Jesus had a big decision to make. He would choose 12 men from among his disciples to be his close companions and to carry the gospel to the world after his death.
Before making this decision, Jesus spent the entire night in prayer to the Father. I am in awe of that. I do not know anyone who claims to have done that. But Jesus did, communing with the Father and seeking wisdom to make this critical decision.
Few people spend significant time in prayer, even when a critical decision looms. Most often they throw up quick prayers while doing something else or spend a few minutes during their devotional time. Many churches have only moments of prayer during their worship services. Every believer agrees prayer is important, but few practice it diligently. Yet, the Son of God felt the need to do so. It is a convicting example for us.
The next morning, Jesus chose the Twelve. He called them apostles. An apostle is one who goes in the name of another to accomplish something. It is similar to an ambassador or an agent that has the full authority of his principal. Jesus will later commission them to go and make more disciples on his behalf.
Although we are disciples today, we are not the same as the Twelve. They were given to Jesus by the Father. (John 17:6) They knew Jesus personally, heard him teach, witnessed his death and resurrection, acted with his authority after his death and taught his word to others.
You cannot overstate the importance of the Twelve to the church. Ephesians 2:20 tells us the church was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Revelation 21:14 tells us the New Jerusalem will have a wall with 12 foundations, and on the foundations are the names of the 12 apostles.
The book of Acts will show us their role in developing the early church. In fact the name of that book is often called “The Acts of the Apostles”.
Notice that Judas Iscariot is named last and called a traitor. He was the one who betrayed Jesus. Jesus knew Judas would betray him and he called him to do that very thing. He did not choose him by mistake. We know this because, when Jesus prayed for his disciples before he was arrested, he prayed “I have guarded them and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.” (John 17:12) This scripture that was fulfilled was Psalm 109.
Peter quoted Psalm 109 when he led the disciples to choose a replacement for Judas. (Acts 1:12-26)
These were ordinary men except they were chosen by Jesus and given by the Father to Jesus. Jesus told them “you did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide”. (John 15:16)
The Gospels show that these men did not have what it takes to shake up the world for God on their own. They repeatedly make mistakes and lacked understanding. But, when God calls a person to a task, he provides the gifts necessary to accomplish it. When the Holy Spirit came upon these men, they are changed into powerful witnesses.