Monday, September 22, 2014

The Journey, part 2: the twelve

 And He called the twelve together, and gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. (Luke 9:1 NASB)

Jesus had been training his twelve closest disciples (or apostles) for months. They were students following their beloved teacher. Jesus, however, was the Redeemer training those who would continue His work once He was gone. He knew it was time for them to put all He had taught them into action, and they were about to have some field work. 

Jesus summoned the twelve in order to commission and equip them. That seems like a pretty routine summons until you realize who was a part of the twelve. Peter, James, and John were His inner circle and they, of course, were there. Judas Iscariot, the one who would betray Jesus, was also there. It seems odd sending the betrayer out to do God's work, doesn't it?  What seems even more unexpected is that He entrusted both power and authority over demons and illness to Judas. 

Consider this scenario for a moment.  Judas was called by Jesus to follow Him, and he did. He was not just a follower, but became one of the twelve. He was with Jesus every day, and was treated in the same manner as all the other disciples. When Jesus was bestowing power and authority, Judas received the same power and authority as everyone else in the group. When Jesus sent them out to preach the Good News and perform healings, Judas was sent, just like the others in the twelve, and he went. Along the way, Judas preached and healed the sick, just as Peter, James, and John did. 

Because Judas Iscariot is forever remembered as the betrayer of Jesus, it is easy to forget that he was, at least at the beginning, a close follower of Jesus. We don't often consider Judas as a minister of the gospel, but that is exactly what he was. In fact, he was a kind of "traveling evangelist" for a time. Luke 9:1 makes this clear. Jesus sent the twelve, and Judas was one of the twelve.

Judas did not come to Jesus planning to betray Him. He planned to follow Him. The problem was that Judas had unconfessed sin he never chose to leave behind. He was a thief, and his love for money would one day not only be his undoing, but would send Jesus to the cross. The tragic truth is that, in the sending of the twelve, Jesus gave Judas all the power and authority he needed to break free of the stronghold of sin in his life. His traveling partner had all the power and authority needed to help Judas. He could have been freed of his sin, but he chose bondage instead. 

That sounds terrible, doesn't it? He chose bondage. When we hear that, we instinctively know it was a foolish choice, yet do we not do the same?  Do we not downplay the danger of our own sinful ways? Do we not look at others and console ourselves that we are not as bad as they? Do we not choose to continue with our sin rather than seek the freedom that Christ can bring? Do we not also choose bondage? 

How tragic it is that this disciple was commisioned, equipped, and empowered to make a difference in the lives of those around him, yet failed so miserably when it mattered most! Dear ones, choosing to keep our sin rather than embrace freedom is always a costly decision. We would do well to look closely at our own hearts and invite our Lord to remove every stronghold, replacing them with the freedom only He can bring. Today, let us invite a holy inspection of our hearts, followed by a holy cleansing so that we can not just serve but help others find the freedom in Christ that we have also found.