The Many and the Few

Posted: September 9, 2013 in Mark

Mark 3:7-19, “The Many and the Few”

“The few – the proud – the Marines.”  We all recognize the slogan from the recruitment ads, even if you’ve never served in the Marines (or the military at all).  In truth, there are many groups in which a few are selected out of many…that’s the whole point of the NFL draft, an elimination game show, or even the typical job interview.  Many people come forward, but only a handful are chosen (or sometimes just one).

It wasn’t much different with the crowds that surrounded Jesus.  There were all sorts of people who came out to see Him.  They came from different backgrounds and different cultures – some traveling long distances just to be in the presence of this miracle worker from Galilee.  Most of them weren’t coming to offer anything to Jesus, but rather just see what they could receive from Him.  But there were a few that were called and chosen by Him.  Out of the crowds were the disciples, and out of the larger group of disciples were the apostles.  These 12 men (including one who would betray Jesus) were given a specific mission to go do and say what Jesus did & said.  They were a few called and empowered by Jesus to go change the world.  And that’s exactly what happened.

Mark 3:7–19
7 But Jesus withdrew with His disciples to the sea. …

  • Why did Jesus “withdraw”?  Seemingly because of the plotting of the Pharisees against Him.  He had been doing much ministry in the synagogues, and had come into several conflicts with the Pharisees.  Most recently, Jesus had been tested by the Pharisees in the synagogue on a Sabbath day when presented with a man who had a withered hand.  The Pharisees wanted to see if Jesus would really assert His authority over the Sabbath (as Jesus claimed to have), and Jesus actually did it.  As the Son of Man, Jesus has absolute authority over the Sabbath (because He provides our Sabbath rest), and Jesus provided healing to this man that the Pharisees had used as a tool & a guinea pig.  The Pharisees fumed, and they began conspiring against Jesus. Now He takes a step away from the synagogue for a time, continuing the open-air preaching He had been doing among the multitudes.
  • When Jesus “withdrew,” this speaks merely of direction, and not fear.  Jesus was not fearful; He was wise & obedient.  He knew what needed to be done, and He knew it needed to be done in the timing of God.  The Pharisees would continue to plot against Him and come into conflicts with Him until the week of His death (and they would continue to do so after His resurrection!).  Jesus kept all of them in check until the timing was absolutely right.  He was never controlled or cast about by the random schemes of men; Jesus shows Himself to be in total control of every situation at all times.

… And a great multitude from Galilee followed Him, and from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and beyond the Jordan; and those from Tyre and Sidon, a great multitude, when they heard how many things He was doing, came to Him.

  • The Pharisees may have rejected Jesus, but not everyone did. A “great multitude” from all kinds of peoples and nations came to Jesus…Jews & Gentiles alike.  They came from the south, east, and north…people couldn’t stay away from Him.  “Judea and Jerusalem” obviously refer to the nation of Israel, as even the Jews from the most holy of cities among them came to the back-woods area of Galilee to see Jesus. “Idumea” was the region southeast of Judea formerly known as Edom.  The historical Edomites seem to have mostly vanished by this point, and many Jews now lived in Idumea.  That said, it was still a mix of Jew & Gentile.  Herod the Great was an Idumean.  “Beyond the Jordan” goes still further into Gentile territory, into the area still known as Jordan today.  “Tyre and Sidon” were cities to the north, well beyond the Sea of Galilee, into modern-day Lebanon.  No doubt Jews were among them (the Jews were scattered all over the region), but there was definitely a Gentile flavor to the crowds.  Quite the contrast to the synagogues and the Pharisees!
  • Why did they come? “They heard how many things He was doing.”  They heard of Jesus’ works.  Jesus had healed people – He had cast out demons – and the word had spread.  People were so amazed at the miracles of Jesus, that word of His healings even spread far & wide around Galilee on a single Sabbath day (when walking far distances wasn’t permitted).  By this point, the news of Jesus had gone out so far as to other nations, and people were more than willing to come & see for themselves.  (For people to hear of Jesus’ works, other people need to speak of them…)
  • That’s not to say that all these people came for the right reasons – nor that they all had abiding, saving faith in Jesus.  It just acknowledges the fact that people came.  Surely some came just to witness the supernatural.  No doubt others came because they thought they might personally receive something.  There were many who hung around Jesus for a time, only to abandon Him later.
    • The same is true today.  There are many who come to church, hang around other Christians – even participate in Bible studies & more…but they do not yet have saving faith in Jesus.  Salvation is available to them, even right in front of their eyes, but they have not yet accepted the gift of grace from Jesus – and until they do they don’t yet have any real relationship with Jesus.
    • But they can.  No one among the multitudes at that time would have been denied by Jesus if they had placed their faith in Him.  That was the very reason Jesus continued to minister among them!  He came to seek & to save the lost, and He was available to any and all who came to Him by faith.  Likewise for today…

