When I think of mystery men, it conjures up many thoughts and ideas. The apostle Jude has never been a part of that – until now.
Growing up Catholic, I learned about many saints but St. Jude, or Thaddeus, was not one that I remember.
As an animal lover, St. Francis of Assisi was one of my favorites. When I lost something, I would pray “St. Anthony, St. Anthony, please come around, my ______ is missing and cannot be found.” (I’ve had huge success with this, btw. Feel free to try it next time something goes missing). I also know about the St. Jude Children’s hospital, but nothing more than that. That was the extent of my knowledge of Jude.
When Jude is introduced in the Bible in Matthew and Mark, he is called Thaddaeus. In Luke, it’s Judas (son of James). Judas is the Greek form of the English Jude. In his book in the Bible, he refers to himself as Jude a brother of James. In other circles, he is also referred to as Thaddeus. In “What’s in a Name? St. Jude Thaddeus” from newtheologicalmovement.blogspot.com, it is suggested the change is to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus with a kiss.
He is also related to Jesus as his mother Mary was the Virgin Mary’s cousin. His brother was James the Less. He most likely was executed by ax for spreading God’s word (although I’ve also read he was beaten to death). His remains are believed to be entombed in St. Peter’s basilica. He is the patron saint of hopeless causes.
Jude the apostle wrote a book in the Bible consisting of 25 verses. I must confess, I never gave it much consideration or time until I needed to prepare for this post. Right out of the gate I was struck in my NLT version: “This letter is from Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ and a brother of James.” Did you catch that? A SLAVE of Jesus Christ. Wow!! What would my life be if I lived as a slave to Christ? Or if we all did; how would the world be different?
In John 14:22, Jude asks Jesus, “Lord, why are you going to reveal yourself only to us and not to the world at large?”
It seems when Jude wrote his book, his world was a lot like our current world. Initially, he was going to write about salvation, then he says, “But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people.” (verse 3)
In verse four, Jude proceeds to discuss that he changed his mind because “…some ungodly people have wormed their way into your churches, saying that God’s marvelous grace allows us to live immoral lives.” If we bring this to present day, we could easily substitute the words ungodly people with (you fill in the blank). Anything that takes our mind and time away from God and that we use as a crutch to live a little (or a lot) less than righteously.
I think how many things pull me into a thousand different directions and further away from God. The devil is great at distracting us and throwing out diversions to keep me busy. Work; phones; chores; the internet; entertainment; our children’s schedules and activities; etc., etc. On any given day I can think of dozens of options to divert me from spending time in the Word or devoting some quiet time with the Lord.
I’m impressed with Jude’s passion and about falling into the trap of false teachers – specifically those who twist the gospel. We are implored to defend the faith during persecution. He is concerned for our future and the future of the church. He is quick to remind us of the past and how quickly those who chose to rebuke the Lord, were felled. (Michael the archangel; Sodom and Gomorrah; Cain; etc.) and how they all “…perish in their rebellion.” (verse 11)
While admonishing us, Jude includes six analogies of how easily we can be swayed when we spend time (more specifically eat meals) with nonbelievers. Two of my favorites are: “They are like trees in autumn that are doubly dead, for they bear no fruit and have been pulled up by the roots.” And “they are like wild waves of the sea, churning up the foam of their shameful deeds.” Such amazing imagery with both and helpful ways to say watch out and be careful.
Jude recognizes that it’s important for us to keep our distance from complainers and the “scoffers whose purpose in life is to satisfy their ungodly desires. These people are the ones who are creating divisions among you. They follow their natural instincts because they do not have God’s Spirit in them.” (verses 18 through 20).
I’ve been trying to guess how I would react today to someone like Jude. I hope I wouldn’t be cynical and ignore him thinking he’s a fanatical zealot. Truly, someone just like Jude could be living and walking around in today’s climate. There are so many things that divert our attention that don’t have the Spirit in them. I know this, I’m a believer, and yet I’m not sure how I would react to a present-day Jude.
In verse 20, Jude beautifully tells us how to live “But you, dear friends, must build each other up in your most holy faith, pray in the power of the Holy Spirit” and wait on mercy from Jesus. He urges us to show mercy to others with wavering faith. He says, “Rescue others by snatching them from the flames of judgment. Show mercy to still others, but do so with great caution, hating the sins that contaminate their lives.” (verse 23).
I guess the point is there’s really no way to tell when the next Jude (or Jesus for that matter) will show up. Live deliberately, intentionally and kindly while remembering that we never know when His return will be. Along the way, be careful about dropping your guard, keep the Spirit within you and build each other up – especially with prayer. And if we become a slave to Jesus, like Jude did, we might just see the world begin to change.