Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany” and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.”
And Jesus said to the Disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (From the Third Eothinon Gospel read at Sunday Orthros) Monday of the 6th Week of Pascha
Good morning Prayer Team!
Christ is Risen!
What is the difference between the word “Disciple” and the word “Apostle”? The word “disciple” means “student,” and a student is one who learns. The word “apostle” means “one who is sent out” and the work of the apostle it to teach, in this case to spread the word of God. Just as a teacher was once a student, one who is going to be an apostle must first be a disciple. If God expects each of us to spread the Gospel, then He has called all of us to be apostles. Thus, we must first become good disciples, good students. It is interesting to note that in the Bible, the overwhelming majority (but not all) of the references to the twelve disciples that occur before their “commissioning” refers to them as “disciples.” After the “commissioning and the Ascension, the overwhelming majority (though not all) refers to them are as “apostles.” Thus, the “commissioning” of the disciples was to “commission” them as apostles, for the students to go out and become the teachers of the Gospel.
In today’s scripture passage from the Gospel of Mark, Jesus not only commissions the disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to the whole creation,” He mentions to them signs that will accompany them and those who they will spread the Gospel to. Those who believe, including the Apostles, will be able to cast out demons, they will “speak in new tongues (this foretells of Pentecost when the Apostles would speak in all the languages known to mankind), they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick and they will recover.”
There are two reasons for sharing these signs. First, it is to reiterate to the Apostles that they will be given great power from the Lord, to do extraordinary things, just as the Lord Himself did extraordinary and miraculous things. It served as a reminder to them that great power comes from God through us, His servants. And with such great power would also come great responsibility.
The second reason is so that the Apostles would have a way to gauge God’s grace at work in others. After all, if an Apostle was evangelizing people, how would the Apostle know who to appoint as a deacon, as a helper, or even who to ordain as a bishop (and later a priest). These “signs” were clues for the Apostles of a sense of holiness inside of someone being considered for leadership in the early church.
Most of us don’t think of ourselves as “apostles”. Many of us probably consider ourselves rather ordinary when it comes to faith, and certainly not extraordinary. The Lord, however, doesn’t call us to be ordinary. He calls us each to be extraordinary. Just like He doesn’t call us merely to be students but to be teachers in lives, He calls us not to only to be servants but to be leaders. And He doesn’t call us just to be disciples, but to be apostles.
Nowhere does it say that every apostle will be able to cast our demons or heal the sick. But the Lord gave each of us something of power and influence. There are many people whose “power” is in their humility, or honesty, or work ethic. There are people who speak with powerful conviction about the faith. And there are still others who give a powerful witness of their faith with their patience and perseverance. God has given each of us the ability to learn about the things of faith, to be a disciple. And He has given each of us a way to lead others to Christ, giving each of us then the foundation to be good Apostles.
“Apostle” comes from the Greek “Apostello”, which means sent forth. Christ sent forth simple fishermen to bring the world to Christ. These men were not educated and were rather pedestrian in their skill sets. However, the Gospel of Christ and the work of the church is not so much about “brain work” as it is about “heart work.” Christ has called each of us in some way, to be His apostles. Before becoming an apostle, however, one needs to be a Disciple. And to be a Disciple, one needs devotion and interest. To be an apostle, there also has to be continued interest in being a disciple. For learning about the Lord is a lifelong endeavor. And speaking about Him with others should be as well.
Let no one doubt that Christ is risen, for He appeared to Mary and then was seen by those walking in the country. Again He appeared to the eleven initiates as they reclined, and sent them forth to baptize others. He then ascended to heaven from when He descended, confirming their preaching with a multitude of signs. (Exapostelarion of the Third Eothinon of Orthros, Trans. by Holy Cross Seminary Press)
Be a disciple today! Be an apostle today!
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