9 So He told His disciples that a small boat should be kept ready for Him because of the multitude, lest they should crush Him.

  • How many people came?  So many, Jesus needed crowd control!  Having a boat allowed Him to preach from the water, rather than be crowded at the edge.  Apparently, this was a fairly common technique for Jesus, and had used it when He initially called Peter to the ministry (Lk 5:3).  That’s not to say that Jesus always preached from a boat, but rather it was always ready for the “just in case” scenario.
  • Keep in mind that Jesus wasn’t afraid of the crowds.  The potential was there for people to “crush” Jesus, but Jesus wasn’t responding to this potential in fear.  God would not have allowed one toe of Jesus’ to strike a stone if He had been in any danger (Ps 91:12).  Jesus wasn’t afraid of dying of being hurt; He just didn’t want any obstacles to the ministry that was taking place.  If people began to stampede, He wouldn’t have had the atmosphere necessary to do what needed to be done.  The disciples got the boat for Jesus simply because the work of God needed to proceed decently & in order. …
  • Question: what could Jesus do from the confines of the boat?  He’d be out of physical reach of the people.  Although Jesus could (and did) heal with a word, generally He touched people. … From the boat, the one obvious activity Jesus could do was teach.  Jesus was a teacher of God’s word – He was a preacher proclaiming the good news of the kingdom.  The supernatural miracles took place simply in the midst of it all.  Those were acts that verified His authority, demonstrating the fact that He is God.  (After all, we would expect God to do miracles!  It would be strange if He did not.)  But the meat of His ministry was in His teaching.  The miracles may have brought in the crowds from every area, but the only way they would ever be changed for eternity would be through the gospel that Jesus proclaimed.
    • A similar thing can be said through social outreaches.  Helping the poor at home & around the world is a good thing (and is commanded in the Scripture) – but feeding someone for a day without giving them an opportunity for eternity is not following the example of Jesus.  People aren’t saved through benevolence works, but they are often saved through the gospel when combined with benevolence.  There is an old adage attributed to Francis of Assisi (wrongly so, apparently) that says, “Preach the gospel.  When necessary, use words.”  With due respect, that’s dead wrong.  It’s always necessary to use words when preaching the gospel.  Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Rom 10:17)  The gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Rom 1:16).  If we expect people around us to simply assume what the gospel might be based upon the witness of our actions, we’re going to be waiting a long time.  Social action is not the preaching of the gospel, nor is it the model given us by Jesus.
    • That said, Christians make a grave mistake when we abandon or neglect social benevolence.  The Bible (OT & NT alike) clearly commands the people of God to show compassion to the poor.  James goes so far as to give an example of someone who might bless a poor man without giving him food or a blanket, and condemning that person as having a dead faith. (James 2:15-17)  It’s the combination of the spoken gospel and demonstrated love of Christ which is so powerful!
  • Keep in mind that although the multitudes heard the teaching of Jesus, one of the primary reasons they were pressing in so close to Him is because they wanted to touch Jesus.  They wanted to receive of the healing that only He could give.  See vs. 10…

10 For He healed many, so that as many as had afflictions pressed about Him to touch Him.

  • Even though Jesus was on the boat, He still did much healing.  No specific instances are described for us, but there would seem to have been a variety of illnesses healed by Jesus – and none were turned away.  No disease, no problem, no issue is ever too hard for the Creator of the Universe.  There is nothing we cannot bring to Jesus that Jesus cannot address.
  • Notice how the people came: they “pressed about Him to touch Him.”  Can you picture it? They were desperate to get to Jesus.  They were suffering with all kinds of sicknesses & afflictions, and all they knew is what they had heard about Jesus.  Jesus had healed others (to the point of healing leprosy!), so they knew Jesus could heal them.  They had faith
  • Again, we can’t assume that everyone in the crowds had saving faith.  They had enough faith to trust the healing power of Jesus, but it’s uncertain how many had faith to trust the saving power of Jesus.  Many were well aware of His authority to heal their physical bodies, though we don’t know how many entrusted their eternal souls to Jesus. …  Yet the former without the latter is ultimately useless!  What good is it to have a healthy body when your soul is doomed for eternity?

