THE TWELVE 2009 — THE OTHER JUDAS
by Pastor Mike Fortune
August 29, 2009
BlueFishTV Vid: Psalm 23
- Faith that endures [Luke 6:16; John 14:22; Jude 24-25]
- Compassion that grows [John 14:21-22; Matthew 9:36; Mark 1:41]
- Competence we lack [1 Corinthians 2:1-4; 2 Corinthians 3:5-6; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10]
As we’ve studied in our series The Twelve, the surprising thing that set the twelve apostles apart from all others was not primarily the signs, wonders, and miracles they did, but the enduring nature of their faith that turned the world upside down [Acts 17:6 KJV]. This other Judas, also known as Jude or Thaddaeus, apparently had that kind of faith. Luke 6:16 describes him as “16Judas son of James.” John 14:22 identifies him as, “Judas [not Iscariot].” He is apostle #12 in our series and we’re going to call him “The other Judas.”
Credited with writing the epistle of Jude, as Jude 1 says, he was a brother of James. But which James? Obviously not James the son of Zebedee. Which leaves two or maybe three other possibilities. One, he was the brother of the other apostle, James the Less, the son of Alphaeus whom we already studied. Two, he was Jesus’ literal half–brother who wrote the book of James and chaired the Jerusalem counsel in Acts 15. Or three, he was the son of another anonymous James who was also his “brother in Christ” so to speak. We’re just not sure. Whichever it is, he could have undoubtedly esteemed himself more worthy of praise and attention than what he’s given. But instead, he humbly introduces himself in Jude 1 as “a servant of Jesus Christ.”
But it’s in his famous benediction that we catch a glimpse of his faith. In verse 24 of the book of Jude, he writes, “24To Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before His glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” And this is point number one. We need a faith in Jesus that endures. Now and forevermore. Because Jesus, though he died, was resurrected from the dead and lives forevermore. And it is knowing him that is eternally significant. No wonder we sing “More About Jesus”!
In addition to the epistle of Jude, there is one episode in Scripture that mentions him. In a moment, we’re going to zero in on that episode to see what else it reveals about this humble man and his faith. But before we do, let’s get a little more background. The name Judas means “Jehovah leads.” And Jehovah comes from a Hebrew word which means “He who was and will be.” John picks up on this idea in Revelation 1:8 and 22:13 describing Jesus as the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Jude or Judas literally means God was there in the past and led us and He’ll be there in the future to lead us too. So the enduring nature of Jude’s faith in Jesus is even reflected in the other name he was known by: Judas [not Iscariot].
But because the name Judas quickly became known more for being associated with the traitor who hung himself following his betrayal of Jesus, sadly its meaning has been lost and instead his name has maintained a very negative connotation. Which must be why the apostle John, who wrote the Gospel of John well into his 90's in Ephesus following his incarceration on Patmos near the end of the first century AD, felt compelled to add his disclaimer to Judas’ name—[not Iscariot]. [The parentheses were added later.]
So those are two of his names. Jude and Judas. But he actually had two more! Maybe you’ve seen them when comparing the lists of the apostles. They are Lebbaeus. And Thaddaeus. In Matthew 10:3 [NKJV], he is called “Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus.” Thaddaeus means “breast child.” Which would’ve been as demeaning back then as it is today when a grown man is called a “momma’s boy.” It could mean he was the youngest of his siblings. The baby of the family. Or it could mean then what it means today — that he was wimpy or babyish. We can hope for the former not the latter, but we don’t know.
This Judas had a tender heart
What we do know is Jude or Judas was probably his birth name. While Labbaeus was his nickname and Thaddaeus his last name. And Labbaeus wasn’t much better. It is from a Hebrew root word that refers to the heart—literally “heart child.” So you can see why Bible scholars through the ages have suggested that this other Judas had a tender, childlike heart.
Which is interesting when you consider the guys he hung out with. Guys like Simon the Terrorist and Simon Peter. Guys like the combustible Sons of Thunder. You got all those guys plus this momma’s boy with a childlike heart. But the Lord can use you however you’re wired. Right? Don’t you think our church needs both? So Jesus asked the other Judas to become an apostle too. And because he did, the nature of His faith in Christ endured long after he wrote that beautiful doxology in Jude. This is point number one. God gives us a faith that endures.
