In each of the three synoptic gospels we see a different scene in the life of Jesus just before he calls his twelve disciples. Each snapshot, I believe, reveals a unique aspect of both the heart of Jesus and his earthly-eternal kingdom strategy.
Snapshot #1: The Great Opportunity Meets a Great Shortage (Matthew 9:35-38)
Before Jesus calls the twelve from Matthew’s perspective, we see the compassion of Jesus for the crowds. As he looked over masses (sheep without a shepherd) he observes that “the harvest is plenty but the workers are few.” His last command before selecting his inner circle is to pray earnestly to the Lord of the Harvest to send out laborers. In the light of the urgent opportunity Jesus begins investing deeply into the Twelve. The first catalyst is the massive gap between the need and the manpower.
Snapshot #2: Building the Infrastructure Not the Popularity (Mark 3:7-12)
Mark shows us a different angle of Jesus' motive just before he appoints the Twelve. In this passage he repeats the phrase “great crowd” showing for the first time the sheer volume of people who were responding to Jesus. Not only that, he shows the intensity of their pursuit by explaining how the people were “pressing around him” and how they needed to escape in a boat “lest they be crushed.” If that wasn’t enough even the demons cried out that he was the Son of God. What was Jesus final act before appointing the twelve? Jesus strictly ordered them NOT to make him known.
Why in the world did Jesus come to earth if he wanted to lower the volume of his identity and mission? Why would he intentional minimize his platform? The answer is simple. He wasn’t building a stage and a audience, he was building a people movement. And the disciple-making infrastructure was being threatened by the quick popularity. Thus he focuses even more on the Twelve. The second catalyst is the threat of a shallow and wide ministry.
Snapshot #3: The Weight of Life's Brevity on Earth (Luke 6:6-11)
In Luke’s snapshot before selecting the Twelve, we see a simple healing scene. This is where Jesus heals the man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. It's also the first time we see the scribes Pharisees filled with fury to the point that they begin plotting what they are going to do with Jesus. This is the fountainhead of the death plot that would end Jesus' physical opportunity on planet earth to be a disciple-maker. The next thing we see him doing is praying to the Father all night and then recruiting his core team.
The third catalyst is the recognition that you won't be around forever.
What about you?
As you plan this year, how does Jesus disciple-making conviction, and especially these three catalysts, rescue you from a “program management” culture. Are you herding people through classes and events? Are you relying too much on better preaching? Or do you have a robust, disciple-making strategy built around life-on-life investment, like Jesus.
Take these catalysts into your planning time:
- Helping people see the amazing opportunity of lost souls and recruiting them to pray for more harvest workers.
- Building the core with significant time investment before gathering the crowd.
- Being deeply aware of the finite window on earth to invest in others in light of eternity.