Who is my twelve?
The number twelve means little to Westerners, but to first-century Jews, the number meant wholeness, fullness, and completion. The number twelve symbolized the complete family of God living under his personal care and authority.
The twelve tribes of Israel (God’s covenant family) walked through the sharp shale of the Sinai wilderness for forty years and not one pair of sandals wore out. Manna appeared for God’s people to gather up each dawn, just as the pillar of fire protecting them by night turned into the cloud that would lead them by day. Springs of water gushed from the hot red rock; a fountain of life for a million; streams for the little children to play in.
None lacked. All were accounted for under Yahweh’s personal care.
John tells us that there were twelve baskets left over after Jesus gave thanks to his Father, broke five barley loaves and two fish, and fed a huge crowd in Israel’s remote countryside. All five-thousand were satisfied; fed to the full by a good Shepherd; each hungry man restored and resting in the green grass of the Galilean hills.
None lacked. All were accounted for under Yeshua’s personal care.
Twelve earnest disciples attached themselves to their rabbi’s every word, pondering his teaching and person for three years. These same disciples would find themselves staring into the sky as their rabbi, the Christ, went up in a cloud to heaven, leaving them alone.
Soon after, these followers of Jesus would gather to pray in an upper-room. They would hear a mighty rushing wind and see tongues of fire coming down to settle on each one. And then! Completely full of God’s spirit, they would set about fulfilling Yahweh’s mission to welcome even the pagan Gentiles into his covenant family.
“None need lack!” the disciples declared in every tongue to every race. All peoples of the world are accounted for under our God’s personal care and authority.
The start of a new year is a good time to ask, “Who are my twelve?” It need not be an exact number, but with whom do I routinely gather under the gentle yoke of our Shepherd? Who helps me remember Christ’s words of welcome and hope to the hungry, fearful, lonely, and shamed? Who listens to my troubles and doubts and prays for our Father’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven?
I know it’s not a popular stance these days, but you can’t be a Christian on your own. You just can’t. And it’s very possible to ‘go to church’ and to also keep yourself perfectly apart from the other dusty disciples who aren’t like you and just don’t get it.
But a ‘me-and-God-are-good-on-our-own’ Christian life is sorely lacking. It’s not complete, or whole, or full. In fact, it’s not a Christian life at all. For all who have been gathered into Christ’s family are called and cared for by him, not as the only special child, but as one of many.
Who helps me trust in God’s Word when I waver? Who reminds me that we belong body and soul to Christ so what could ever separate us from him? I need a twelve. Who helps me remember that I am accounted for as a daughter of God’s ever-growing family, one which is not yet complete but will be soon? I need a twelve.
Every Christ-follower needs a smaller gathering of disciples; a symbolic twelve; a few brothers or sisters assembled by Yahweh himself for his mission of welcome. For God’s own son was not above being with those his Father gave him in this world.
Not all the disciples of Jesus liked each other, and not all the tribes of Israel got along. But that’s not why Jesus left heaven. Christ came to us so that many sons and daughters might be one with him, filled with new wine from heaven, known far and wide for their generosity, humility, compassion, love – streams of living water gushing in a dry and weary land.
For none lacked. All were accounted for under Yahweh’s personal care.
Peace to you as you walk humbly with God’s covenant family this year. And may your efforts to follow our LORD in the company of his other dusty disciples feed your soul full.