You may read or hear along the way that “Jesus used 12 men to turn around the whole world.” Unfortunately, this popular statement does not ring true to the Bible.
For one thing, the 12 so-called apostles usually made a mess of things during Jesus’ few months of work in the Middle East. Old Judas scores most of the bad publicity. But it got so bad at one point that Jesus threw up his hands and moaned and groaned, “You people don’t have any faith! How much longer must I be with you? Why do I have to put up with you?” (Mark 9:19). Did you know that Jesus felt like giving up that much?
And for another thing, Jesus had way more than 12 followers. Luke 10 reports that at least 70 others fanned out two by two to do work commissioned by Jesus. After the resurrection, according to the oldest of all New Testament documents, “he appeared to more than 500 followers. Most of them are still alive, but some of them have died” (1 Corinthians 15:6). When a rejuvenated Peter wrapped up his Pentecostal sermon, at least 3,000 more joined the church. One person did say about this blossoming group, “They have turned the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Some of the names on the great roll call of Christian faith? There was Mary Magdalene, a woman of influence, wealth and inner turmoil whose report of the resurrection the apostles rejected. There was “Blind Bartimaeus,” a man famous regionally for begging. There was the tax collector Zacchaeus, “the wee little man” rejected by religious snobs, who gave most of his money away. And of course, there was the apostle Paul, a reformed religious bigot who made a name for himself by welcoming non-Jews wherever he went.
It’s not that 12 people can’t change the world. It’s the staggering diversity of Jesus’ influence.