It’s a pretty bleak scene on Calvary. Of the twelve apostles, the first twelve men ordained priests the night before, one hanged himself as Jesus was dying on the cross. Ten scurried away like scared rabbits, and one, only one was there to witness the death of Jesus.
Peter, the MFWIC* of the apostles thrice denied Jesus and was nowhere to been seen on Good Friday when Jesus carried His cross and was crucified. The only one present for the crucifixion, the young man John, is probably, at this time, just a teenager. The manly men, tough fishermen and the rest, including one called a “Son of Thunder,” have deserted Our Lord. Ten cowards are in hiding.
In any typical present-day organization, such men would be summarily terminated and escorted off the premises by security, required to turn in their Holy Orders at the door. They were fired for a just cause but thank God, God the Son was their boss. When he appears, risen and glorious, they are hiding out in a closed room, in fear, He could have had them dismissed, decided never again on this earth to be in their presence, and ordained ten new men, brave men, real men on that first Easter Sunday.
Jesus Sticks With His Apostles
He decided otherwise. He decided to stick with His first-round draft choices, to go with His gut, to go with the choices he had made those three years ago. These were the men He chose to be Him in person here on earth while He made the world new. He would not give up on them.
Darrel K. Royal was the Texas Longhorns hall-of-fame football coach for twenty years. He never had a losing season and won three national championships. He was raised dirt poor, surviving the dust bowl of the 1930s and forever remembering folks insulting him and his family with the name, “Okie.” Coming from this background, he had down-home, human wisdom about many things. His homespun sayings are still well known today in the Lone Star State. Perhaps the most famous of Coach Royal’s proverbs was one he made in reply to a reporter after many games during a successful season. There was a big game to be played the following weekend. The reporter was curious if the Longhorns would do something unexpected, something new to fool the opposing team or throw them off guard. Coach Royal replied.
There’s an old saying. You dance with who brung ya.
When you think about this, Coach Royal knew that every man of his team was going to read this remark in the papers the next day. He knew them all and he knew what they were capable of, individually and as a team. He knew they were winners. He was letting them know not only that he believed in them, but that he was loyal to them.
Jesus Did Not Condemn His Apostles
Jesus did a similar thing when he appeared to the eleven remaining apostles. He did not condemn the ten for deserting him. He did not tell them how disappointed He was in them. He reassuringly told them, “Peace be with you.” Don’t be troubled, Don’t dwell on your sorrow for what you did. I am Here with you now.
There is a good chance John had told them about Jesus asking the Father to “forgive them” right before He died.
In that room, Jesus resurrected, God the Son, was not there to berate the apostles. He was there getting His priests ready to teach all nations and save the whole world in His person. From the time of His first appearance to the apostles in hiding and then up to the Ascension where He took them (and no one else) up to the mountain, Jesus knew who these men were and how ten of them would live and die, for Him and for His church. He had told them, “You didn’t choose me. I chose you. ” (John 14:16). By appearing and wishing them His peace He was saying, “ I’m gonna dance with y’all, you are the ones that I have bought and I know who you are and what you can do.”
The apostles lived up to the trust and loyalty that Jesus had in them. Peter was crucified, upside down, during the persecution of the Roman Emperor Nero. His brother, Andrew, was crucified on a cross shaped like an “X” and preached for several days, hanging on that cross, before he died. King Agrippa, I had James, son of Zebedee, Son of Thunder, beheaded. He was the first martyr of the twelve apostles.
Philip was martyred by hanging. Bartholomew (Nathaniel) was flayed alive in India. Matthew died a martyr’s death in Ethiopia. Thomas was martyred in Madras, India in A.D. 70, killed with a spear.
James, son of Alphaeus, evangelizing in Egypt, was first crucified, and then, still alive, was cut into pieces. In Persia, present-day Iran, Thaddaeus was martyred by being shot with arrows. Simon, the Zealot, was crucified.
As it turned out, Jesus knew exactly what He was doing by sticking with His “First String” of apostles. He used these imperfect men and their weakness to show us His strength.
Jesus can and will do the same with any of us. What He does for each of us echoes another of Coach Royal’s sayings:
The coach is the team, and the team is the coach. You reflect each other.
Jesus tells each of us, “You can do it. You can choose good, do good, make good, and your good, which no one else can do, will reflect Me in a way that no one else can.”
He brought each of us here on this earth and He will dance with us if we let Him.
*M FWIC – Military acronym, publishable version: Monster Frog What’s In Charge