11 And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But He sternly warned them that they should not make Him known.

  • True to form thus far in the book of Mark, whenever we see Jesus healing, we also find Him casting out demons.  The same thing happens here.  Just as there were physical diseases, there was also spiritual sickness & oppression.  Jesus is fully capable of dealing with both.
  • Note that the demons knew exactly who Jesus was.  Absolutely no question!  When confronted with the command by this Galilean preacher, the demons looked him up & down, and knew without doubt Who it was that addressed them.  This was no ordinary man – this was no common prophet…this was the God who created them, and against Whom they had rebelled.  In fear they cried out “You are the Son of God!”  Some scholars have suggested that the demons were attempting a bit of spiritual warfare of their own, in that if they knew a person’s name and identity, they would somehow have power over that person.  That may have been a thought in the culture of that day, but surely even the demons know better than that.  They had no power over Jesus & never would.  When they saw Jesus, they saw One infinitely more powerful than they, and the possibilities of what Jesus might do to them terrified them.
  • There is also no question of Jesus’ authority over the demons.  When He commanded them to be silent, they were silent.  When He commanded them to depart from people, they departed.  Here, they even go so far as to demonstrate their submission when they “fell down before Him.”  This is going to come into play later in Ch 3 with the scribes, as they try to claim that Jesus’ authority over the demons somehow show Him being in league with the demons.  Obviously not.  He has authority over them, because He is God!
    • Jesus always has authority over the devil!
  • The demons proclaimed the truth about Jesus, but Jesus silenced them.  Why?  Wouldn’t it be a good thing for people to hear from a spiritual being the testimony concerning Jesus’ identity as the Son of God?  Not necessarily.  Demons are liars – they can’t be trusted.  Why would you want a known liar to speak up in your defense?
    • BTW – considering demons are liars, why would people be concerned with anything demons have to say?  To hear the tales of some self-proclaimed “experts” in spiritual warfare, they engage in long conversations with the demons they exorcise from people.  They try to get the demon to say his name, find out what he’s doing, how many are there, etc.  WHY?  What’s the point, when demons are liars?  It might make for a good theatrical show (and drive up the donation dollars), but it’s a waste of time, theologically.  It makes a mockery out of true deliverance from the demonic, and it makes the individual who is already spiritually oppressed in some way into a side-show carnival.

13 And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him.

  • Although Mark doesn’t mention it, this comes in a greater context.  Jesus had spent the night in prayer when He went up on the mountain.  [Lk 6:12]  Although we might gloss over this sometimes, this was one of the biggest decisions that Jesus made in His earthly ministry.  The men He appointed as apostles would be responsible for taking His gospel to the entire world.  One of the men He appointed would later betray Him to death, and Jesus was well aware of this fact when He first picked Judas.  It’s no wonder why Jesus spent so much time in prayer!
  • Jesus knew exactly who He “wanted.”  This was His personal, sovereign choice.  He knew which out of the crowds sought Him only for the show & the supernatural, and which ones were looking to Him for the words of life.  He knew everything about each individual among them because Jesus knew them before they were ever born!  He knew their strengths and He knew their faults…and He still “wanted” them.  That God would want anyone at all is amazing in itself (after all, God doesn’t need anyone)…that God would want people like us is astounding!
  • Out of those Jesus called, all of them responded.  Jesus called, and “they came to Him.”  They made the decision to follow Jesus up the mountain, and away from the rest of the multitude.  Like other disciples who had to make the decision to leave everything behind to follow Jesus, they were willing to do the same thing. 
  • In this we see a perfect balance in the will of God and the will of men.  Typically, our theological systems make these things polar opposites, with Calvinism on one side & Arminianism on the other (predestination vs. free will).  Yet the Bible never shows these issues contrasting or contradicting each other; it always shows them as complementary to each other.  God chooses, and Man chooses.  God calls, and Man responds.  Each is free in the choice, and all of it glorifies the Sovereign God and magnifies His grace.

