“Luke says, ‘He chose twelve whom he also named apostles.’ The title alone was significant. The Greek verb apostello means “to send out.” The noun form, apostolos, means “one who is sent.” The English word apostle is a transliteration, rather than a translation, of the Greek word. The apostles were “sent ones.” But they were not mere messengers. The Greek word for “messenger” was angelos, from which we get our word “angel.” An apostolos was something more significant than a courier or a herald; apostolos conveyed the idea of an ambassador, a delegate, an official representative.
That word has an exact parallel in Aramaic—shaliah. (Remember that the common language in Israel in Jesus’ time—the language Jesus Himself spoke—was not Hebrew, but Aramaic.) In that first-century Jewish culture, the shaliah was an official representative of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of
. A shaliah exercised the full rights of the Sanhedrin. He spoke for them, and when he spoke, he spoke with their authority. He was owed the same respect and deference as the council itself. But he never delivered his own message; his task was to deliver the message of the group whom he represented. Israel
The office of a shaliah was well known. Shaliah were sent out to settle legal or religious disputes, and they acted with the full authority of the whole council. Some prominent rabbis also had their shaliah, “sent ones” who taught their message and represented them with their full authority. Even the Jewish Mishnah (a collection of oral traditions originally conceived as a commentary on the Law) recognized the role of the shaliah. It says, “The one sent by the man is as the man himself.” So the nature of the office was well known to the Jewish people.
Thus when Jesus appointed apostles, He was saying something very familiar to people in that culture. These were His delegates. They were His trusted shaliah. They spoke with His authority, delivered His message, and exercised His authority.” (Twelve Ordinary Men by John MacArthur p.20-21)
Responding to Philip who said, “Show us the Father!”… “Jesus asked him, ‘Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.’ (John 14:10-11) Jesus was saying in essence, ‘I am to the Father what you are to Me. I am the Father’s apostle. I am His shaliah. I act with His full power of attorney. More than that, I am one with the Father. I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. We share the same essence.” (ibid p.132)
Jesus went on to say, “The truth is, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12)
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit who leads into all truth. The world at large cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you do, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.”(John 14:16-17)
John the Baptist had said of Jesus, “For he is sent by God. He speaks God’s words, for God’s Spirit is upon him without measure or limit. The Father loves his Son, and he has given him authority over everything.”(John 3:34-35)
Jesus gave his disciples the promises of doing the same works that He had done (and even greater works!), of being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, of exercising the same authority that God had given to Him, and of proclaiming the same empowered message of repentance and salvation that He gave.
Jesus used the image of a vine to describe his disciples’ relationship with Him (which was similar to His relationship with His Father.) “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing…I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey me, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father and remain in his love.” (John 15:5, 9-10)
Jesus also warned His disciples to expect persecution from the world, just as He did, because they would be speaking His words, as His shaliah. “Do you remember what I told you? ‘A servant is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you! The people of the world will hate you because you belong to me, for they don’t know God who sent me.” (John 15:20-21)
Jesus told his disciples that after He returned to be with his Father in heaven, they could pray directly to God. “At that time, you won’t need to ask me for anything. The truth is, you can go directly to the Father and ask him and he will grant your request because you use my name. (John 16:23)
Using Jesus’ name in prayer is to place ourselves under His authority, to see ourselves as connected to Him as the vine, to recognize that our restored relationship with Jehovah God is through Jesus’ sacrifice offered for us. As sinners, we are only able to enter the presence of our holy God through the cleansing blood of Jesus.
And as His shaliah, we have been entrusted with the task of representing Him to a fallen world.
Knowing that His death was close at hand, Jesus prayed for His disciples and for those of us who would believe later. “I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They are not part of this world any more than I am. Make them pure and holy by teaching them your words of truth. As you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world.” (John 17:15-18)
“For we speak as messengers who have been approved by God to be entrusted with the Good News.” (1 Thessalonians 2:4a)
Lord, help us who call ourselves your messengers to clearly, boldly, and accurately proclaim your message. Help us as your shaliah to represent you as you really are. Help us to say along with John the Baptist, “Jesus must become greater and I must become less.” (John 3:30)