Wednesday, June 19, 2013

June 19 - Jude, Martyr, Apostle, One of the Twelve

Jude was born into a world of oppression and nationalism. He was the son of Cleophas and Mary; born in Palestine and raised up under the thumb of the Roman empire. Though he was taught by Rome to keep to himself and make no trouble, he had a remarkable spiritual pedigree that directed him to live otherwise. His father would go on to become a martyr who refused to stop preaching the good news that God had not only become human and died for our sins but, furthermore, had risen from the dead and conquered both sin and death. For daring to speak of a power supreme to Rome and refusing to submit himself first to the empire, he was executed and made a martyr. His mother was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and was present at the crucifixion to take the body of her blood relative and give it over to burial. He himself was called by Jesus to become a disciple and he laid down anything that prevented him from taking up this call. Soon, he was one of the twelve closest disciples of Jesus--his second cousin--and received a practical education in radical love and ministry. Then, Jesus was arrested, beaten, tortured, and executed for daring to speak of a Kingdom other than Rome that was worthy of allegiance--a Kingdom not of this world. Jude wasn't there for the crucifixion even as his mother wept for their Lord and Savior.

After the resurrection, Jude anticipated that the Kingdom of God would soon take its place in the world in a powerful and obvious way that compelled all who heard of and saw the wonders to pledge their allegiance to the Kingdom of God and forsake the powers of this world. But Jude, like the others, had overestimated the ability of people to turn their backs on the masters who held them in bondage.In essence, he underestimated the power of sin and brokenness to perpetuate slavery in the souls of the people. Finally given a chance to trade the broken systems of the world for the glorious Kingdom, Jude was distressed to find people remaining in their sin simply because it was comfortable and familiar. At Pentecost, Jude was among the group of people who were anointed by the Holy Spirit and given a charge to go forth and take the Gospel to all peoples. Jude traveled with Simon the Zealot and visited Mesopotamia, Libya, and Persia among other places. Everywhere they stopped they preached, healed, and performed miracles. Of particular interest was Jude's tendency to perform exorcisms upon the stone and wooden gods of the people he found. When confronted with an idol that wordlessly laid claim to many souls, he would pray quietly and then dramatically point at the idol. With a scream, a demon would flee the idol at the command of God and the idol would crumble or splinter in the presence of the people.

The things that Jude did could not and would not go unnoticed for long. While in Lebanon and preaching they finally attracted enough ire through their words, healings, and exorcisms that they were set upon by an angry crowd. Every time Jude freed another soul from slavery to some power of this world, somebody stood to lose something whether it was Rome or the priests of the gods he defied. They took him from his makeshift pulpit in Beirut and they beat him savagely with a club. Taking turns so that his agony would be ever fresh, they tried to find new ways to make an old means of torture shut him up. Instead, he continued to use the breath he had left to preach a message of love for enemies and forgiveness for all people regardless of sin. He continued to proclaim release from captivity even as he suffered for daring to believe in it. Finally, they beat him to death and cut off his head as a trophy. Though they thought they were eliminating the presence of the Christians among them by executing their leader, they only exacerbated the sincerity of the message. In essence, they had finally given Jude an opportunity to demonstrate his genuine trust that love was enough and forgiveness was the right of all people. With that bloody club his accusers set him free from a world of oppression even as he spoke of a Kingdom not of this world but open to all.

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