Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials...
He Varied His Relationships With His Emerging Leaders According to Their Future CallingsMalcolm Webber
In a previous Letter, we noted that Jesus concentrated on building only a few leaders. Moreover, He intentionally varied the relationships that He had with them according to their future callings. We will now consider the different groups of emerging leaders who enjoyed various levels or depths of relationship with Jesus, the nature of their relationships, and the results.
Starting with those furthest from Christ, there were the 70:
After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. (Luke 10:1, NKJV)
We could call this group, Jesus’ “extended team” of leaders. They received His basic teaching, they learned from watching His personal example, and they were directly commissioned by Him to their ministries. These 70 disciples accomplished extensive ministry on Jesus’ behalf (Luke 10:1-20).
Then there were the 12:
When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: (Luke 6:13)
We might call this group, Jesus’ “core leadership team.” Along with everything the 70 disciples received, the 12 apostles were given additional special attention by Jesus. They received special teaching (e.g., Matt. 20:17; Mark 9:35), special experiences (e.g., Mark 14:17ff; Luke 9:1-4, 12-17; John 6:67) and personal communication and fellowship with Jesus (Mark 3:14). This group of 12 (minus Judas, of course) became the top leadership team of the entire church (e.g., Acts 6:2, 4).
Then, within the group of 12 apostles, were the 3: Peter, James and John. In addition to all the teaching and developmental experiences that the 12 apostles were given, the 3 also received some additional personal experiences that were profoundly transformational. They were with Jesus when He was glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-9), when He raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead (Mark 5:37-43) and when He wrestled with the agony of His upcoming crucifixion in the Garden (Mark 14:33-34). These 3 men were Jesus’ intimate friends, His confidants. In a special way, they shared both His joys (e.g., on the Mount of Transfiguration) and His struggles (e.g., in the Garden).
Within Jesus’ top leadership team, these 3 men became the key leaders of the church. Significantly the 3 are all named by Paul in Galatians 2:9 as being the “pillars” of the Jerusalem church in the early days. James was no doubt the main leader of the early church in Jerusalem. Peter became the “apostle to the Jews” (Gal. 2:8), preached the message on the day of Pentecost that resulted in the first major harvest of souls (Acts 2) and was the first apostle to officially share the Gospel with the Gentiles (Acts 10).
Finally, Jesus had His closest, most intimate relationship with John. John was Jesus’ very intimate friend. John was with Jesus along with Peter and James during Jesus’ special joys and struggles, but John enjoyed an even closer relationship with his Lord. As “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20) John laid his head on Jesus’ chest (John 13:23)!
And the result of such a close relationship? Arguably John became Jesus’ “successor.” Certainly no mere mortal could ever truly succeed Jesus in the absolute sense, but John had a very special ministry after Jesus’ Ascension. John assumed responsibility for Jesus’ mother after His crucifixion (John 19:25-27). He enjoyed the longest ministry of all the apostles, and he wrote the most and, possibly, the deepest writings. In a special way, John’s writings reveal the Person of Jesus Christ as God, as well as the nature of the Christian life as union with God. In many ways, John was Jesus’ “successor.”
So, we see that Jesus had:
- 1 successor,
- 3 intimate friends,
- 12 core leaders and
- an extended leadership team of 70.
In our next Letter we will discuss the practical implications of this model for us.
This month’s recommended website is http://www.missiology.org. Some valuable reflections on various missions issues by Dr. Gailyn Van Rheenen.
This month’s recommended book is Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind by Geert Hofstede. Excellent introduction to the organizational implications of culture.