Lenten Devotional (Day 6) - Crucified Allegiances
Tuesday, February 23 - Scripture: Mark 3:1-19
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
– Mark 3:13-19
In recent years, I’ve discovered a growing curiosity to listen to and surround myself with people you who look and think differently than I do. My life has been enriched by many people who have challenged me with their differing thoughts, perspectives, and experiences.
I think as I’ve grown in my yearning for diversity in my peer groups and wider faith community, I’ve become much more fascinated with this particular passage of Scripture. On the surface, it seems like nothing more than Mark simply recalling Jesus’ calling of the twelve disciples and listing their names, but upon closer inspection there is something quite interesting about the particular make-up of the disciples Jesus chose.
I’ve come to the conclusion that the descriptors Mark gives us for some of the twelve are meant to give us more than passing information. Simon (not Simon Peter) is identified as a Zealot. Zealots in Jesus’ day were political revolutionaries who were dedicated to preserving the Jewish culture and laws and resisting (violently if necessary) the Roman empire and its enculturation of the Jewish people. Those members of the Zealot party were known as the Sicarii because of the daggers (called sicae) they would conceal, carry and use in crowds to carry out assassinations.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Matthew, a tax collector. Jewish tax collectors would have been deemed traitors and hated by the Jewish Zealots. These were the type of people the Sicarii would’ve used their conceal and carry weapons on in crowds.
What is so scandalous and, yet beautiful, is that Jesus handpicked both a Zealot and a tax collector to be a part of the twelve. What might be even more amazing is that we don’t read of any accounts in the four gospels of skirmishes or arguments between these two polar opposites.
It’s as if Jesus intentional chooses a diverse group of people to mentor and teach the ways of the Kingdom of God which transcend all earthly political affiliations. The journey Jesus invites these twelve (and us) into is the journey of becoming so consumed with our allegiance to Jesus and His beautiful kingdom that our other allegiances and identity markers are literally crucified with Christ. (Gal. 2:20)
As author Keith Giles writes in his poignant book, Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics to Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,
“Imagine what might happen if you could honestly strip away every label and scrap of tribal identity? What if you were not a Baptist, but simply someone who loved Jesus? What if you weren’t a Republican or a Democrat anymore, but simply a follower of Christ? What if you abandoned your identity as an American and saw yourself simply as a citizen in the Kingdom of God?”
The goal of the Christian life is not to evangelize others into thinking and acting exactly as we do in following Jesus, but rather to keep our eyes and hearts fixated on Jesus and his Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. When this is our primary focus and allegiance we can and should celebrate diversity with the community of faith as we bear witness to the love of Christ uniting us in our allegiance to Jesus and desire to see more of “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”.