When our Lord Jesus came to earth, He gathered to Himself a little group of twelve disciples. We don’t have to read very far before we realize that He didn’t choose them because they had earned it or because they were perfect—they stumbled, they sinned, they weren’t always exactly clever, they seemed to take a peculiar delight in learning the hard way. Let us note how our blessed Lord met the longings (and failings) of these disciples’ hearts and lives.
Nathanael was looking for the Messiah. Although he was a little surprised at the details of how Messiah came into the world, it is evident from John 1 that Nathanael was sincerely expecting Messiah to come. As with Simeon and Anna, the Lord rewarded the heart that was genuinely seeking Him.
Philip longed to see God. “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us” (Jn. 14:7). We wouldn’t fault Philip for being slow to grasp the fullness of the blessing he had already been given for we, too, are so often slow. And so the radiance of God’s glory stood before Philip and gently instructed him: “He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
James and John craved pre-eminence (Mk. 10:37). Sometimes a disciple’s desires aren’t entirely noble. Genuine spiritual zeal can be mixed with selfish ambition. But our Lord knows how to patiently and graciously sift out the chaff. In the years that followed, these two brothers were refined and became shining examples of His grace.
Thomas doubted (Jn. 20). We might wish that our walk of faith an inexorable march through all obstacles. But if we waver, we remember that Christ remains faithful and knows how to strengthen our faith with a fresh view of Himself.
Peter needed restoration. He had boasted in himself, slighted his fellow disciples, and denied the Lord. Many would have written him off. But the Lord dealt with his sin, restored him, and used him to spearhead the gospel effort to Jews and Gentiles and give us two books of the Bible. If we need restoration (to the Lord or to our brethren), the Lord Jesus knows exactly how to do it.
John desired intimacy. None of the twelve was more intimate with Christ than John, the disciple of love. Like Mary of Bethany, he seems to have innately known that there were times to quietly step away from the frenzy and pressures of life, and simply enjoy the presence of the Saviour.
Today, the Lord Jesus has rather a few more than twelve disciples—the list extends around the world and across time. But as varied and extensive a group as we are, I can’t help but notice that our flaws and needs bear a striking resemblance to the those of the first disciples. Could it be that He left us the record of His dealings with the first group, not to give us a chuckle, but to reassure us that He can deal with our faults and struggles, too? We might sometimes despair at our lack of progress. But take heart! Did the failings of the twelve thwart the Master’s plan? Our shortcomings are nothing new and they pose no obstacle for our perfect Teacher.