Friday, July 17, 2009

He appointed Twelve

Jesus departed with his disciples to the lake, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him; hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon. He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.

He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message, and to have authority to cast out demons. So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter); James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder); and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

Then he went home;

- Mark 3:7-19a

There is a great sense of activity here. Jesus is so pressed in by the crowds in this scene that he is afraid he will be crushed. He asks his disciples to have a boat ready so that he can get away, as all begin to press upon him, trying to touch him, so that they can be healed. People are coming from every surrounding area now to see him; Jesus cannot escape from the crowds, and he even has to find a different way out (by boat) here.

Healing goes had in hand with exorcism. There is the oppression of evil in the world, that which ails us, through bondage to these demons, this demonic influence. The demons recognize him and know him, but Jesus forbids them to speak. He does not want himself identified as messiah at this stage. He is a preacher and a healer, and an exorcist, casting out demons.

The great sense in this passage is of the movement of people - people from everywhere are coming to see Jesus; there is this tremendous stirring happening. And out of all of that movement comes something very important: Jesus chooses the Twelve who will be his apostles. Out of his disciples, Jesus takes these men and appoints them to be apostles. They will become like him: preaching, healing and casting out demons. To me this says that the great important innovation of Christ here is precisely his investment in us. They, the twelve, will become like him. They will carry out his mission not simply by learning from the Master, but by becoming invested with his power. He will share himself with them, and they will become transformed by this reality. This is the action of the kingdom, and we are given its first glimmer here. Our God shares his responsibility with us, and invests his love and power in us, as well as his gifts.

So, delegation in this model is a partnership. Humanity - while in need of liberation itself - is actually to be a partner in its own liberation from bondage to evil. With Jesus' help, the sharing of this power and these gifts, we are lifted to a partnership in this "good fight." Our evangelist, Mark, presents the perspective of human life in bondage to evil through demonic oppression, and Jesus the healer is also a liberator. Now, with this appointment of the twelve, he assumes a power of delegation: Jesus will share his own power with human beings whom he has called, so that they too may assist in this liberation. He empowers us. This is an opposite action to evil: evil is parasitic, it has no real power of its own. It seeks to rob people of their free will, their energy, and all that they have. It is enslaving. Jesus does the opposite. He is the source of power. He is a liberator, and beyond that - he shares his power with us so that we become co-liberators in this struggle. When we grapple with our own demons, whatever they may be in whatever age, we must remember that this is the key to Jesus' relationship with human beings, with his chosen followers: that he shares his power. He invests in us this liberating power so that we are part of the struggle, but we are not at the mercy of any influence. He has gifted us with his power, with spiritual gifts, with prayer, with love and mercy, and all that he shares with us so that we too may join this "good fight."

And this is the really good "good news" - that this kingdom is not here merely to ask us to join as members. It is here to be shared. Jesus' disciples are also his friends. Their first job, if we look carefully in the passage, is to be with him. He calls them up to a mountaintop, chooses them out of the crowds, individually. Before all else, they are to be like him - to walk with him, to learn from him. So deeply bonded is this relationship that he invests himself in them, and in you and me. Our liberator does not work alone but by investment in us; he calls us to work with him. May the strength of that spirit and that investment and that love and sharing be yours, in whatever struggle you feel yourself to be caught.

And the final words of this passage: "And then he went home." In these words is summed up the trust he places in his disciples, as he retires from the crowds for a respite.

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