Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Touch of Humility

The authority that Jesus used to fight for those whom God had given Him is the same authority that He gave to the disciples when He sent them out to heal the sick and cast out demons. And it is the same authority He's given to us to fight for the "least of these" in the name of His love. But the disciples learned an important lesson when they went out with His authority, and it draws us back into the very heart of Jesus Himself. 

It's not hard to think that the disciples were like many of us would be - arrogant. Given all authority on heaven and on earth, given the power to heal the sick and to cast out demons, given the very power that Christ Himself wielded so awesomely, it's easy to assume that this authority went quickly to their heads. Not only were they part of the inner circle, but now they were part of the power play, and the people who had been coming to Jesus were now coming to them. While they had heard so many call out the name of Jesus from the sides of the road, now, those voices were calling out their names as they traveled through the land Jesus had sent them to.

Hey, maybe some friends were even dropping persons through their roofs. We just don't know. We aren't told what those journeys looked like, what the disciples did or how they did it while they were out on their own. 

But we are given one recap of the disciples' adventures when a man comes to Jesus and begs for a demon to be cast out. "Your disciples tried," the man says, "But they were unsuccessful." And after Jesus speaks what may have been similar to the disciples' own words and the demon is finally cast out, the disciples gather around Him. How'd you do that? How come we couldn't?

And Jesus says, "This type of demon can only be cast out by prayer and fasting."

What Jesus is really saying is that the disciples seemed to have forgotten one key component to wielding authority: humility. They had forgotten that the authority and the power that they had did not come from themselves, that it was dependent upon the One who had given it to them (prayer is the relationship with this One), and they had forgotten that even if they had all authority in heaven and on earth and all the power that came with that, there was still something in them that would not be satisfied by that (fasting reminds us of what we truly ache for, something which cannot be fulfilled by anything but God). 

That's how I think we can be reasonably sure that at some point, the power went to the disciples' heads. Because in this moment when authority failed them, Jesus says the problem was not authority, but humility.

It's also an invitation to go back over the way that Jesus wields authority through the Gospels and to see the absolute humility in His own actions. Quite often, Jesus is asked (usually by Pharisees), "And just who do you think you are?" You know, forgiving sins and all that. And every time, Jesus responds with a quiet display of power that shows humility, not arrogance. He doesn't say, "I'm the Son of God, for crying out loud!" He never says, "Hey, watch this: I'm the man." He never brags, "I am the stuff" (fill in your own less-Christianed word here, if you so choose). He always says, "I am the Father's Son, doing the Father's will, in the way that the Father chooses because it is the Father who sent me." Not exactly in those words, but that is the tone of His reply.

And He backs that up with prayer and fasting. He's always sneaking away to pray, always taking time to talk to God. He's always bringing the relationship that He has with the One who sent Him to the forefront, always making sure He stays in His proper place here. And He consistently reminds everyone, disciples included, that nothing in this world satisfies Him. He doesn't rely on this world to fulfill Him. His satisfaction comes from somewhere else. So we often see Him turning away what the world would give Him and seeking the Lord (fasting).

It's important for us to be able to trace this humility through Jesus's ministry, particularly through His authority and to see how important it is for these things to be held in balance with one another, especially as we attempt to fulfill our own ministry to "go and do likewise." The authority, He has given us, and it exalts us over the demons of this world. The humility, we must bring on our own, that we never forget that God is still over us. 

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