Point number two can be found in the upper room on Thursday night before the crucifixion of Jesus. In John’s Gospel chapter 14, Jesus is speaking and in verse 21 He says, “21Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” That’s a good example of Ephesians 4:21. Truth and love side by side. We tell the truth. But always as it is in relationship to Jesus.
What about them?
Then John adds in verse 22, “22Then Judas [not Judas Iscariot] said, ‘But, Lord, why do you intend to show yourself to us and not to the world?’” Here we see not just the enduring faith Judas has in Jesus [point number one], but also a growing compassion for the least of these [point number two]. He doesn’t say anything alarming like Peter when he rebuked Jesus. He doesn’t say anything morbid but brave like Thomas when in response to Jesus’ plan to return to Jerusalem he said, “Then let’s all go die with Him.” His question isn’t full of self–righteousness like James and John in Mark 9 when they wonder if they should call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans for refusing to allow Jesus to stay in their town. No, Judas’ question is full of gentleness and meekness and genuine concern. Not for himself. But for all the others in this world.
As we previously studied, Thomas’ heart was breaking because he who loves most hurts most. And he was hurting and lonely and lost. But this other Judas’ heart was breaking not because he was hurting and lonely and lost yet, but because he knew the world around him was! This other Judas was way ahead of the curve. This mature beyond–his–years apostle, full of child like faith, already loved the world as much Jesus loved him. And he couldn’t believe that Jesus would manifest Himself to them and not the least of these in the world.
And this is point number two. God gives his obedient followers a growing compassion for the world. Thomas, though he often gets no credit for it, had a faith in Jesus that endured his temporary doubts. But this other Judas had the compassion. He intuitively felt that nausea in the pit of stomach that Jesus felt for the crowds in Matthew 9:36 which says, “36When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
The word for compassion there is splanchna. It is the word from which we get our word for spleen. It is compassion for suffering and a love for people that goes physically deep. It is an interior, emotional reaction to an exterior phenomenon. In Mark 1:41, it basically says when Jesus saw people suffering, his guts shook. And this interior ache moved him to action and a moral response. Same thing with the other Judas. What about them? Who is reaching them?
And that’s a question that everyone in the church today should keep asking. Because there are still 27 million women and children in modern day slavery. Way more than at any time in the history of earth. Yeah, we’ve raised some money for Rwanda and India. But what about the rest of them? That number haunts me at night. And so does this one: the Barna Group reminds us that 71% of Americans won’t be attending any church on any day this weekend. Who is reaching them? But it’s not just a question about other people out there. It’s also a question we could ask about our own children. Or grandchildren. What about them? Who is going to reach them? We need their energy and enthusiasm. We need their hope and optimism. We need their creativity and compassion.
Sometimes in my role as pastor, I am privy to visits and discussions about the church that leave me shaking my head in disbelief. Because the sincere misconception in some of these gatherings I’ve been in is our children aren’t in church because they don’t know Saturday is the Sabbath. Or that Jesus is coming again. Or what happens when you die. Some say we’re not doing a good job teaching emerging generations the doctrines of Adventism. Some accuse me of this.
A relationship with Jesus is key
But hundreds of thousands of our own dollars have been spent in monumental studies across the most recent decades of time by the brightest Adventist scholars from all our universities all over the world and they’re all saying the opposite! Our children and grandchildren aren’t in church not because they don’t know that Saturday is the Sabbath. They’re not in church because they do not have a relationship with the Lord of the Sabbath.
A few years ago  The Barna Group confirmed what the ValueGenesis studies of our own young people revealed. In the Barna survey, they compared Adventists with 12 other groups. And when it came to a regular prayer time with God, the Barna survey revealed that Adventists ranked last, 12th place out of 12 denominations surveyed. When it came to reading their Bible, Adventists came in 8th. Adventists rank 10th in regular attendance at worship with only Lutherans and Episcopalians ranking lower in attendance. Assembly of God, Baptists, Catholics, Church of Christ, Methodists, Mormons, nondenominationals, Pentecostals, and Presbyterians were more faithful in worship than Adventists. Even in donating money, an area in which we pride ourselves, we ranked eleventh. Out of 8 religious activities measured, Adventists ranked tenth overall.
Compare these numbers with those coming from ValueGenesis 1 and 2, the 15 year studies of Adventists including those in Generation X [my generation] and the Millennial starting their own families now, and the obvious disconnect is staggering. ValueGenesis 1 and 2 both reveal scores for our Adventist children and grandchildren above the 90th percentile in understanding of our doctrinal fundamental beliefs. Contrary to some of the conclusions I’ve heard bandied about, our Adventist schools and the curriculum provided are doing a good job teaching doctrines to our children! But we’re not doing a good job teaching them what they have to do with a relationship with Jesus.
