Today we see Jesus sending out the apostles to spread their wings and try a little ministry on their own.
He “summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.”
That’s pretty important work, and pretty advanced work for a group of people who much of the time seem to not just have trouble understanding Jesus’ teaching, but often behave according to the exact opposite of what he’s trying to convey.
But Jesus, in a spectacular instance of the risk-taking behavior he so often displays, trusts them with significant power and authority.
And what drew my eye as I read it this time was the last name on the list. “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.”
Jesus sends Judas out with power over unclean spirits and the ability to cure every disease and sickness.
Judas who will betray him, as Matthew takes pains to remind us.
It seems unwise at best to send out a man that Jesus must at least have an inkling or maybe even full knowledge of his tendency to judgmentalism (“This money should have been used for the poor!” in response to a generous woman’s loving anointing of Jesus feet in Matthew 26), greed (“He was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it,” according to John), and of course the betrayal itself, Jesus’ life for thirty pieces of silver.
What kind of person is this to entrust with divine power?
But Jesus does.
What do we make of this?
Well, first, let’s ask what happens. Are the disciples successful in what Jesus has asked them to do?
Matthew doesn’t tell us, but Luke quotes a group of disciples returning from being sent out to minister, writing that they “returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!’”
It seems likely that if Judas had not been successful, one or more of the gospel writers would have certainly wanted to rub it in and gleefully point it out, so we’re left with the assumption that Judas completed the good works of casting out demons and liberating people from illness and possession.
We most often only think of “Judas the Betrayer,” but here, right in the text, we have “Judas the Missionary” and “Judas the Healer.” Fascinating! Continue reading