The Power of a few Ordinary Men

“From the time Jesus began His public ministry in his hometown of Nazareth, He was enormously controversial.  The people from His own community literally tried to kill Him immediately after His first public message in the local synagogue.  “All those in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, and rose up and thrust Him out of the city; and they led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city was built, that they might throw Him down over the cliff.  Then passing through the midst of them, He went His way” (Luke 4:28-30).

Ironically, Jesus became tremendously popular among the people of the larger Galilean region.  As word of His miracles began to circulate throughout the district, massive hordes of people came out to see Him and hear Him speak.  Luke 5:1 records how “the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God.”  One day, the crowds were so thick and so aggressive that He got into a boat, pushed offshore far enough to get away from the press of people, and taught the multitudes from there.  Not by mere happenstance, the boat Jesus chose belonged to Simon.  Jesus would rename him Peter, and he would become the dominant person in Jesus’ closet inner circle of disciples.

Some might imagine that if Christ had wanted His message to have maximum impact, He could have played off His popularity more effectively.  Modern conventional wisdom would suggest that Jesus ought to have done everything possible to exploit His fame, tone down the controversies that arose out of His teaching, and employ whatever strategies He could use to maximize the crowds around Him.  But He did not do that.  In fact, He did precisely the opposite.  Instead of taking the populist route and exploiting His fame, He began to emphasize the very things that made His message so controversial.  At about the time the crowds reached their peak, He preached a message so boldly confrontive and so offensive in its content that the multitude melted away, leaving only the most devoted few (John 6:66-67).

Among those who stayed with Christ were the Twelve, whom He had personally selected and appointed to represent Him.  They were twelve perfectly ordinary, unexceptional men.  But Christ’s strategy for advancing His kingdom hinged on those twelve men rather than on the clamoring multitudes.  He chose to work through the instrumentality of those few fallible individuals rather than advance His agenda through mob force, military might, personal popularity, or a public-relations campaign.  From a human perspective, the future of the church and the long-term success of the gospel depended entirely on the faithfulness of that handful of disciples.  There was no plan B if they failed.

The strategy Jesus chose typified the character of the kingdom itself.  “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’  For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).  The kingdom advances “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6).  A dozen men under the power of the Holy Spirit are a more potent force than the teeming masses whose initial enthusiasm for Jesus was apparently provoked by little more than sheer curiosity.”

Copied from pages 1-3 of John MacArthur’s book “Twelve Ordinary Men.”

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