14 Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, 15 and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons:

  • Notice the number is getting smaller.  Jesus had called up all of the people among the multitude that He Himself wanted – and from that smaller group, He chose 12 as His apostles.  It’s not that only 12 had faith and were saved; rather Jesus chose specific men to fulfill a specific office in what He was instituting as the Church.  There were multitudes of people that hung around Jesus to watch the show – there was a much fewer number that followed Jesus as disciples – and there was still a smaller number than that who were appointed by Jesus as His apostles. 
    • The word “apostle” simply refers to one who is sent.  In fact, the verb translated in the phrase “He might send them out” is the same exact root as the noun from which “apostle” is transliterated.  These men were to have a special calling and appointment by Jesus – shown in several areas…
  • Jesus chose a specific number: 12.  There were 12 tribes of Israel, and it is by no mere coincidence that Jesus appointed 12 apostles.  He explicitly told the apostles that in the kingdom, they were to sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel (Mt 19:28).  The book of Revelation describes the eternal city of the new Jerusalem as having 12 gates with the names of the tribes of Israel, as well as 12 foundations which have the names of the 12 apostles. (Rev 21:12, 14)  No doubt, Jesus was making a point in choosing this number!  God’s plan for Israel never changed, but His administration over it was being renewed and remade in this new covenant with these new apostles.
    • This also explains why the remaining 11 apostles decided to name a replacement for Judas after Judas abandoned his position when he betrayed Jesus.  There were no replacements for other apostles when they died; only for Judas.  His office had been abandoned & needed to be filled.
  • Jesus gave them a specific privilege: to “be with Him.”  They had a unique opportunity for fellowship with the Lord.  Jesus would be often be around the crowds, but there were many times that He called away the 12 to Himself.  They spent special time alone with Jesus: living with Him, eating with Him, sleeping on the ground next to Him, etc.  They received far more than a seminary education as they spent every waking (and non-waking) moment with the Lord. 
    • It’d be easy to get jealous of that kind of time spent with Jesus, but we forget that we have a similar invitation.  Born-again believers in Christ are temples of the Holy Spirit, and we have the opportunity to pray without ceasing.  We also could spend every waking moment with our Lord Jesus, aware of Him & His presence as we work, eat, and live life.  We could also talk with Him throughout the day, and continually read His words in the Scripture, and learn His leading through the Holy Spirit.  The problem for us is not the lack of opportunity, but the lack of the will.
  • Jesus gave them a specific mission: He “sent them out to preach.”  Remember an apostle is “one who is sent,” and this is what Jesus sent them out to do.  Their mission was to go proclaim the gospel of the kingdom wherever they went.  Sometimes that was on a specific mission to every region of Judea (as was the case in Mt 10) – sometimes that was just as they went about life with Jesus.  Later, the commission became far more explicit to include every corner of the world. (Mt 28:19-20, Acts 1:8)  They were to go make disciples – to go bear witness of Jesus everywhere they went.  This is what Jesus called them to do.
    • What Jesus gave to the apostles, He also gives to us.  The 12 had a specific role in establishing the Church and getting the work of proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom started, but we as the rest of the Church have the responsibility to carry it forward.  Too many Christians make the mistake of thinking that evangelism is only the task of certain “offices” within the Church.  No – evangelism belongs to ALL the Church.  We’ve ALL been sent by Jesus to preach the gospel of salvation to our world.
  • Jesus gave them specific authority: “power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons.”  These were the very things that Jesus had actively been doing among the people, and He empowered the apostles to do the same.  He gave them the authority to do the supernatural.  It wasn’t that they learned special techniques from Jesus; it’s that Jesus specially invested them with authority to do these things.  They didn’t have it on their own, and couldn’t get it on their own.  It had to come from Jesus, or it wouldn’t come at all.
    • That’s always the case with spiritual gifts – be it something as astounding as healing, or something a bit more simple, such as a word of knowledge.  These gifts always come from the Lord, empowered by Him every time.  It’s good to desire spiritual gifts (1 Co 14:1), but it’s not good to try to force or fake the gifts.  God the Holy Spirit will distribute them as He sees fit, according to His will.
  • In short, the apostles were called by Jesus to learn from/of Jesus, and to engage in the same activities as Jesus.  There were many disciples, but these were “disciples” in the truest sense of the word!  They were the apprentices of Jesus – the ambassadors of Jesus – doing the things He did, and sent to the world in His name and His authority.
    • We do not have the same office as the 12, but we engage in much of the same practice.  Jesus still calls us to Himself, sends us out, and empowers us for the task. We engage in the apostolic mission.  What a grand privilege!  What an incredible calling! … Do we recognize it?  Do we engage in it?

