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.
2 thoughts on “With”
Regarding this — “With him for it’s own sake–that’s how relationship works.”
I haven’t found this to be the case, for myself. In relationships (my kids, my wife, my pastor), each one is different, and what’s going on in each one varies from week to week, day to day. My relationship with my wife is the most “transactional.” There are behavioral “expectations” — much more than sitting in silence with one another.
And sitting in silence with “the Lord, who is the spirit,” accomplishes various things. We are transformed from one degree of glory to another, we hear the still small voice, we discover what’s bothering us — things we’re ignoring for various reasons. All this has utility.
There is, of course, the problem of using people. My wife observed that in me, what I would call “kingdom-building” — wanting to use people to build myself up, using people like little organizational lego blocks, instead of discovering what it is that God wants to accomplish in another person’s life.
I had to repent of that impulse. And I wasn’t very good at it anyway.
That’s the tension. It is true that being with Jesus “accomplishes various things.” But that can’t be the motivation. We can recognize the dynamic but still work at allowing God’s Spirit to purify our motivations. If our motivation is utilitarian, then we’re attempting to use God. That’s not a good place to be.
I think it’s about first and second things. To paraphrase a familiar saying: Seek first being with Christ for its own sake and all the benefits will be added to you.