By Pastor Robert Perez
Jesus died, said farewell for the last time, and that was that. The Twelve Apostles, including all the additional men and women who would go on to spread the teachings of Jesus, now the Christ, would be on their own from then on, guided only by the Spirit, as was fitting for each individual. In the Gospels, Jesus is said to have spoken to Paul and Peter, given visions to John and more after his death. However, the bulk of what took place never made it into the pages of the New Testament. So, it is unknown how most people fared.
Mary Magdalen preached until her death and wrote her own account of the events, but she was dismissed because she was a woman, and her works were later deemed heretical and mostly destroyed. She was as close to Jesus as any of the men present while He was alive. She was also there when He died, while the others scattered in fear.
Jesus sent out many “Apostles”, not just the “twelve”. Some scholars believe close to one hundred. This would make sense since Jesus preached to thousands during his ministry. Although he singled out the twelve, there were people, such as Mary Magdalen, who were close and dear to him.
How were these new apostles, unfamiliar with the task of preaching, frightened for their lives and those of their families, meant to understand the future and their own fates after Jesus had been tortured and killed before their eyes? Would it mean that all followers of Jesus would end up in the same way? Because of these reasons, the pressures of daily life, and the threat of death, we can only imagine that most of them didn’t make it far before giving up.
Christianity had hundreds of years before it was eventually sanctioned and protected by the law in the Roman Empire of Constantine. Before that they were hunted down as outlaws, captured, tortured and killed. Yet, the few that remained continued to believe and foster it despite the threats to their own lives, armed only with one weapon, their trust in God.
Think about it. They didn’t have bibles to carry around, magnificent churches to visit, or great works of art depicting events like we do. These were poor and mostly uneducated people that struggled just to stay alive. They were driven only by the calling of their spirit. All the odds were against them. It is a marvel of human history that their perseverance led to the lasting gift of Christ.
Paul’s epistle’s (his letters in the New Testament) give us rich details into the life he led as he made his way across the region to preach and bring new followers to the words of Jesus Christ. Most remarkable to me was his ever-present compassion for the human spirit, his lack of fear and his complete commitment to the endeavor. His was a total acceptance of the process, including the hardship and the dangers involved.
Even after his arrest he accepted the outcome because he trusted in God. His mission was more important than he was. He knew God would take him to the end of that mission. It’s all there in the pages of his letters, plainly spoken. Paul was focused on “getting the word out”. And he did so with such beauty of language. Over and over again as I reread the works, I am more astonished and moved. This is incredibly powerful stuff.
Trust such as this is extremely hard for modern people. We’ve witnessed and recorded history portraying humans as ruthless backstabbing killing machines. People lie to each other on a daily basis and work tirelessly for their own interests. Yes, we do have compassion and love for our fellow man too, but it has its limits, and often it can turn on a dime in the other direction over the silliest of things.
We’re in a place of history where suspicion of wrongdoing is accepted as the norm. In Texas, where they can all carry guns, you assume that everyone is carrying a gun and act, accordingly, knowing that one misstep could end up deadly. It’s the same with our interactions. We just assume that deception and betrayal, reversals of good fortune, are at any time just a moment away, so we plot on our own to safeguard against it.
Could any of us have endured what the Apostles did in the time of Jesus, with no certainty whatsoever? Jesus even told them to leave everything behind. He said not to prepare a single item, no food, shelter, money, provisions or planning of any kind. Their faith was their guarantee of Gods assurance to care for them. That was their test. Survival was their proof.
Imagine if someone asked you to walk out of your home at this moment and go teach the word of God. You’d think they were crazy. You’d easily foresee that in just a few hours into it you’d be tired, your feet hurting in your $200 Nike’s, with hunger tearing your gut apart, and besides all that your favorite show is starting in a few minutes. You wouldn’t even give it a moment’s thought.
Again, it’s remarkable to me that the movement made it at all. Humans today are not that different from those long ago. Here are some certainties of our similarities: We all get hungry. We all get tired. We all get cold. We all get scared. We all have needs. On and on.
It’s too easy for us to explain the success of Christianity as “God’s will”. He did make it happen and nothing was going to stop its momentum, but that still cannot explain the boots on the ground commitment of each and every individual that made it possible, with many of them losing their lives in the process.
It SHOULD have stopped. It SHOULD have petered out over the years as the going got tough.
Humans are a lazy bunch. We love our iPhones and TV shows, our cheesecakes and steak dinners more than we love God. At the time of this writing, as the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 is beginning its second wave of destruction, many people can’t even wear a fucking mask without protesting about it.
So, imagine being an Apostle strolling into a new town with nothing but your smelly sandals, meeting strangers and telling them, “Hey everybody, I got some good news for you! Stop what you’re doing. I know you need to feed your family or sack that village, but I got something important to say. And by the way, I need something to eat and a place to stay. You don’t know me, but can I be your guest for the night, maybe for days weeks or months? Cool? Well, alright!” As I write the words, I’m giggling to myself at the craziness of it. And yet, it’s all true. They did just that.
We marvel at the morons (mostly) that make up reality TV and YouTube, giving them all our precious time that just gets wasted down the toilet of complacency. We spend hours in conversation talking about stupid shit as if it matters at all. And to be clear, I am guilty of all these offences. But why? How is it that we are so comfortable in it all? Yet, they chose to go into the world, not for their own sake, but for ours, believing that their small efforts could change the course of humanity for good.
How? Trust in God…
Was it all worth it? You better believe it was! The world is in fact a better place for it, even as we continually struggle against stupidity and evil.
No one wants to hear the hard parts of Christianity. People only want the pretty rituals, fun holidays and feel good sermons on Sunday morning. They don’t want to imagine what it was really like to be an Apostle. They prefer their annual TV specials where God shines a light into a doorway and some smiley faced and sincere looking peasant welcomes them into their home because God put the right thoughts into their head. Then somehow, the next day there’s a room full of heart melting poor people accepting the word of God. Baloney! Just stop the nonsense right now!
The reality of it was the brutality of hardships, uncertainty and emotional toil. It still rained on them. It still got cold outside. They still got hungry and infections and all kinds of dangers and ailments. But they kept going anyway.
Did God take care of them? Yes, every step of the way, but it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t brutally hard just the same. Jesus promised that God would take care of them, but he did not promise it was going to be easy. It was their trust that propelled them forward.
I’m not saying for each of us to drop everything and go out into the world as they did (although God would greatly appreciate it and surely notice the effort). I am saying to get off your lazy fat assess and show a little effort. If you don’t believe in God, well this writing is not for you anyway (read some of the other writing and come back). But if you say that you do believe in God, then do something with it! Something more than just a lazy thought now and again. More than just Christmas presents and caroling in church.
I love you from the depths of my spirit. I have no gain in this. I am asking nothing for myself. This is about you and God. Really…please…trust in God. He will take care of you. In fact, He’s already taken care of you. Show your love and your gratitude and make a little effort to express it. And give a bit of it to someone who could use your messages and your love. That’s what the Apostles meant to accomplish. Trust a little. Amen.