Most people want to be recognized, and lest you doubt, browse Facebook for 60 seconds. Recently making the rounds on the News Feed is “Ten Things You May Not Know About Me.” Disclaimer: This is not a commentary as to whether “Ten Things” is good or bad, but a mere proof that most people want to be recognized or known.
A new thought came to me this morning in my reading of Mark 3:13-19 – I wonder if James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus and Simon the Zealot felt slighted and unappreciated for their lack of gospel mentions? If the Bible was Twitter, they didn’t get many mentions. We know about the big three: Peter, James and John. We know that Matthew wrote a gospel and his calling by Jesus is particularly told (Mark 2:14). Andrew, Phillip and Bartholomew (Nathaniel) get some air time in John 1:35-51. Thomas famously doubted and believed (John 20:20-29). And then there is the tragic story of Judas Iscariot, “who betrayed Jesus.” (Mark 3:19).
A four-tiered summary might be helpful based on explicit mentions in the gospels and in Acts:
- Peter (Simon), James and John. They are the big three; the inner circle.
- Matthew, the villain/tax-collector turned disciple and author. Judas Iscariot, the treasurer turned villain. BTW, why wasn’t Matthew the treasurer?
- Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew (Nathaniel) and Thomas. Mid-Major kind-of-guys. They are in the story, but rarely.
- James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus and Simon the Zealot. The obscure three. The outer circle. Their names represent about all we know.
A couple of thoughts are in order. First, it is better to be obscure than to be Judas. Enough said.
Second, the obscure three didn’t get their books published, they must not have had the big and outspoken personalities of Peter, James and John, and they probably didn’t get invited to any day-time shows to share the before-and-after story of Jesus.
But they were known by Jesus and even hand-picked by Him (Mark 3:13). They were a part of the twelve and it wouldn’t be the same without them. “The nine” just doesn’t sound right.
Upon further reflection and meditation of Mark 3:13-19, what struck me is not that we know so little about them, but that Jesus knew them and they knew Him. Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t that fact be enough?
I don’t know the details of these seemingly obscure disciples, but God does, and that is all that matters. I would hope that I, along with every other man, woman and child who belongs to King Jesus, could know the joy of resting in that life-changing fact.
But there is one more insight that I believe to be significant. Though we are each individual parts, shouldn’t we be glad to be a part of the whole? Not everyone can be the part that triggers the identifiable results, but there is a place for the three that completes the twelve. It is not insignificant that though we know Alphaeus, Thaddaeus and Simon by name only, that we do however know about them because Jesus chose them and knew them. They were just as much a part of the twelve as the other more reputable nine. In Christ, we are not obscure, but we are all a part of the body and known by God.
So let us think biblically about ourselves. Doing so will protect us from jealousy and resentment that causes factions and dissension. In Christ, I am not living in obscurity.
Let us think of others according to the truth of God’s word. Doing so will protect us from treating others with the kind of indifference that causes us to think of them and treat them as fourth-tier citizens. In Christ, no one is irrelevant.
Let us think biblically about ourselves within the context of body life. Our identity and recognition as a part of the body (church) of Christ is just as important as any individual notoriety.
Let us think about how Jesus changes the way we see everyone and everything. To be called by Jesus is no insignificant thing.