I am a disciple of Jesus. But before I get into the apology, I should state that I’ve always wanted to be one. Look at them. Biblical legends. Walking on water, tongues of fire, healing, communing with Jesus. And why shouldn’t they have been? He took every opportunity to teach them. He sought their company and even asked for their prayers.
I guess where it went wrong for me is that I kept reading after the Sunday School excerpt stopped. Before Peter could walk on the water, he had to question Jesus first. In an act of both doubt and testing, he asked, “if it is you, command me to walk on the water”. If? Jesus had already announced who it was. But lets cut him some slack, maybe a translation problem made it sound worse than it really was.
So he walks on water. Jesus commanded him, he stepped on faith (what an amazing testament to faith, by the way… it’s why he is a Bible icon after all), but just a few steps and the wind reminded Peter that his legs are meant for land. His faith exited stage left and his fears jumped into the driver seat. Then he sank into the water. But as he began to plummet, he still managed a final plea, “Lord, save me!”. More faith? No. Desperation. Faith kept him above the water, fear drug him into it. Submission to fear caused him to cry out.
I don’t think I’m taking things too harshly or literally here, after all, Jesus had to rebuke Peter for his lack of faith. Now, it goes on to say that after the wind died down (because Jesus made it), that they all believed. Here is the problem. Peter believed… until it got difficult. Then he returned to his pre-Jesus ways of living. How is that heroic?
But, it’s not just Peter. It’s all of them. I should have started with the worst of all… Judas. Do we even remember that he was a disciple? I think most of us just frown at the sound of his name and move on. What about doubting Thomas who demanded evidence over faith? The disciples in bulk tried to send a woman seeking healing away because she was “crying out to them”. When they couldn’t heal a demon possessed man, Jesus seemingly mocked their dismay with the reason of their failure… they did not have the faith that the healing required.
They argued over who was the greatest among them, they desired to know the forgiveness limit, they tried to stop the children from getting to Jesus, they denied Him, rebuked Him, questioned Him, abandoned Him, tried to stop others from working in His name… our heroes. Our Bible legends. In all of their mistakes and selfishness.
Through the power of Jesus, these men did amazing and miraculous things. Through the power of the tempter and great liar, they did horrible and despicable things. The same men. One great feat followed by a giant failure, later to be followed by an amazing miracle. Why? How?
- Jesus did not wait until the men were perfect before leaving them to their mission. They were still human when he left them. We are still human now.
- They were never expected to be perfect this side of heaven. Neither are we. They were forgiven and still maintained the company of the Savior even after massive regression to sin, fear, and doubt… we too are forgivable, and can maintain our relationship with Jesus even after we mess up.
I feel like I must apologize. I’ve made the same mistakes. As someone who claims Jesus in His life and has read and experienced such amazing things… I still have fear and doubt and struggles… just like the disciples. And in one way, I am incredible proud to be one:
- They never stopped following Him… even after He went to a place they could not physically follow. Neither should we.
So while we are human and imperfect, just like our predecessors, I pray we remember this truth… that while we are in the company of the Savior we can enjoy all of what makes him our Lord, including forgiveness. Go easy on yourself at times. There is only one Jesus… the rest of us are Peters and Judases. Flawed, yet in the Master’s presence.
I pray you find encouragement and also resolve to strive to learn. While they made many mistakes, each one was a learning opportunity. Don’t neglect the teaching moments.