My Bible reading today was Mark 3:7-19, when Jesus calls the 12 disciples. One thing struck me as I was reading; that Jesus calls Judas Iscariot, knowing that he will eventually betray him. Judas was with Jesus from the beginning, so he saw and heard Jesus’ earthly ministry first hand, and yet he didn’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the son of God. He was right in the thick of things, and yet ultimately couldn’t see what was right in front of him.
I’ve been thinking people I’ve known in churches, or people who call themselves Christians, who are right in the thick of things and seem fully committed, and yet haven’t actually ‘got’ it. It hasn’t clicked, they haven’t understood, they take on the label of ‘Christian’ and they join in the community and get involved, but they haven’t allowed the word of God to transform them, to change their hearts, to turn their lives around.
It’s not for me to judge, by any means. And, until Jesus returns, it’s never too late for people to get it. But I thought it interesting to realise that right from the beginning of ‘church’, of people gathering in Jesus’ name, there have been people who looked like the real deal on the surface, but underneath were just the same as they had always been. But that Jesus knows who we were, who we are and who we will be, and loves us anyway.
The SU notes that went with today’s reading talked mainly about Simon Peter, the disciple who would go on to be the rock of the early church, but who displayed some very human stumbling and mistakes on his way there. I’ve always been encouraged by Peter, because he is so real in his responses to Jesus, being broken by sin and then by the grace of God being rebuilt into the man Jesus knew he was. He is a great encouragement to persevere, to not be destroyed by missteps and failures in the Christian life, but to trust in Jesus.
I’ll just quote the last para of the notes by Steve Bradbury including a cracking quote from John Newton:
Simon was no Peter, at least not yet, and it would be some time before the trust Jesus was placing in him, and the re-creative and restorative forgiveness God kept pouring into his life, made Simon into the rock that Jesus could already see. How wonderful that we, too, can intimately know this transforming love, expressed so poignantly by the one-time slave-ship captain John Newton: ‘I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be. I am not what I hope to be in another world. But still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am.’
Encounter with God, Scripture Union, Jul-Sep 2010, p94