Was it predestined who Jesus would choose as His 12 Apostles? Did Jesus know who he was looking for?
This question about the foreknowledge that Jesus possessed in this particular area (the choice of the apostles) is one that can help us think about His foreknowledge more generally.
It is certainly reasonable to say that Jesus had foreknowledge of the 12 apostles, just as He foreknew other truths. It is at the same time mysterious that Jesus, during His youth, is said to have grown in knowledge as we hear in Luke 2:52, pointing to the possibility that some things remained unknown to Him.
Reconciling His foreknowledge with the fact of His growth in knowledge is a point of speculation on the mystery of both knowing all (in His divinity) and being
capable of growing in knowledge (in His humanity). However, given that Jesus knew who would betray Him (as alluded to in John 13:10-11), it is apparent that He had real foreknowledge of future events. Likewise, as Jesus is God who sees all moments as “present” (that is, the entirety of history is one, or “present” in God’s knowledge of it), mindful, too, of His providential care that allows for happenings (good and bad) so that the true good may be brought about, His foreknowledge was in some sense a predestining of whom He would choose.
To say that these men were somehow predestined to become apostles thus abides within providence. In other words, Jesus’ act of choosing twelve, which came only after He went up the mountain alone to pray during the night (c.f. especially Luke 6:12-16) is a “both-and” reality of knowledge and of providence. These men were known ahead of their being chosen; and still the act of their being chosen only took place within the reality of providence – that all was happening under God’s seeing it without in any way being altered from its natural course by a direct intervention from above.
On the other hand, if we are concerned that He was looking for “particular” men of a “particular” sort, it is safe to suggest that Jesus’ choice had nothing to do with earthly qualifications or any type of merit. The twelve men whom He chose were not scholars of the law, nor were they first-class orators, nor men of even temperament. We know Peter’s impetuosity, James and John’s readiness to retaliate (“Should we call down fire?” – Luke 9:54), Nathaniel’s cynicism (“Can anything good come from
Nazareth? – John 1:46), as well as many other moments of fallen human nature in action. It is here that a good lesson for all us lies, summed up by the expression, “God does not call the qualified; He qualifies the called.” Jesus knows each one of us by name, loves us, and desires to share an eternity with us. To live our “call” is to open ourselves to His abiding within us, letting Him “qualify” us for heaven, if you would.
Thus, we can safely assert that Jesus knew in advance who the 12 would be. Likewise, He also knew that they would falter at times (and that this group would
include the presence of His betrayer among them). And yet, He calls these – just as He has called you and me – to be His own.