So you’re an Apostle—big deal!
I firmly believe that God is restoring the apostolic and prophetic giftings to the body of believers. But He does so for His own glory and purposes, not so we can get new business cards! As far as I can tell, Paul never presented himself as the “Apostle Paul,” but as “Paul, an apostle.” Some fake, or even real, apostles can become obsessed with titles. How often people have introduced themselves to me as “Apostle Such and Such,” and I don’t even know them.
This was one of Yeshua’s deepest concerns for His would-be apostles during His three years of leadership training. How would He break them of the need for position and power?
Ambitious Mothers can Cause Trouble
Shlomit, the mother of James and John, felt the need to fight for her sons’ positions in Yeshua’s kingdom.
“Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.” (Matt. 20:21)
Yeshua’s answer brings a dose of reality to them:
“You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?” “We can,’ they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.” (v. 22-23)
In other words, “You have no clue what you are requesting…you are looking for a crown, and I am calling you to embrace the cross!?”
When the other guys heard about this, they were incensed. How dare those sons of Zebedee! But they were just the same. They were not so concerned about James’ and John’s lack of humility, but rather that they tried to jump to the front of the line behind their backs.
Yeshua decided it was time for a teaching moment. He sat them down and said:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (v. 25-28)
You see a true apostle, one whose character has been tested, would not need to let you know that he is an apostle. He wouldn’t care and the fruit of his ministry would speak for itself.
Foot Washing Brings Humilty
And this took place just days before the crucifixion! In John 13, Yeshua is about to eat the Passover meal with His boys, when He feels the need to address this issue again:
Yeshua knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. (John 13:3-15)
He knew He was leaving and He had little time to teach them this lesson.
“Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” (v. 12-17)
The Second Foot Washing
As I read this the other day, I noticed something I had not seen in the past. The meal had already started. It was customary for a servant to wash your feet immediately when you entered the home. The sandal-wearing community would have dirty feet, and that would not be pleasant as they reclined for the meal. You would not clean feet in the middle of the meal—which means Yeshua was washing their feet a second time!
So, why do it again? Because, apparently, the same issue of pride and position came up. During the meal, according to Luke (in fact just after Yeshua institutes the New Covenant!), “A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest.” (Luke 22:24) Now this is only days after the episode with James and John, and just hours before the crucifixion. After rebuking them for their pride (Luke 22:25-27), He gets up from the table and sets an example for them.
The issue was urgent. He was about to die in just a few hours and these guys still didn’t understand that their positions in the kingdom would not be as sovereigns, but as servants. Yes, they would have real authority—but their authority would be to serve, support and strengthen the young body of believers, not to act like princes.
A Humbling Story
This is really embarrassing for me to write—but when I first became a paid youth pastor at the age of 28 years, I explained to our youth that it was their responsibility to serve me. Hopefully, I didn’t say it quite like that. I had a wife with three kids, a lawn that needed to be cut, babysitters would be needed, etc. I would give myself spiritually, but they needed to serve me.
Two parents gently confronted me and gave me a lesson on ministry, much like Yeshua did the disciples in Matthew 20 and Luke 22.
They Still Didn’t Get It
After Yeshua’s powerful example, and some more final words, Peter blurts out:
“Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:37-38)
They still didn’t get it. Peter would have to suffer through his denial of Yeshua, before he and the others will finally have the character needed to serve as leaders. It is not about titles or being served—ministry is about sacrifice and laying down our lives for others. We need apostles today—leaders of leaders, overseers of ministers, those who birth ministries–but we don’t need people who want to be an apostle just for the title. Sadly, there are a bunch!