We should really be something between surprised and perplexed by the fact that one of the times Jesus spent the night praying, He called his disciples around Him and called 12 of them “apostles.”
“Disciples” makes sense. Some of His followers were in deep relationships with Him. Some were intent on being obedient to His instructions and on applying His teachings to their hearts and lives. Other rabbis had disciples. Saul of Tarsus was a disciple of Gamaliel, a rabbi and a member of the ruling council of Israel. No rabbi had apostles.
“Apostle” is a socio-political word. Rome was considered a supernatural city in the first century. Caesar was considered a god. The laws that governed the empire ruled by Rome made special provisions and protections for citizens of Rome. Not citizens of the empire – the city. Some cities in the empire were given a special status that elevated them to some sense of having the super nature Rome had by being “colonized” by Rome.
If the imposition on the colonized city had been sickness, it would have been “infected.” Since, instead, it was being “blessed” by a manifestation of the supernatural identity of the city of Rome, it was a “colonization,” or an impartation of Rome’s magical wonderfulness. The status included that city’s citizens being given the status of being citizens of the city of Rome. It was useful for implementing what some people call “gold chains” – an enslavement that looks like benefit and prestige. Ephesus was such a city. Tarsus, where Saul (Paul) was born, was another.
The colonization that accomplished the change of status included sending citizens of the city of Rome to the lesser city to impart the aura and identity (the magic) of that great city to bring its glory into the colony. The process was “apostolic.” The people who were sent, including the servants who drove the wagons or piloted the ships, were apostles. The fact that they were “sent” was the reason. “Apostle” means “sent.”
Jesus was colonizing the earth with citizens of Heaven. The leaders of that colonization project are apostles. Just like the first twelve, apostles look, think, and work differently from each other today. Some are well educated, some are hillbillies. Some make messes. Some do astonishingly wonderful things. Some get blueprints for big projects. Some you never hear what they did.
Jesus is creating colonies in which the culture of Heaven is providing an environment where His family can flourish. Being a citizen in one of these colonies has the status of Heavenly citizenship.