The 12 disciples tend to get a bad rap. We often talk about them as if they were some sort of bizarre slapstick circus act, bumbling fools who were always doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.
“There go the disciples again, keeping kids away from Jesus!”
“There goes Peter, running his mouth like usual, promising Jesus he would stick with him to the end!.”
“James and John sure were fools for asking Jesus if they could sit at his right and his left.”
We talk about the disciples as if they were characters from a sitcom called Those Dumb Disciples (probably starring Tim Allen as Peter).
We’re pretty darn sure that if we were in the disciples’ shoes we would have responded much differently. But I don’t think so. We would have responded exactly as the disciples did. How do I know? Because we do our best disciple impersonations every single day.
Just a few examples. In Matthew 14 Jesus walks on the waves of a stormy sea. When the disciples see him, they, understandably, have a colossal freak-out session. Peter calls out to Jesus, and Jesus tells Peter to come out on the water. Peter hops out of the boat and begins walking on the water toward Jesus. Finally, Peter realizes the insanity of what he is doing, is stricken with fear, and starts to sink. When Jesus rescues him, he rebukes Peter by saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).
I can imagine Peter thinking, Why did I doubt? Why did I doubt?! Jesus, not sure if you noticed, but I was walking on the water. I was defying the laws of physics!
Or how about the time the disciples were crossing the sea and a momentous, whopper of a storm fell on them? They were on the verge of sinking. Death by drowning was a real possibility. And yet when the disciples cry out to Jesus in fear, he says to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 8:26).
Why are we afraid? Why are we afraid?! Because we are about to die! Because we want to live, for crying out loud! We want to live! [insert hysterical pleading]
The disciples were rebuked by Jesus whenever they behaved as if Jesus were not present. Under normal circumstances, it would be perfectly acceptable to have a nervous breakdown while walking on the sea. But with Jesus there is no such thing as normal circumstances. Ordinarily it would be okay to freak out when your boat is sinking and you are on the verge of drowning. But with Jesus, there is no such thing as ordinary. Insert Jesus into any situation and everything changes.
We are no different than the disciples. When our finances get tight, we have ourselves a grand ol’ panic session. To which Jesus would reply, “O you of little faith! I’m right here with you! I am your good shepherd! I’ll provide for you. Why have you forgotten about me?” Insert Jesus into your finances and everything changes.
When our children begin to fall into sin we allow ourselves to be buried under a mountain of unbelief. To which Jesus would reply, “O you of little faith! I’m mighty to save! Why are you afraid?” Insert Jesus into your family and everything changes.
When a promising relationship dissolves into tears and heartbreak, we can fear for our future and doubt the goodness of God. To which Jesus would reply, “O you of little faith! I have every moment of your life in the palm of my hand.”
Insert Jesus into any situation and everything changes. What once appeared hopeless suddenly is splashing over with possibilities. What once appeared bleak is suddenly ripe with God-ordained possibilities. We act like the disciples when we forget about Jesus and when we act like he’s not there, not powerful enough to intervene.
We can laugh at the disciples, but we need to laugh at ourselves as well. We are all the disciples.