Yesterday, Jesus said to His followers, “ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Today, He summons twelve disciples from the crowd to have a special role and authority among His people. Each is named an “apostle,” a title which is a Greek word, meaning “one who is sent.” Jesus shall send the apostles into the world to be the foundation stones of the Church. Why did Jesus choose twelve Apostles, rather than ten, twenty, or one hundred? I think that reasons are found in the history of God’s people and in the symbolic meaning of numbers.
Yesterday, Jacob wrestled with God and his name was changed Israel. This man, Israel, had twelve sons and through these sons, descended the twelve tribes, the people of Israel. By choosing twelve, Jesus establishes the people of God anew; He constitutes a new Israel. The number twelve is also three times four. Three is the Trinitarian number of God and four is the number of the created world; as in north, south, east and west, or the four corners of the earth. Twelve, the number which is three times four, denotes how the Triune God shall reach out to all nations to form a new people of God, a new family, a New Israel, the Church.
Our Church, its bishops, priests and deacons, like the sons of Israel and the twelve Apostles, frequently prove that they are human, yet our Church is more than just an organization and the ordained are more than just functionaries. Our clergy derive their special role and authority from Jesus Christ and the Apostles, and our Church is intended for all. They are our fathers and the Church is God’s family.