John 6: 70-71 (MsgB)
Jesus responded, “Haven’t I handpicked you, the Twelve? Still, one of you is a devil!” He was referring to Judas, son of Simon Iscariot. This man—one from the Twelve!—was even then getting ready to betray Him.
“One of you is a devil!” Jesus proclaims.
Jesus turns to Peter and says, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16: 23 NIV)
How is it that Jesus, the Son of God, can handpick twelve men to follow Him through three years of Kingdom ministry, only to find that one (Judas) is a devil and another (Peter) acts like one?
Is this just a quirk in history? An abnormality? An aberration?
Or are we looking at a dangerous pattern here that we 21st century leaders of the church need to be more aware of?
I’ll let you wrestle with that question on your on, but quite honestly, these scriptures scare me. And just in case, you’d like to ignore them, let me remind you of a couple of others from the Gospels.
Over in Matthew 7: 21-23 (Msg), we find Jesus warning His friends with this:
“Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance— isn’t going to get you anywhere with Me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what My Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to Me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use Me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress Me one bit. You’re out of here.’”
And then later, in Matthew 26: 20-22 (Msg), we find this revealing text:
After sunset, He (Jesus) and the Twelve were sitting around the table. During the meal, He said, “I have something hard but important to say to you: One of you is going to hand Me over to the conspirators.” They were stunned, and then began to ask, one after another, “It isn’t me, is it, Master?”
As I see it, these difficult passages in the Gospels are there not just to show us how two-faced our first-century counterparts could be, but to remind us how in each generation of Christianity, all of us who are called by Christ to oversee and steward His earthly ministry are very susceptible to the temptations of taking our lives and ministries into our own hands. And in the process, we allow our minds and hearts to become hardened and deluded. So hardened and deluded, apparently, that we can easily lose track of Kingdom realities, just as Judas and Peter did.
That, my dear friends, frightens me. And unless I’m seriously mistaken about your character, I sense you should be frightened as well.
Yet, the good news in all this frightening stuff is that Jesus keeps on loving us and embracing us, even though He knows what we’re all made of. From my seat on the bench, I’m thinking that Jesus is, quite honestly, secretly pleased with His friends when He sees them all, one by one, inquiring of Him that Passover night, “It isn’t me, is it, Master?
As I see it, it’s that kind of simple honesty and humble questioning of self the Lord is always looking for from His friends and Kingdom co-workers.
My prayer: Lord, apparently You are quite aware of the character flaws and sinful condition in our hearts, yet You go ahead and place us in high positions of leadership in Your church. Thank You, Lord, that You are a forgiving Master who continually is giving us an opportunity to check our hearts and honestly come to You, asking ‘It isn’t me, is it, Lord?’ May I always be found in that place of humble questioning of myself, for Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: When was the last time I reflected on these difficult NT passages that show us how sinful Jesus’ closest followers can so easily become? Where might I have recently become more of a ‘stumbling block’ for Jesus, like Peter, who viewed ministry through human eyes, versus looking to Jesus and His ministry through the eyes and mind of God?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
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