16 Simon, to whom He gave the name Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, to whom He gave the name Boanerges, that is, “Sons of Thunder”;

  • In the first group, we are told the three apostles that were closest to Jesus.  These three are grouped together in every listing the Bible contains – they were the inner circle of even the 12, called to bear witness to certain miracles that even the others did not. (The raising of Jairus’ daughter, the Transfiguration)  They were invited by Jesus to spend the night in prayer with Him prior to His arrest, although they fell asleep and failed at the task.  That Jesus would be closer to some than others ought not be a surprise to us.  We don’t all have the same relationship with people, and neither did Jesus.  It’s not that the others were loved any less; it’s just that these three had a specific calling.
  • Simon: He’d been given a new name by Jesus at their first meeting, though it took a while for Simon to grow into it.  “Peter/Cephas” refer to a rock/stone, and it would seem to be a compliment.  Simon Peter became a rock because he was built upon THE Rock.  He didn’t always act like it at first, but after Jesus’ resurrection & the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, Peter had a strength that likely surprised himself.
    • Peter gets a lot of grief from people today as they focus on all the times Simon was wishy-washy, impetuous, or intimidated.  When someone’s strength fails, we say “he petered out,” and there was a popular leadership book a while back which spoke of the “Peter principle,” referring to people given more responsibility than what they were ready for.  All of that tends to forget that Simon Peter was absolutely transformed by Jesus.  Not only did Peter demonstrate immense faith during Jesus’ earthly ministry (who else among the disciples actually walked on water?), but God used Peter in incredible ways starting from Pentecost onward.  Thousands came to faith in Christ when the Holy Spirit descended & Peter preached.  Peter was the first to confirm God taking the gospel to the Gentiles.  Peter authored two letters of the NT, humbly referring to himself as only a fellow elder (1 Pet 5:1).  The very gospel of Mark seems to have been taken from Peter’s account of Jesus’ ministry.  God has used the one He called “the rock” in pretty amazing ways!
  • James & John: These were brothers, the “sons of Zebedee.”  Like Peter & Andrew, they were brothers in the fishing business, and had been called to Jesus much earlier in His ministry.  Although we read far more of/from John than we ever do of James, James seems to have been the older brother, since he is always listed first.  Together (like Peter), they were also given a new name, but it seemed to speak of their temperament rather than their transformation.  The “Sons of Thunder” wanted to call fire down upon Samaria (Lk 9:54), and jockeyed for position in the Millennial Kingdom (Mt 20).  “Boanerges” is what they were, but it wasn’t what they remained.  God also used James and John in incredible ways.  James had a far shorter ministry than the others as he was the first apostle martyred for his faith (by King Herod – Acts 12:2), whereas John had the longest ministry of them all, writing much of the NT, bearing witness of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, and being known simply as “the Elder” by much of the early church.  This son of thunder has become known by many today as the apostle of love, due to his focus on the love of Christ.

18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananite;

