Jesus’ Work in Dull Disciples
by Joseph Franks
Could we be wrongly reading the Bible? Regularly, could we be opening the pages of Scripture, filling our minds with God’s narratives, and coming away with wrong goals and conclusions? Could it be we are over-emphasizing the character and conduct of our Old Testament heroes? Are we guilty of misapplying what we read about Jesus and his New Covenant Apostles?
Friends, the Apostles are not necessarily men to emulate. They are not fellows who have reached a higher plateau in the Christian life. They have not reached “black belt status” on their way to saintliness. It is not to be assumed they are above average in their display of saintliness. No, just like all disciples of Jesus today, the Twelve are wishy-washy, temperamental, double-minded, sometimes faithful, oft times faithless, learners. They prove to be depraved, dull, disappointing, discouraged, and doubting disciples who consistently …
- Question Jesus’ ministry plan
- Keep the little children away
- Wrestle with fear
- Scheme and maneuver for the chief seats
- Criticize the worship of women
- Lack faith in the power of Jesus
- Misunderstand the Kingdom
- Misunderstand Jesus’ teaching
- Forget what they have learned
- Sleep when they should be praying
- Flee in times of danger
- Cower in hopeless depression following Jesus’ crucifixion
Sure, they are pretty committed to Jesus. Yes, they are greatly affected and improved by the Holy Spirit. Absolutely, they are much sharper role models than most — including the one writing this devotional. There is much to be appreciated and admired in these men and their ministry. However, despite Jesus’ calling and usage of these men, they remain sinful, inconsistent, frail followers of Jesus who sometimes get it right and oft times get it wrong. And such is their condition on this first Easter morning:
Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” So Peter went out with the other disciple, and they were going toward the tomb. Both of them were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. And stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen cloths lying there, and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples went back to their homes. (John 20:1-10)
The Apostles are so slow to learn, and they are very quick to forget. They do not seem to be wiser than other worshipers. They are not getting an “A” in Bible interpretation and application. Sadly, on this first Easter morning, after centuries of Old Testament prophecies, after years of personal tutoring by the Rabbi, after countless sermons and specific prophecies being presented to them, after clear instruction in the Upper Room, these followers of Jesus still get it wrong. They do not yet understand the Scripture regarding Jesus’ glorious resurrection. Again, after years of being students in the school of Christ, they prove to be depraved, dull, disappointing, discouraged, and doubting disciples.
Therefore friends, why do we seek to put them up on a pedestal? They are not incredibly consistent teachers and followers.
Instead, as we read Scripture’s inspired narratives of “heroes,” let us look past them and focus on Jesus. He is the one who uses a duplicitous patriarch named Abraham. He is the one who utilizes a doubting prophet named Moses. He is the one who ministers through a depraved king named David. The same is true with a discouraged priest named Elijah. And in the New Testament, Jesus is the one who uses depraved, dull, disappointing, discouraged, and doubting disciples to build his church.
And he does the same today. Consistently, Jesus calls and uses depraved, dull, disappointing, discouraged, and doubting male and female disciples to do his bidding, build his church, and expand his kingdom.
So take your eyes off the biblical heroes. Look not at the inconsistencies in your own life. Jesus is the patient and effective teacher. He is the one who does tremendous work through depraved, dull, disappointing, discouraged, and doubting friends.