Prepare Our Hearts – September 9

A Devotional from Central Presbyterian Church.Find another day here.

Wednesday, September 9, 2020
Mark 3:13-19
And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him. 14 And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons. 16 He appointed the twelve: 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); 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

I have another confession to make, which is really not much of a confession for people that know me well: I do a very poor job of delegating. There is an old adage, attributed to either Napoleon Bonepart or his French contemporary, playwright Charles-Guillaume Étienne, which is roughly translated, “If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.” Unfortunately, this is a sentiment that I, and many others, strongly identify with. Working solo eliminates all of the inherent risks of entrusting important tasks—whether it be handling the family finances, maintaining the perfect lawn, or even doing the “work” of ministry— to others with less knowledge, experience, and expertise than we have. Those running a one-man circus often gladly live on the brink of complete exhaustion as long as it means things will get done exactly like we want them to. And, to be completely candid, it also feels good to believe that we possess skills and abilities that others do not. Learning to delegate even minor matters requires a large initial investment of time and resources that might seem better utilized elsewhere, but when we begin to loose the reigns, some very interesting things start to happen. First, our overinflated egos begin to shrink when we entertain the possibility that we may not be as indispensable as we might like to believe. Second, those around us benefit by being given opportunities to grow into the demands of their increased responsibilities. Third, an expectation of sharing the load helps create a healthy environment that brings everyone into the process of identifying and solving problems while simultaneously encouraging rest and self-care. In the ultimate irony, by learning to “do” less, we can actually accomplish far more.

The more Jesus ministered, the more the crowds continued to press in and make heavy demands upon Him. The weary, huddled masses from throughout and beyond the region of Galilee came in such a number that it was logistically impossible for Jesus to continue to meet all of their needs alone. So Jesus went up on to the mountain in Capernaum, where He would deliver the most famous sermon in the world, and invited twelve of His followers to join Him. For reasons known only to Jesus, these men were chosen from among the others to serve as apostles, which means sent ones. And what exactly were the apostles chosen and sent to do? Although at times we get the mental image of the twelve as lost puppies following Jesus around in search of a home, filling a variety of menial roles including chauffeurs, body-guards, and party planners, in reality Jesus entrusted and empowered them to share in His work, giving them the authority to do the very same things that He did. The apostles traveled throughout Galilee preaching the gospel, healing the sick, casting out demons, and even raising the dead in His name.

And while the twelve served as authorized arms of Jesus’ mission to the world, more than anything, they were witnesses to His life and ministry. They walked and talked and lived with Jesus, getting a first-hand look at what Jesus was “really” like when the lights were off and everyone else went home. These intimate moments together cemented everything that Jesus ever did in public. He modeled for them a private life of perfect devotion, prayer, love, and peace.  After Jesus departed from the earth following the resurrection, they would remain to continue the task (as yet still unfinished) of testifying to the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord and taking the gospel throughout Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world.

Of these men that Jesus hand-selected, one of them betrayed Him, another thrice denied Him, another publicly doubted Him, and all of them abandoned Him in His hour of greatest need. But of course there was much more to their stories than failure and disappointment. The skeptical fisherman Simon would become Peter, the mouthpiece and pillar of the early church. Brothers James and John, the Sons of Thunder, so named for their impulsivity and hot tempers, were respectively martyred and exiled for their faith. All told, church tradition tells us that outside of Judas, who took his own life, and John, who reportedly survived being boiled alive in a massive vat of oil, each of the rest of the twelve would follow the example of Jesus in surrendering their lives for the sake of the gospel.

Just as He did with the original apostles Jesus continues to call men and women to Himself from every people, tribe, tongue, race, and nation. No one is selected for their superior skills or most impressive qualifications. In fact, Jesus takes great pleasure in choosing the most undesirable and least attractive candidates to join Him in His family, where every single member has been individually adopted and called by name before the foundation of the world.  Together, they share in His charge of pushing back the darkness and bringing the hope of forgiveness and His eternal kingdom to the broken and fallen world, that many more would answer the call and enter into the joy that is found only in Him.

Prayer for Today:
Lord Jesus, we thank You that You have chosen to give us the privilege of hearing the message of the gospel, not because of what we have done, or not done, but because of Your sovereign and perfect will. We ask that You would allow the truth of Your word to penetrate our weary hearts and overflow to those around us. We ask that You would forgive our feeble attempts at control and self-sufficiency and teach us to rely upon You and You alone for all that we need. We ask this in Your most excellent name, Amen.