Three things can make a difference
The good news is our own research has concluded over years of study that three things can reverse these downward trends. Wanna know what they are? They are a grace based church. Active community service or ordinary outreach. And family worship where children learn how to pray, read and share what they get out their prayer and of the Bible. That’s it! It’s so simple. But are we doing it? At Toledo First, we’re trying. You hired me because the pastoral search committee you elected said you wanted to try to create a new normal Adventist church emphasizing these three things.
So this fall, Pastor Rachel and I will be introducing some new inreach ideas. We’ve done fantastic things with our outreach the last couple years. I’d give us a WTG on that. And we’ll continue our ordinary outreach. Our 3rd annual car show is September 7 from 4-7 and I hope you show up in force for that. We need lots of set up and tear down help. Please sign up to help on the blue bulletin board in the foyer during eat and greet today after church.
But in addition to our ordinary outreach, now we need to focus a little more on our inreach. On how to become and more importantly, stay a Christian Adventist. Otherwise, we’ll lose our first love and burn out. Ordinary outreach will become a chore not a joy. Maybe God is waiting for more of Toledo First to grow in compassion before he gives us the storefront downtown.
So soon we’re gonna start a new teaching series called Noomanautics on the role of the Holy Spirit based on John 16 and 17. And we’re going to follow that teaching with a 5 week series on Spiritual Formation. To reinforce what we learn, we’re going to experiment with an interactive all age group night of learning and stretching starting at 6pm on Wednesday September 16 we’re calling Soup for You. You’ll hear more about this next weekend, but if you’ve not attended mid-week anything before, I hope you’ll reconsider. Because our lack of inreach is beginning to effect our outreach. And we need to fix that.
But in the meantime, would you please do me a favor? When you hear other Adventists say the way to fix our problems is to hammer away on emerging generations with more of our doctrines, would you respectfully beg to differ? Would you gently and kindly remind them that our own research says a grace based church, active community service, and family worship is what we really need! Now more than ever we need more about Jesus! Because you see, it has never primarily been about what you know—as wonderful as doctrine and theology is. Instead, eternity is about who you know. And the other Judas knew that long before Value Genesis and George Barna confirmed it as fact. The tender hearted, child like faith and compassion of the other Judas should remind us of this. His burning question of concern light years ahead of the other apostles was: What about them?
And I think that’s a question every growing and obedient follower of Jesus needs to keep asking. But the rest of the apostles were still wondering. “Yeah, but how is that gonna work? When are you going to reveal yourself to all of them? Who is going to reach them?” Jesus’ answer to that question, found many verses later in John 15:16 must have floored them. He basically said, “I’m not going to. With the Holy Spirit, you will!” “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will endure.”
God gives us what we lack to reach others for Him
The good news friends is God has a plan to reach out. The bad news is that plan is us! Isn’t that hilarious? Why is that bad news? Because we’re not very competent! So how can God expect us to go and bear fruit that will endure? Because point number three, God gives us the competence we lack. 1 Corinthians 2:1-4 [NIV] says it this way: “1When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power.”
It’s all about Noomanautics. God through the power of the Holy Spirit gives us the competence we lack. Paul never changed his mind about this. In his second letter to the Corinthians, he said in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 [NIV], “5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
And because this other Judas, known more for his infamous name than his compassionate question, embraced his incompetencies and trusted God to transform them into strengths, he took the Gospel north to Edessa, in modern day Turkey, then a royal city in Mesopotamia, and according to the historian Eusebius, he miraculously healed the king of Edessa named Abgar. Sometime after that, after preaching in northern Africa, tradition says the tender hearted Judas Lebbaeus Thaddaeus was captured and clubbed to death. Then beheaded. His life teaches us that God gives us a faith in Jesus that endures even persecution, a compassion that grows for the least of these, and the competence we lack.
The apostle with four names was never as well known or as outspoken as the other apostles. He only wrote one little book of the Bible. But his testimony was just as powerful. He lived what would become known as 2 Corinthians 12:9-10. Since this is the conclusion of our series on The Twelve, would you please read our memory verse one more time in unison together off the screen? “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” Amen. For more information see John MacArthur's Twelve Ordinary Men pages 167-180.