The best and the brightest

Reprinted from The Christian Science Monitor

Do you feel trapped in a world where only the best and brightest succeed? Do you ever see life as a card game in which the deck is stacked against all but a precious few? Probably most of us have felt this way at one time or another – yet the Bible debunks this dour outlook.

Jesus toppled belief in an unfair world by showing that God’s blessings are for everyone. No one is excluded. When Jesus walked the shores of the Sea of Galilee looking for disciples, he wasn’t just seeking the best and the brightest, or asking for résumés and references. The Savior knew the least of men could do the most to save a world from itself. He picked as his disciples ordinary men who as children of God could do extraordinary things. The Bible says, “The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple” (Psalms 19:7).

Old-world views of an angry, vengeful god favoring a powerful elite crumbled as these simple, probably mostly unschooled men called by the Christ spread the good news of the Bible’s God of love. Most were from Galilee, a relatively remote, unassuming area. But they would successfully support the Master’s ministry, and tradition holds that certain disciples wrote some of the New Testament.

The first four were fishermen. Jesus made no career promises other than to make them fishers of men. Simon (called Peter) and his brother Andrew eagerly dropped their nets to follow Jesus into a new world where they might exercise their own divine mastery over worldly woe (Matthew 4:18-20). They were joined by two other brothers, James and John, who were mending their father’s nets nearby (verses 21, 22).

Jesus loved his disciples from the outset. To human ken, the choices Jesus made might look rash or unwise, their fealty to the Christ shaky. When Jesus was arrested, Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. Thomas doubted him. And Judas, keeper of their purse, betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. Matthew also seemed an unlikely choice. He was a tax collector, a hated publican. He brought no adoring throng to the table. Yet tradition holds that Matthew wrote the first of the four Gospels. John left a legacy of love which, early Christian theologians held, includes the Gospel of John, three Epistles, and the book of Revelation.

Peter led the group from the start. Although he famously denied knowing Jesus in order to save his own life, the Savior gave Peter a central role in the nascent Christian church in a stunning announcement: “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18, 19).

A highlight of Peter’s on-the-job training was the day he went with Jesus to the home of a Jewish leader to heal the man’s dying daughter. On the way they learned the little girl was dead. Jesus told the distraught father, “Be not afraid, only believe” (Mark 5:36). But when Jesus told the wailing mourners the girl was only asleep, they laughed at him scornfully. Jesus ordered them from the room, and with the offending thought out of the way, the master Christian woke the girl from her dream of death. The book of Acts records Peter performing a similar healing in Joppa when he revived Dorcas, a prominent community member, on her deathbed after also telling the weeping mourners to leave the room (see 9:36-41).

Jesus told his disciples, “He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father” (John 14:12). Just like those men from Galilee, we too can do extraordinary things. God made all of us to be the best and the brightest.

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