12 Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God. 13And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles: 14Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, 15and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, 16and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
17 He came down with them and stood on a level place, with a great crowd of his disciples and a great multitude of people from all Judea, Jerusalem, and the coast of Tyre and Sidon. 18They had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were cured. 19And all in the crowd were trying to touch him, for power came out from him and healed all of them.
Jesus went out to the mountain to pray – whenever Jesus faced a big decision, or when he was exhausted, or pressed by the people, or frustrated with the way the ministry was going, or when the ministry was going really well and people were coming from all around, or when he needed guidance – Jesus prayed. Jesus was a man of prayer, constantly in communion with God. This was, after all, God’s mission, God’s kingdom; he needed God’s help and guidance. We all need God’s help. If we are to understand God’s will for our lives, we too must pray. Jesus set the example for us. If we are to receive God’s help, the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue our mission in life – whatever it is God calls us to do or be as we live our lives – we need God! And our way to live into the will of God is to pray.
And notice this, Jesus did not just go out and sit down and tell God what he wanted, and expect results. Jesus prayed all night. He took the time to talk with God, to listen for God’s response. And when he came down from the mountain, he took the ministry in a new direction. He selected 12 apostles – there were lots of disciples, we forget that – people who were following Jesus from place to place, seeking to learn from this Rabbi. But he needed the 12 to teach more carefully, twelve who would carry on the work when he was gone. They were the leaders in training – those whom Jesus would mentor carefully over the next months or years.
Luke’s list of apostles, like Luke’s genealogy, is different from Matthew’s. Luke adds a second Judas, son of James, but leaves out Thaddeus. Certainly, he begins with Simon, called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and includes James and John, and a second James, son of Alphaeus, and a second Simon, the Zealot, and Matthew (or Levi), Thomas, Phillip and Bartholomew, and of course, Judas Iscariot, whom Luke identifies here as the one who became a traitor. Did Jesus know at this point that Judas could someday betray him? We do not know – perhaps Jesus knew that Judas had it in his heart to betray, but hoped that Judas would become a better man than that.
Jesus was filled with power, with the Spirit, after that night of prayer, and that power was visible , not only in his selection of disciples, but also in the ministry that followed. There was a multitude of people who had come to hear him and to be healed – and they could all feel the power that came from him, and all were healed.
It is God who heals, and God who empowers, through the presence of the Spirit – we do ministry, we live our lives, in the power of the Spirit. Prayer is the means of grace through which we are empowered.