ON THE ELEVENTH day of Christmas my True Love sent to me eleven pipers piping.
Each of Jesus’ disciples — eleven of the twelve remained after the crucifixion event — exemplified very human qualities. Indeed, the twelfth, Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, typified a human quality that sits comfortably with none of us. We all have the capacity to sell Jesus out — indeed, we’ve all done it.
Andrew was an evangelist in the true sense of the word, piping a tune that would lead others to the Christ.
Bartholomew (also known as Nathanael) was of nobility, devoted to the Word of God. Nathanael was probably his first name, and he is said by Jesus “of all Israel, to be a man with no guile.” His integrity is unquestioned, though we know not much else about him.
James the elder was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three; those, for instance, who went with the Lord to pray at Gethsemane.
James the younger was brother of the apostle Jude. He, like Peter, was strong of character, even fiery.
John, the disciple beloved of Jesus, is said to be the author of the Johannine epistles (1, 2, 3 John) and Revelation. The only disciple possibly not to die a martyr’s death, John also was reputed to have a fiery temper and an intolerant heart. He is said to have mellowed with age.
Judas Iscariot, the betrayer, was also treasurer of the group who used to pilfer. A covetous man, it also seems Judas was drawn to Jesus because he thought the Lord might have been the great military ruler the Jews had come to expect in their Messiah.
Jude or Thaddeus (or Judas Thaddeus) was cut from the same cloth as Judas Iscariot as far as being a radical Nationalist was concerned. It seems Judas Thaddeus was truly radicalised.
Matthew or Levi was a tax collector, and not very popular because of it. What an irony that this Jew of Jews practiced a profession that Jews despised. He was very unlike the other disciples by what he did professionally. He was skilful with the pen and possibly wrote the first gospel.
Simon Peter was the head of the apostles, and he was notoriously extroverted. A typical Galilean, Peter was incredibly passionate, easy to incite, craved adventure, quick-tempered and impulsive.
Philip was a man with a warm heart yet a pessimistic head. He was committed to the gospel but very hard on himself.
Simon the Zealot was a fanatic of the mould of Rome-haters. And he despised anyone who compromised with Rome. A convert to the faith, his attitudes gradually softened, even regarding Matthew (who did Rome’s work for them).
Thomas Didymus (or Doubting Thomas) actually proved his faith through doubting. Another pessimist, he was also given to bewilderment, but he was also courageous.
Jesus gave us the disciples in order that we might be encouraged regarding their diversity and their fallibility. Given that several of Jesus’ disciples had temperament issues there is a lot we might be encouraged for. Not even the champions of the faith had it all together.
Do you struggle with a hot temper, a lack of tolerance, impulsiveness, envy and covetousness? You’re in the good company of Jesus’ disciples.
If we ever feel we’re not good enough to be a Christian we only need to look at the disciples, who had notable weaknesses of character. Yet the Lord Jesus called them his own. That is our Christmas gift on the eleventh day of Christmas.
On the eleventh day of Christmas my True Love sent to me eleven pipers piping, ten lords a-leaping, nine ladies dancing, eight maids a-milking, seven swans a-swimming, six geese a-laying, five golden rings, four calling birds, three French hens, two turtledoves and a partridge in a pear tree.
© 2015 Steve Wickham.