By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
SECOND OF EIGHT PARTS
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“The time has come, and the Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the good news.” — Mark 1:14-15
Whom did Jesus organize
Now, whom did Jesus organize? It is interesting to analyze the criteria set by Jesus in choosing the people to organize. He chooses people who are at the periphery or at the bottom of the power structure, rather than to be drawn towards those who are at the centre or at the top of the socio-economic and political systems. This is exemplified by Jesus when he lived and worked among the common and ordinary folks from the rural and fishing communities of Galilee and its surrounding towns and villages. From among these people, Jesus Christ our Lord chose his first recruits.
He chose from among the ranks of simple tradesmen with ordinary occupation. This would reflect his preference and option. He dares to recruit, invite and challenge simple folks to God’s Kingdom. He dares to believe in what could happen to them and what they could achieve for the cause of God’s Kingdom.
Now, what is the context in which Jesus started his organizing work? The first chapter of Mark’s Gospel provides a background of the situation. Jesus began his ministry after word came to him that his cousin, John the Baptist, was arrested and imprisoned. It was a moment of crisis and a crucial stage for him. During this uncertain period, Jesus began to identify the persons whom he called to be his followers.
Take note about Jesus selection of recruits. He recruited 12 disciples. The first four members of his core group are: Simon and his brother Andrew (1:16); and two other brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee (1:19). These four rely on fishing as their main trade and occupation. The countryside of Galilee with its lake and water resources is their fishing ground. As fishermen, they are typical folks with common jobs and are known and familiar to their community.
Another follower, Philip, is from Bethsaida, the town where Andrew and Peter lived (Jn. 1:43). He could be a fisherman himself. There is likelihood that there are also peasants among the 12 recruits, because of the number of rural and countryside illustrations used by Jesus.
John’s Gospel says that Bartholomew (Nathaniel) is a real Israelite, “nothing false in him” (Jn. 1:47). This could refer to his origin and lineage as well as his social standing, character and integrity as a person.
His other recruits are from other sectors and strata of society whose standing cannot be called acceptable or respectable. In fact, they have controversial and even questionable characters and involvements.
Among these controversial disciples is Matthew. He is a tax collector and he is good at computing figures and handling of people’s money. But that also raises a lot of questions and doubts as to his honesty and his love for his country and people. In the context of Jesus’ time, to the respected members of society, a tax collector is classified among the sinners, the outcast and marginalized.
And there is also Simon the Zealot. He could be a member of a revolutionary group or a radical political party. As a nationalist, he is either a candidate or a member of the underground movement which is anti-colonial and anti-Roman imperialist seeking to overthrow Roman rule over the Jewish people.
Another follower of Jesus with dubious involvement in their society is Judas Iscariot or Sicarius. He belongs to the Sicarii movement that opposes the Romans and resorts to acts of resistance. They arm themselves with daggers called Sicarii which they inflict on their enemies or target.
Jesus himself is not spared from criticism, especially from the Scribes and Pharisees when he chose men of questionable reputation and character. His own integrity as a rabbi is at stake. For instance, in choosing Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, doubts are cast on Jesus’ intention and the methodology he would employ in the movement he initiated.
Organizing a core group
Now, Jesus Christ our Lord sees the significance of organizing a core group with whom he could share his vision and entrust his mission. He finds it important to organize a core group for the implementation of his program of action in the movement he envisions. The process of organizing them involves not just gathering them, but also imparting to them the essence of his teachings and the demands of commitment and loyalty to God’s Kingdom.
There are underlying reasons for the demands Jesus made on his core of followers. He seeks to initiate a process of re-orienting and re-moulding the persons and characters of his followers. He believes that they themselves can be empowered and their capacities and potentials can be developed. Jesus provides them with training opportunities and offers them the chance to develop beyond their expectations.
Jesus follows certain principles in organizing his core group. Basically, he does not intend to develop a relationship of dependency and reliance. He actually wants to prepare his disciples for his eventual absence and separation from them so that they can be responsible with the tasks he will pass on to them.
To achieve his goals, Jesus always encourages teamwork or group work from his core group. That is, he always involves them in the tasks he wants to be accomplished. Although he started on his own initially, he never intends to do things alone.
The group-work approach rather than the one-man-job approach is instilled by Jesus from the very start of his organizing work. Here we see how through persons and with persons, God’s plans are initiated and accomplished. God calls and sends messengers to get things ready, to prepare the initial stages and the necessary groundwork, and to ready the people’s minds and hearts to receive his messages.
Jesus Christ our Lord assigns roles and functions to his core group. As a result, the learning experiences become vivid and concretely imprinted both in the minds and hearts of his disciples. Learning becomes not only a mental exercise, but also a chance to test skills and abilities, and to take responsibilities. Jesus Christ our Lord delegates responsibilities to drive home the point that it is not a leader-oriented or person-oriented organization that he wants to be established.
In his teamwork approach, Jesus employs criticism to determine the strengths and weaknesses of his disciples. There are times when he expresses impatience about the slowness of the disciples in grasping the essence of his teachings. He is critical of the shallowness of their understanding or their lack of faith and courage. He even rebukes them whenever needed.
Jesus Christ our Lord points out the weaknesses of his disciples in order to show them the path of strength. He is sharp and pointed in his comments and even sarcastic or even embarrassing at times. But when he has to pass judgment on the one who betrayed him, it is with the sad note. Jesus is willing to uphold the disciples in their weaknesses. He is even forgiving when it comes to their mistakes. He wants to demonstrate to his disciples how each experience can be a corrective effort for them to learn the essence of the values of God’s Kingdom.#
Continued next week nordis.net