Did Jesus commission the twelve disciples in a unique way over the rest of the church? In a word, no. Of course, they were unique because everyone is unique. And, of course, they were exceptional in that they had the closest physical proximity to Jesus. But Jesus said,
“I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I am leaving; for if I do not leave, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” John 16:7 NASB
The Holy Spirit, living inside of us, is a more intimate relationship than walking with Jesus in Galilee.
Jesus had more than twelve disciples. Luke chapter 10 reports that Jesus sent out seventy others to preach the Gospel, heal, and cast out demons in addition to the twelve. Furthermore, Jesus commanded his followers to pray for more laborers to go into the harvest field as they were.
“Now after this the Lord appointed seventy others, and sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come. And He was saying to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” Luke 10:1-2 NASB
The prayer is for more disciples to go and do just as they were doing.
Jesus chose the twelve for a powerful symbolic purpose. The nation of Israel originated from twelve brothers, the patriarchs of the twelve tribes of Israel. By picking twelve disciples, Jesus claimed
to reconstitute “Israel” around Himself. But he did not limit His disciples to twelve. The twelve served a unique symbolic purpose
What did it take to become a disciple? When Jesus saw Levi (Matthew) sitting in the tax booth, He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he left everything behind, and got up and began to follow Him. Luke 5:27. When the rich young ruler came
to Jesus and asked what was required to be His disciple, Jesus said to Him, “Sell all that you have and give to the poor…and come follow me.” (Luke 18:22). The qualifications of a disciple are simple: Surrender all and follow Jesus.
Jesus gave no other stipulations for a disciple than to surrender and obey. Never did Jesus suggest that a disciple must first submit to an institution outside of Himself. Instead, Jesus claimed to trump all other institutions. Jesus said, “I am the way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father but through Me.” John 14:6. If Jesus is the way, the Truth, and the Life, and I submit to Him, I can have no higher authority. Nothing trumps the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Neither can the world possess a more consistent authority because the Truth never changes and cannot be manipulated.
Jesus never organized a hierarchy among his followers. Rather, Jesus said,
But as for you, do not be called Rabbi; for only One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters. And do not call anyone on earth your father; for only One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called leaders; for only One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
Matthew 23:8-10 NASB