  • We know a little about a handful of these, and next to nothing about others.  They weren’t included in Jesus’ closest circle of three, but they were chosen by Jesus, nonetheless.  We make a grave mistake when we assume that the lack of biblical records about these names equates to them being lesser apostles.  Jesus had a purpose for every single one of them, even if we are never told expressly what it was.
    • Your name may not go down in the history books, but if you have faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, then your name IS written in the Lamb’s book of life!
  • Andrew: Peter’s brother.  He was a former disciple of John the Baptist, and one of the very first people called by Jesus to be a disciple.  For as prominent a role as Andrew has, the Bible is relatively quiet about him.  What the Bible does show of Andrew, it shows a man of simple & profound faith.  This was a man who repeatedly brought people and situations to Jesus.  When Andrew first met Jesus, the first thing he did was to find Peter & brought him to Jesus.  At the feeding of the 5000, Andrew was the disciple that brought the boy & his lunch to Jesus.  When Philip encountered some Greeks who wanted to see Jesus, Andrew was the disciple who took that to Jesus as well. (Jn 12:20-22)  If the only thing said about us after we die is that we were people who took things to Jesus, that would be a wonderful legacy!
  • Philip: There is a deacon in the book of Acts by the name of Philip, but this is undoubtedly a different person.  Andrew and Philip are somewhat unique among the apostles in that although they were all Jews, these two were known solely by their Greek names.  When the group of Greeks asked to see Jesus, it was Philip whom they asked – perhaps Philip had adopted some of the Greek (Hellenistic) customs.  Otherwise, Philip was just like all the rest of the disciples – always amazed at the works and teaching of Jesus, and sometimes slow to understand what God was doing.  When Jesus fed the 5000, it was Philip who noted that it would take well over 200 denarii to buy enough food to feed the people. (Jn 6:7) (And even that would have been a low estimate!)
  • Bartholomew: Seems to have also been known as Nathaniel.  Bartholemew likely was his last name (Bar = son; Son of Tholmai).  If so, he and Philip had been following Jesus almost as long as Simon, Andrew, James, and John.  Philip had told Nathaniel about Jesus, and Nathaniel was amazed that “anything good” could come out of Nazareth. (Jn 1:46)  Not only did something good come, the very BEST thing came!  The very moment Nathaniel actually met Jesus, Jesus demonstrated that He knew the heart of Nathaniel & Nathaniel immediately came to faith that Jesus is the Messiah. (Jn 1:49).  The name “Bartholomew” does not appear in the gospel of John, and because he is always paired with Philip, it seems likely that he & Nathaniel are the same person.
  • Matthew: Also named Levi – he was the tax-collector from Ch 2.  The name “Levi” is not mentioned again after his calling by Jesus.  Why?  Perhaps this reflects his new identity in Christ.  Levi was a tax-collector – someone who enriched himself off the suffering of his own people, known universally as a sinner.  But at the calling of Jesus, Matthew was completely transformed.  He had left all to follow Christ, and his life would never be the same.  He had a new identity, reflected in his new name.
    • When you’re in Christ, you are a new creation!  You have been transformed!
  • Thomas: Known for his post-resurrection doubting, but he had a tremendous zeal for Jesus.  When other disciples feared to return to Bethany for Lazarus’ burial, Thomas was willing to go and die with Jesus. (Jn 11:16)  He did doubt the testimony of the resurrection for a week, but the moment he saw Jesus, his doubts vanished and he boldly proclaimed Jesus to be “My Lord and my God!” (Jn 20:28)  According to legend, he was the first to take the gospel to the Indian subcontinent.
  • James the son of Alphaeus: This is also potentially the same person as “James the Less,” and we know little to nothing about him other than the name of his father.  Actually, we know far more about James’ mother than the apostle, in that his mother was one of the “Mary’s” who was present at Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, and empty tomb.  (Mt 27-28)  Interestingly, James & Matthew each have a father named “Alphaeus.”  The Bible never directly tells us the two were brothers, and they are rarely listed together, but it would seem the possibility is there.
  • Thaddaeus: This is a man of many names!  The book of Matthew lists him as “Labbeaus surnamed Thaddaeus” (Mt 10:3), while the book of Luke calls him “Judas son of James” (Lk 6:16), and the book of John somewhat agrees when he’s called “Judas, not Iscariot” ().  Why so many names?  We’re not told – though it’s not difficult to understand why he may have shunned the name of “Judas” after the betrayal by his co-worker.
  • Simon the Cananite.  Although we pronounce the words similarly, “Cananite” is not the same thing as “Canaanite.”  This is not a designation showing that Simon was a Gentile that was leftover from the conquest of the Promised Land; this is a word that hearkens back to Aramaic idea of “zeal.”  The other gospel writers make this clear when they label Simon as “the Zealot.” (Lk 6:15)  The Zealots were a group of political activists, apparently still in its infancy at the time of Christ.  Eventually they became known as agitators who would rise up against the Romans.  To be called a “zealot” wasn’t a simple reference of devotion; it was a label of a rebel against Rome.
  • All in all, this is quite a crew!  Fishermen, tax-collectors, political agitators – those who treasured being Israelites & those who embraced Greek culture – and who knows what else?  These are not the sorts of people one would generally find in the same room together, much less banded together in a brotherhood of apostleship. …  Yet they were all called by Jesus.
    • If Jesus can use men like this to turn the world upside-down, He can use people like us, too!

