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15. The disciples

15.2 The Training Of The Twelve Disciples

Progressive Teaching

It seems to me that all the Lord's servants are taught by increments, progressively, being given tests as to the degree to which they have grasped what the Lord has sought to teach them previously. Take Saul. At the beginning of his intended ministry, he was told by Samuel to wait for his coming, when he would offer sacrifices (1 Sam. 10:8). Saul obediently obeyed; yet when he was tested on this very point in this very way at a later stage, he failed. It is for this reason that, as we have observed in our study of Samson, circumstances repeat so strangely in the lives of God's people.  

And the Lord Jesus used a similar structured approach with the training of the twelve disciples. When the Lord commented “Have you not yet faith?” (Mk. 4:40 RV) it becomes immediately apparent that He was working with the twelve according to some programme of spiritual development, and He was frustrated with their lack of response to it and slow progress. He surely has a similar programme in place, and makes similar patient efforts, with each one of us.  Like any good teacher, the Lord repeated His lessons. The disciples heard His commendation of the Centurion, who believed that just as he had men under his control, so Jesus had the whole cosmos under His control (Lk. 7:8-10); and they learnt that lesson again as they sat awestruck in the boat soon afterwards: "What manner of man is this! For he commands even the winds and water, and they obey him" (Lk. 8:25).

Time and again, it becomes apparent that the Lord especially designed incidents in His men’s experience which they would learn from, and later be able to put to use when similar experiences occurred after He had ascended. This was essential to the training of the twelve disciples.

- Thus He made them  distribute the food to the multitude (Jn. 6:11); yet after His ascension, we meet the same Greek word in Acts 4:35, describing how they were to distribute welfare to the multitude of the Lord’s followers.

- Jesus seems to have purposefully not gone to Lazarus immediately, knowing that the longer he remained dead, the greater would be the impression made upon the disciples when they saw the miracle He planned to do (Jn. 11:15). He was even glad that Lazarus died- even though He wept over the loss of His friend. Thus His joy, which He invites us to share, is not mere personal joy- it was the joy for the sake of others’ spiritual growth.

- The disciples observed as Jesus made a lame man arise, take up his bed, and follow Him (Lk. 5:25). But in Acts 9:34, we find Peter doing just the same to Aeneas, even taking him by the hand as he had seen Jesus do to Jairus’ daughter. What Peter had seen and learnt of the Lord Jesus, he was now called to do. Not for nothing did he tell Aeneas that “Jesus Christ maketh thee whole”, thereby recognizing the connection between him and his Lord.

- Likewise when Peter resurrects Dorcas, he asked the weeping crowd to depart before he raised her (Acts 9:39,40)- exactly repeating the Lord’s procedure when He raised Jairus’ daughter. Note how she is laid in a chamber, she is spoken to by Peter, she opens her eyes and sits up, and Peter presents her alive and asks for her to be given food. All this was evidently parallel to what Peter had been especially invited by Jesus to come and witness when He raised the girl during His ministry. The events Peter had been witnessed had been especially arranged so that when they repeated themselves in his future life, he was able to see the similarities and act as a true follower and mimicker of his Lord. 

In broad terms, it is possible to see a parallel between our present lives, and the disciples’ lives whilst Jesus was with them. We too are going through the same training of the twelve, being prepared today for things we shall be called upon to do in God’s Kingdom tomorrow. How deeply and fundamentally we learn the lessons will perhaps determine the extent and nature in which the Lord can again use us in that time.