within reach of anyone. The Bible is an amazing book, it is painfully honest. Almost all of the accounts of the “heroes” of scripture are generously sprinkled with candid accounts of their failures. This is true of the apostles. Thomas who doubted; Peter who boasted, fought and then denied; James and John who sought glory for themselves. But the message of Jesus changed them. With these men and countless sinners since, God has shown that he can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. Jesus was able to see past failures and sins and see what His grace would accomplish in them.
Lastly, scripture teaches that God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. I would suggest that Jesus choose these men to shame the proud. I Corinthians 1:26-27 makes it very clear, “Brothers, 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.” Christianity has not been the religion of the rich and the elite. It has been the faith of the weak and hopeless. By arranging things this way, God has brought down the gavel on those who trust in themselves that they are wise, or strong, or noble. By choosing servants like the apostles, and like us, he shows that his power is made perfect in weakness. We must rely on Him. I believe that this is one of the most important leadership lessons from the choosing of the 12 apostles.