We know that Jesus has a group of twelve people close to him. Sometimes the Gospels call them the Twelve, or the twelve disciples, or the apostles. In the Gospel for this Sunday, we hear their names. We hear also what Jesus gives them.
The Gospel begins with Jesus looking out at the crowds of people who gather to listen to him.
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The crowds remind Jesus of sheep without a shepherd. They are harassed, he sees. People push them about. Life pushes them about. Who is in control? They are helpless. We suspect sheep without a shepherd do not feel very good. We know it does not feel good when we do not know who is in control.
When Jesus sees this, he has compassion. That means he feels what they feel. Jesus the Good Shepherd, knows something about sheep. He knows what they need. When he knows they feel out of control, what does he do? He acts.
Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.
Jesus summons the twelve disciples. That means he calls them by name to come to him. Here are their names:
First, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.
He calls them all to him. Even Judas. We know about Judas. But Jesus calls him, too. He has a chance.
Jesus calls them to him and he gives them authority. That means, the power that he has, he gives to them. When they speak, they speak with his voice. When they act, they act with his body.
What are they to say and do?
“Go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, proclaim the good news, ‘The kingdom of God has come near.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.”
Just like Jesus.
Why these twelve? What makes them special?
We do not know much at all about some of them. The one thing we know about all of them, though—he calls them and they come. They have friendship with Jesus.
Does he charge them membership? Do they have to pay dues to be a disciple? No. Friends do not pay each other for friendship.
“You received without payment; give without payment.”
And the apostles do give without payment. (Well, except for Judas.) After Jesus dies and rises to new life, after he ascends to God and sends the Holy Spirit, the apostles give to others the authority they receive. They replace Judas with Matthias and they keep on giving. They share with others their friendship with Jesus. The Kingdom of God comes near.
What about us? Do the apostles share with us, too?
When we are baptized, the priest or deacon—who receives authority from the apostles—speaks and acts for Jesus. We are called by name. We are summoned.
Do we have to pay to get baptized? Nope, we receive without payment. We get to share in the friendship with Jesus.
So we can give without payment, too. We have to consider, then, how can we share our friendship with Jesus.?