Giving Weapons to Our Enemies
NOVEMBER 14, 2023
I was struck once again by the lavishness of Jesus’s grace. This time in his “commissioning” of the twelve disciples. Here it is in Luke’s gospel:
Summoning the Twelve, he gave them power and authority over all the demons and to heal diseases. Then he sent them to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.
What’s so remarkable here, you might ask? It’s easy to gloss over something truly scandalous contained within these two simple verses: Judas the betrayer was one of these twelve.
If you were running a business and knew (Jn. 13:11) one of your employees was going to betray you what would you do? Put him on a performance improvement plan (PIP)? Start tracking his performance to forge a path to termination? Demote him?
Any of the above would be reasonable to those of us living in this reality. But Jesus is ushering in an otherworldly kingdom. And the economics there are often outside of our grasp.
What does he do with Judas? Include him. Bestow gifts upon him that he doesn’t deserve: power and authority. The last things we’d give to our enemies.
Why does he do this?
I recently finished a book on brain science and leadership and a leadership technique they outline hit me hard. The gist of it was that if someone under your leadership ever lashes out at you in a public setting you might diffuse the situation by asking them to repeat themself. For example:
EMPLOYEE: “Working for you is like working for a tyrant.”
EMPLOYER: “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch that. Can you repeat yourself?”
What you’ve now done is given the offending party an opportunity. They can either stand down (aka repent) or double down and send a signal to everyone else in the room that they are defiant and hard-hearted.
This has breathed life into Jesus’s instruction to “turn the other cheek” for me in ways I didn’t think possible. Turn the other cheek, not so they can strike you again, but so your kindness might lead them to repentance (Rom. 2:4). This is the scandalous nature of the Jesus I follow. Those who would kiss him on the cheek to betray him, he would not lash out at in anger.
Perhaps another proverb with a less “sacred” origin would help draw this out even more.
“Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
In Jesus’s kingdom, it’s not so that you can “keep tabs on them” and prevent them from betraying you. It’s so that they might have every opportunity to witness your grace and mercy up close.
Sadly, Judas was an eyewitness to the good news of an otherworldly kingdom. He was lavishly bestowed with power and authority to begin making down payments from that kingdom. Healing the sick, casting out demons, even raising the dead (Matt. 10:8)! Yet, he still chose to scorn the one who freely gave him all these blessings. Instead of using his authority to cast out demons, he chose to join them in their works of darkness.
If Jesus will grant these sorts of gifts to those that betray him, how much more will he give to those of us who come to him in need of mercy and grace?
The kingdoms of this world often seem overwhelmingly powerful, but alas, those of us who belong to Christ have a residency certificate for a better kingdom, and it cannot be shaken (Heb. 12:28).