Necessarily Twelve

Peter stood up in the midst of the brothers and said, “It is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us…become with us a witness to his resurrection.” (Acts 1:15, 21-22)

They chose St. Matthias as the twelfth. There had to be Twelve. Why?

The Twelve Apostles
The Twelve Apostles
Is it because 120 people had gathered? I mean, it is pretty interesting that the twelfth Apostle was chosen with a congregation of 120 people. One hundred twenty divided by twelve gives us the beautiful number ten. This, of course, calls to mind the fundamental moral law, the Ten… Suggestions? No. The Ten Commandments.

Did there have to be twelve Apostles because the Church is the new Israel? Israel was founded on the twelve sons of ___________ (Jacob), from whom the twelve tribes were descended. The ancient High Priest wore twelve stones on his breastplate because of this (Exodus 39:14).

That seems like a pretty solid reason why the new Israel had to originate from the sacred ministry of twelve Apostles. The Lord Jesus had promised, after all, that the Apostles would sit on thrones and judge the twelve tribes. If the Apostles sat on eleven or thirteen or fourteen thrones to judge the twelve tribes, that would be, well, awkward.

Any other thoughts about why there had to be twelve? Maybe because twelve courses of stones make up the gleaming walls of the heavenly Jerusalem? Maybe because the Blessed Virgin, exalted on high, wears a crown of twelve stars? Maybe because the tree of life in the heavenly city bears twelve kinds of fruit, yielding them each month?

twelfth-nightWe do not traffic in astrology, of course. But God did array the heavens in such a way that we could make out twelve signs in the stars over the course of a year. And the ancient wisdom of the grocer discerned that eleven does not make a complete quantity of eggs. You need a dozen. Twelve seems to fulfill the whole. Twelve gives us a complete number.

Twelve men, then—enough for a jury. But these men praying in the upper room were not angry, but ready to be clothed with power from on high.

May they guard us from their heavenly thrones. And may they help us through one of the twelve gates of the new and eternal Jerusalem.

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