Here’s the scene.
Jesus has been busy getting his ministry off the ground and he’s got an excellent start. He is healing, teaching, preaching, and even squeezing in a meal that he can write off as counting for work! He’s called a few disciples thus far and he has a knack for attracting a crowd.
In Mark 3:13-19, Jesus is ready to take yet another step. From among those who are following him, seemingly showing interest and some commitment as disciples (that is, learners/students or apprentices), he appoints twelve as “apostles.”
Twelve. The symbolic connection is clear–twelve tribes of Israel, twelve apostles.
Apostles. “Sent ones.” That is to say, persons commissioned and sent by someone greater to represent them and/or do work on their behalf.
Jesus is ready to expand the ministry through some key leaders who will have a peculiar role as persons appointed to represent him and share in his ministry of preaching (declaring the word and gospel of God) and casting out demons (we could say, just as accurately, “standing against the forces of evil, injustice, and oppression”).
But what is the very first thing on the list?
“…to be with him”
Well, that makes a lot of sense. After all, how can they (we) preach or testify to Jesus without serious proximity to him? How can they (we) stand courageously against the demonic forces of evil and injustice without a serious connection to Jesus’ power? Look at what they’re (we’re) being appointed to do! Of course, they’ll (we’ll) need to spend time with him.
Here’s a tension. We can’t do what Jesus appoints and sends us to do without being with him. But at the same time, being with Jesus is not simply an instrumental means to a pragmatic end.
Being with Jesus is it’s own reward. With is a relationship word. And it’s the first word used to describe the nature of our appointment by the King of all creation. Before he gives us anything to do, he appoints us to be with him.
With him for it’s own sake–that’s how relationship works.
How might we nurture and practice being with him? Of many spiritual disciplines or practices we could list, let me simply offer three.
- Scripture (thoughts on how to start here)
- Silence (in prayer)
I could say more, but I trust you can make the connections yourself.
“He appointed them to be with him…” Amazing.
Scripture quoted is from the new Common English Bible. I have access to a limited number of copies to give away for free. If you are interested, please send me a message with your name and contact information.