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The strength of ISIS

And he [Jesus c. AD 30] called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “……… proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.  Matthew 10: 1-8

Here in peaceful, sunny Jersey, the reported awful deeds of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham –seem to have very little relevance. Nevertheless the photos apparently showing horrifying executions of Shias by Sunnis are truly distressing.

Seemingly we don’t have anything to learn from ISIS. But is this really so?

Matthew’s AD 60 eyewitness biography of Jesus Christ contains intriguing contrasts between ISIS, this 2014 Islamic militant group which is an offshoot of Al Qaeda, and Jesus’ disciples sent out in AD 30.

The first contrast is this. ISIS is today a highly organized, focused and efficient war machine whereas Jesus’ first 12 disciples were a truly eclectic bunch. There were at least four fishermen side by side with a well-educated former tax collector who had opted to tax his countrymen on behalf of the Roman occupying forces. One or two had been militant revolutionaries. Others were so mild that they wouldn’t speak with Jesus without having someone else alongside them.

How are these men going to achieve anything when Jesus sends them out?
‘Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.’ (John F Kennedy, 35th US President, 1917-1963)

A second contrast is starker yet. The key message which Jesus asked these 12 disciples to broadcast to all Israel was a one-liner – and nothing else. It was this: ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand’ or, translated more literally, “The realm of the skies has arrived.”

This morning ISIS is proclaiming its intention by force of arms to bring heaven to earth by killing. The disciples

The third contrast, though, caps them all. Jesus told his disciples, when sending them out, to carry along with them no money, no equipment, no spare clothes or footwear, no food. No weapons either, it goes without saying. Reports coming out of Turkey, Iraq and Syria confirm ISIS as well-equipped, well-financed and well-organised.

As our eyes opened this morning to a new day, what are our thoughts? Are we thinking, “What’s America going to do about this?” But is there a higher issue? Is there a realm of the skies? A realm of peaceful heaven? Is there a higher throne – higher than all this world has known?

Matthew, Jesus’ biographer (see bold above), tells his readers of the only plus which the disciples were given by Jesus. But what a plus. They took this plus with them as they went out in otherwise complete and total weakness.

Jesus gave them authority. Authority, what on earth is that? The original Greek word used by Matthew which has been translated as “authority” is exouzia. These twelve men – all different – all about to go out into the towns and villages – have no visible resources to help them or protect them. But they are given exousia.
‘Only those who do not desire power are fit to hold it.’ (Plato, Philosopher and Mathematician, BC 428-348)

First of all, the word means the ability to perform an action. Then it means also the right and permission to do that action. And finally, it means the real power to do that action.

Jesus gave his 12 sent out ones exousia over all evil and uncleanness within people and exousia to heal every disease every affliction suffered by people. They were able to do that, permitted to do that and had the real power to do that.

They were also able to say, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’

Will ISIS bring peace on earth and in heaven?  Will these 12 unarmed and resourceless AD 30 disciples make a difference on earth and in heaven?  Will you follow force or follow visible weakness?
Richard Syvret

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