19 and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. And they went into a house. [Last sentence probably belongs with the next verse.]

  • Judas was in a category all by himself.  He bears the distinction of having “betrayed” Jesus unto death.  He committed the most atrocious crime in all history when he sold out the Son of God.  He abandoned the One Man who offered eternal life, and Judas condemned himself to an eternity of suffering when he finally rejected Christ Jesus.
  • Please note that Jesus called him.  Judas was one of the 12.  Jesus specifically called the man who would betray Him, and Jesus knew this all along!  He gave Judas the same power and authority as the other apostles – absolutely no distinction is made between them, other than the constant reminder of the betrayal.  Up until the moment that Judas actually engages in his treachery, he is simply seen as being among the rest of the trusted apostles.  He was even the group treasurer (though he was later known to have been a thief).  Jesus gave Judas the same opportunity as was given everyone else.  Judas was even given greater opportunity to know Christ than most of the people that would have been considered disciples…after all, Judas was one of the 12.  That Judas still abandoned and betrayed Jesus does not speak of any lack of opportunity, but of Judas’ own depravity.  It also greatly underscores Jesus’ own grace.  Imagine waking every morning to have breakfast with the man that you know is going to betray you to death.  Imagine looking into the eyes of someone who seems to be truly hanging on to your every word, while knowing all the while that your words were going to be tossed aside by him.  Yet Jesus never once gave up on Judas.  Jesus gave Judas every opportunity in the world to be saved, and continually reached out in love to him.
    • Our God loves us!  He loves His creation…He doesn’t want to see any perish and die outside of Christ.  God will give people time & time again to come to faith in Jesus, but time does not last for forever.  We need to take the opportunity we’ve been given!
  • In it all, what is so sobering is this: Judas spent all kinds of time in the presence of Jesus, witnessing the miracles of Jesus, delving into the teaching of Jesus.  He was immersed in the things of God for three years.  And yet through it all, his nature never changed.  Tragic!
    • Beware of false conversion!  Beware of simply being comfortable around the things of Christ, but never actually knowing Jesus as your Lord.  If you’ve never personally taken the step to ask Jesus to be the Lord of your life – if you’ve never personally asked Jesus to forgive you of our sin & be your God & Savior, then you need to do so.

Conclusion:
As Jesus continued His ministry, He continued it with the many & the few.  There were many who came to Him from all directions.  They were amazed by Jesus’ acts of power, and they were impacted by His teaching and preaching.  Not all would continue to follow Jesus, but some did.  Some were called up on the mountain with Jesus – and even some beyond that were given a specific calling.  They were sent out by Jesus as His emissaries – His apostles.  In the eyes of the world, they would have been an unlikely bunch, but in the hands of God they were used in ways that have left a continuing impact on the world for nearly 2000 years.

Which is the group you find yourself in today? 

  • Are you part of the multitudes, just checking out Jesus?  Perhaps you have enough faith to know that Jesus CAN do something, but you haven’t yet committed yourself to Him. 
  • Maybe you’re like the larger group of disciples.  You’ve responded to the call of Christ Jesus & you’ve put your faith in Him as Lord.  Yet you haven’t quite stepped out in faith to a greater mission of service.
  • Maybe you have stepped out, like the 12 apostles.  To be sure, the 12 have an office & function that is unique in the Church & cannot be duplicated – but the things that Jesus gave them to do are the same things that we have been invested with.  You might have a background as sketchy as the original 12, but have no doubt that Jesus can use you, too!
  • Prayerfully you’re not like the one betrayer, Judas.  In every group of Christians there is a potential for false converts.  Don’t be one of them!  Don’t be one who says with your lips you trust Christ, but in your heart you know you do not.

Jesus has authority over sickness – authority over the demons – and authority to call and to transform your life.  He can take someone like us, and use us tremendously for His glory.  Have you responded to His call?

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