BAND OF BROTHERS
These are my teaching notes from Sunday, February 10 at the Cornerstone Church. Band of Brothers is part one of a teaching series called ENTOURAGE.
KNOWING JESUS BY THE COMPANY HE KEPT
Today, we start a series called ENTOURAGE. The goal is to know Jesus by the company he kept.
We're looking at his friends, his enemies, and those who turned away from him. It will help us go deeper in our relationship with Jesus. You're going to love him more, and feel a stronger commitment to him, because he's earned it. I believe it's going to be fascinating.
Next week, we'll look at the women who followed Jesus and supported his work and listened to his words. But this week, we're looking at his inner circle, his band of brothers, the twelve disciples. And we'll answer the question: how to join Jesus' inner circle.
HOW TO JOIN JESUS' INNER CIRCLE
1. LIGHTEN UP - Read Mark 3:13-19.
Jesus' inner circle was twelve regular guys. No trained theologian. No religious leader. No clergy, priest, or Bible scholar. No orator, prophet or preacher. No spiritual guru or miracle worker.
These were ordinary people, unexceptional men. If you'd asked a first century Jew to describe the qualities of a great man of God, not one of the disciples would have been in the frame. They were outsiders: the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Among the twelve was a hated tax collector who cooperated with Rome, a feared terrorist who was at war with Rome, at least four commercial fishermen, and several men we know almost nothing about.
One factor above all bound these men together. They were summoned - called and appointed - by Jesus. Just as Israel was formed on the twelve tribes, these men became a new nation, the new creation, ambassadors of the Kingdom of God. Their mission was to call others in by preaching and by showing power over demons.
Simon the Zealot is perhaps the most interesting member of the band of brothers. He was part of a violent, outlaw political party, the Zealots. They hated the Romans because of their occupation of Israel. They carried out assassinations against Roman officials and those who cooperated with Rome. They were fanatical nationalists who were waiting for the Messiah to restore the Kingdom in Israel.
So, to be blunt, one of Jesus' closest friends was a former terrorist, a fanatic, and a criminal, who approved of violence, murder, and mayhem. Listen, if he can get into the inner circle, anyone can.
That's why I say, lighten up. We don't get into Jesus' inner circle by looking and sounding religious. We get in because Jesus invites us, summons us to join him. The question is: have you answered the call? If not, now is the time.
2. LEARN FROM JESUS - Read Mark 6:6-11.
Have you ever heard the phrase, Jesus accepts us just the way we are, but he loves us too much to leave us that way? That's exactly the dynamic in Jesus' inner circle. There is a most definite learning curve that changes our lives forever.
Mark 6 only hints at this training program. If we inject what we know from the other Gospels, the picture become clearer:
In year two of his public ministry, Jesus called his twelve disciples into his inner circle - that's Mark 3 that we read. The simplest overview of the next year is:
Jesus taught the disciples the Sermon on the Mount and the Sermon on the Plain. This is sort of like Kingdom Living 101. They listened and learned.
Then, Jesus showed them his Kingdom power in miracles, healings, and exorcisms. They watched and learned.
Then, Jesus took them on a ministry tour. They listened to his words and watched his works and learned, gaining insight into the Kingdom of God.
Then, Jesus sent them out on a ministry tour two by two (Mark 6:7) They took what they had learned and did it - preached, healed, drove out demons. The Kingdom power that manifested in Jesus now manifested in the disciples.
Here's what we learn from this: There is nothing passive about being in Jesus' inner circle. It's absolutely not about asking Jesus into your heart and then settling down to do your own thing and live by your own compass. No! No! No! We're in the school of Jesus. He has a curriculum for all of us and a new way to live.
Think of yourself as an apprentice. There is both information to study and skills to learn. The curriculum includes learning Jesus' words and his works. If you're not doing this, make a plan to get on track. Ask for help - that's why I'm here. A first step might be to study the Gospels and read Yancey's The Jesus I Never Knew.
3. LIVE ON MISSION - Read Mark 6:12-13.
Somewhere along the line of church history, following Jesus got twisted into something unrecognizable. It became a moral code for good people. It became a sacramental system of religious ceremonies and clergy. It became what respectable people joined for social advancement. I don't want to hurt feelings, but it's important to know that these are not what it means to follow Jesus.
As you can see from Mark 6, the representatives of King Jesus followed a very different path. They show us that life in the inner circle is life on mission with Jesus.
By mission I mean living by the teachings of Jesus, sharing the message of Jesus, and doing the works of Jesus. It is messy and unpredictable and unprogramable.
Following Jesus means doing his Kingdom works with Kingdom power. It is a lifestyle that welcomes the supernatural, that expects spiritual power, that looks for signs of Jesus at work.
I realize that this sounds strange to many of us. I take responsibility for that. It's my fault for not emphasizing it enough. That changes now.
Life on mission is done by supernatural power. It moves forward by prayer. It is often counter-cultural. It is serving, not ruling. It is open about demonic interference. There are messy interventions. It asks God for healing and restoration - physical, emotional, spiritual, relational. Life on mission expects God to break into the daily routines.
Today, I urge you to take a step that may feel uncomfortable, but will launch you into a dynamic way of following Jesus. Dive into doing Jesus' works. For example, serve the poor, pray for people, share Jesus, ask for miracles, join a serve team.
Living in Jesus' inner circle is about living like Jesus. How that works out will be slightly different for each of us, depending on our circumstances. But the essentials will be the same. Everywhere we go, we carry the presence and power of the Kingdom of God to bring life and light into the world.
The disciples were twelve ordinary men; feeble and flawed in their humanity. One betrayed Jesus, killed himself and was replaced. Then a thirteenth was added. He was a nasty, homicidal, self-righteous, persecutor of Christians whose name was Saul until Jesus captured his heart and transformed him into the Apostle Paul.
Why did Jesus summon people into his inner circle? Those thirteen men turned the world upside down. In a pre-industrial context, under threat of prison and death, without cellphones or aircraft, before the printing press and the internet, they led a movement that eventually captivated the Roman Empire. How did they do it?
They lived out the Kingdom teachings they received from Jesus. The shared Jesus and they did the Kingdom works Jesus showed them to do. That's all.
That's life in Jesus' inner circle. That's the life to which ALL of us are called. Why? So there will be a church for the next generation, and so on until Jesus returns.
Jesus is calling you, will you answer?