When it comes to understanding my relationship with Jesus, I feel a great need to put myself into someone else’s shoes. I’m not really sure why, and I suppose lately I haven’t really been sure how.
The disciples, particularly, have been something of a fascination to me; humble men who seem to know that something’s going on, but largely unable to figure out what it is.
Take this, for example:
31 Meanwhile, the disciples were urging Jesus, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But Jesus replied, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.” 33 “Did someone bring him food while we were gone?” the disciples asked each other. 34 Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.” (John 4, NLT)
Classic Jesus; throw the disciples a bizarre metaphor that they don’t get at the time but makes the lesson much more memorable when it’s explained. Also this one:
6 “Watch out!” Jesus warned them. “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. (Matthew 16, NLT)
More significantly, perhaps, I take a look at Peter’s response to Jesus foretelling his death, and wonder what on earth he was thinking.
21 From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead. 22 But Peter took him aside and began to reprimand him for saying such things. “Heaven forbid, Lord,” he said. “This will never happen to you!” 23 Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get away from me, Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.” (Matthew 16, NLT)
I’m wondering who he thinks Jesus is, who he’s trying to convince. And it seems completely reasonable for him to see things from a human point of view - who would walk into their own death trap?
I wonder what Peter thought in the few months following. Did he have this discussion nagging at the back of his head during the transfiguration (Matthew 17)? Or during the rest of his time with Jesus? The disciples were certainly filled with grief at his predictions (Matthew 17:23).
I wonder if it was all surreal. It’s like they knew that he deserved some position of authority - heck, they’d seen it previously: a huge crowd of his followers were trying to make him king at the start of his ministry (John 6:15). I wonder if the disciples had pinned their hope on Jesus bringing real change, or on freeing the Jews from their oppressors, with themselves by his side.
And I suppose, the question in all of this is the same question that the disciples were asking from the start:
Who is this man?
Sure he’s a good teacher, sure he’s a social activist, but really, if you’re going to take him just as that, you need to ignore his obsession with his own death, you need to ignore the nonsense about the Holy Spirit, you need to ignore the fact that the most complete and accurate records of his character are peppered with claims as to his miraculous deeds.
Jesus himself said:
9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins. (Mark 2, NLT)
It would appear that Jesus himself was not ok with simply being labeled a good teacher - he was intent on not leaving that option open.
The classic appeal of a good teacher is to ask you to consider the weight of the ideas, and their validation is in whether their predictions are correct, or how things play out over time. Jesus doesn’t give this option; instead, he asks you to evaluate whether his words are true based upon his command over the forces of nature.