The Rock in a World of Sand

by David Mathis

It may be the most overlooked aspect of the gospel. It probably doesn’t sound like especially good news, but just history — the lives of a few ordinary men. Maybe, though, you’ll marvel with me at the wisdom of God, and the magnificent investment of Christ, in creating this reality called the apostles.

Jesus recruited twelve men, and gave the bulk of his time and energy during his ministry to developing and preparing them for leading the church after he was gone. Think about that. Twelve men. Have you ever paused to consider whether he might have done it another way?

Or put the question this way: Why have the risen Christ appear “not to all the people” but only to the apostles? That’s how Peter said it in his first gospel sermon to Gentiles: “God raised [Jesus] on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses” (Acts 10:40–41).

Why not have the risen Christ appear to all the people, to countless thousands in Jerusalem and beyond? And why not appear bodily to Christians today? Why the apostles first, and so prominently, even though he also appeared to “more than five hundred brothers at one time” (1 Corinthians 15:6)? Why focus his appearing to such a limited group in the first century? And what makes it good news for you and me?

For Our Clarity

Appearing to countless thousands, without a clear, headlining group like the apostles, may have seemed wise initially, but it would have created utter confusion over time. Who speaks for the risen Christ once he ascends? Whose word about the meaning of his resurrection, among the thousands who saw him, do we believe? What about believers who genuinely saw him risen but remembered details wrongly and wrote with flaws, or had little context from his life? The apostles knew the whole story, from the very beginning. “We are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem” (Acts 10:39).

Jesus, as the preeminently good leader, planned well for his people after he was gone. He would not have his church devolve into spiritual anarchy and chaos. He put in place authoritative spokesmen — men whom he had invested in personally and extensively for more than three years — who would speak for him, by the direction of his Spirit…

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The Rock in a World of Sand | Desiring God