It is easy to look back at Jesus’ disciples and judge them harshly. Save one (Judas), they seem to be well-meaning. However, they still usually end up missing the mark.
Chief among them was Peter. To his credit, Peter appears to have been much more assertive than most of his companions, blurting out loud what the others may have already been thinking but were too afraid to say for themselves.
Also, to his credit, Peter concluded that Jesus was “the Messiah.” This was a big feather in his cap for at least a moment or two. Why so short a time? It is because Peter’s concept of Messiah wasn’t what Jesus had in mind. In fact, it was far from it. As a result, Peter was both immediately and strongly rebuked for this misstep in front of everyone. That had to be shocking, embarrassing, and disheartening.
It must have been tough being a disciple of Jesus.
One could rightly say that they “just didn’t get it” prior to Jesus’ resurrection. As Monday morning quarterbacks we have the luxury of pointing a finger at them and scoffing in disbelief. Their inability to understand the teachings of Jesus is baffling.
Despite following the Messiah, the light bulb didn’t live up to the desired wattage. In fact, it often seemed very dim. Sadly, they forgot lessons not too soon after they were taught.
It is on this last point that we have a shared experience. So, although we may sharply critique the disciples, we need to be aware of our own shortcomings.
We may forget Jesus’ teachings in an instant. This is especially true in how we may treat others, especially those not like us.
We discard this quite easily and convince ourselves that it simply does not apply. We all do it. We deny, rationalize and deflect. We may refer to it as impracticable or outdated. We choose to live by those teachings we find more acceptable and that do not challenge our behavior.
In doing so, we align ourselves with Peter when he refused to believe Jesus’ version of Messiah. To him, that was all just crazy talk.
How do we overcome these things? A first step would be to recognize and name them. A second step would be struggling with them. This is a holy struggle.
You may not find perfect answers, but the continued effort will be worth it.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church and has served as parish pastor for more than 25 years.