“And He ordained twelve, that they should be with Him, and that He might send them forth to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils” (Mark 3:14-15).
We often look at the apostles as vessels of power, taken up by the Lord, and qualified by Him for the accomplishment of His gracious and mighty work on earth. And we are right; for they were ordained by Him to preach, to heal, to cast out devils, and thus to illustrate the infinite power of the blessed Redeemer. That He should have possessed such power, that He should have entered the domain of Satan and spoiled his house, is no wonder when we remember who He was. But it is marvellous to think of the apostles—men—wielding a similar power! They received it from Him in dependence upon Him. They carried His authority, and lived on His account.
But, whilst all this is true, we are prone to overlook the first great privilege, and that from which all the others flow; viz., that “they should be with Him.” They were ordained to this as fully as to the others. The principle thus asserted is, that communion precedes service; and this company of the Lord is that which alone fits for testimony.
Now this is exceedingly happy. The blessed Master, in order to make His service a pleasure, calls us first into His presence, and creates us His friends. This is Christianity and the atmosphere of love. “Henceforth,” He says, “I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his Lord does: but I have called you friends.” The idea of slavery is thus precluded, and the service, though intensely real, is perfect freedom. It is the service of love, and a pure, holy, happy service therefore. Hence the first consideration on the Lord’s part was, that “they should be with Him.” How can you send a servant to do your bidding if he be not within call? It is necessary that he should be at your constant command. You must have him near yourself. Again, How can you familiarize your messenger with your mind and ways if he should habitually live apart from you? Proximity creates acquaintance, and companionship produces similarity; and this is indispensable when accurate witness is to be borne. The ambassador must be in the secret of his government, and the servant of Christ in the sweet enjoyment of His presence.
Moreover, as to power or authority, where else can such a one find this? If the Lord authorize for service He also grants the needed power, but only on this ground, that it is held as in Him alone, and by us as in full dependence on Him. The excellency of the power is of God, and not of us. Mark this, it is “not of us.” We are in no sense depositories of power. Nay, but we may be its channel; yet only then as being in company with the Lord. “That they should be with Him . . . and to have power” (authority). Being with Him (in spirit now) and having power go together. He has most power who abides most in his Lord’s blest company. The nature of the power is not the question. Mighty signs and wonders may not be seen, but he is always a man of spiritual power who walks with the Lord; for with such communion is the first thing, and service results from that. Such service is, like Mary’s ointment, precious to Him, and it fills all the house as well.