For most of my adult life, I have been studying the life of Jesus and His disciples. Like a hungry bloodhound following the scent of a delicious bone, my thoughts over the years continue to latch onto the trail of two observations arising from these studies.
First, I continue to find amazement, yes, even worship, in the study of the character of Jesus. How could anyone do the things He did and say the things He said and not be who He said He was?
His miracles were… well, miraculous. His messages were so profound, and His words were so absolutely comforting. He claimed to be God on several occasions, and everything He did supported that claim.
The second observation, though not so important as the first, is even more astounding. I never cease to marvel at the absolute humanity of the disciples. They are so very much like me.
Around almost every corner of the gospel accounts, right when I expect the disciples to do something “godly” or “righteous”, they surprise me by being so… so… human! Like on the night they, along with a lot of other people following Jesus, found themselves getting hungry.
What did they do? What any one of us would have done. They encouraged Jesus to take a dinner break and send everyone away to look for dinner at a local restaurant or some local fast-food eatery (with “golden” arches?).
But Jesus surprised them. Instead of sending everyone away, He told THEM to feed the crowd. After a cursory survey of the lunch bags, they found a little boy with a small lunch who had been smart enough to bring some food with him. Jesus took that lunch and fed the whole group, and had food left over!
These disciples were absolutely flabbergasted. They could not believe their eyes, their ears, or even their taste buds. I can identify with them, can’t you?
Their humanness was also illustrated in the very next story, as told in Matthew 14, where Jesus sent them out on the lake at night, while He went up on the mountaintop to pray. They did as He instructed them, but were surprised by what they encountered.
They got caught in a storm that was threatening to do them in! Storms are always worse at night, aren’t they? Even though these fellows were pros at fishing, even fishing on this lake, they were scared to death. Add to that the sight of a ghost – it was really Jesus walking across the lake on top of the water towards them – and they were losing their (miraculous) dinners right and left!
Peter, one of the disciples, then does something totally IN character (for Peter!). He brashly tells the Lord to command him to come to Him – on the water. You know, the liquid stuff. And Jesus does just that!
Then, so long as Peter keeps His eyes on Jesus, he has the walk of his life. But then he begins to think instead of trust. He thinks, “I am walking on water. Humans cannot do that! I cannot be doing that. What is going on here?” And when he thinks, instead of trusts, he sinks. And Jesus reaches out and says to Peter, “Take my hand.”
The blockbuster “Titanic” tells the tale of how, on that ill-fated voyage, Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) won the affection of a wealthy young woman named Rose Bukater (Kate Winslet).
Although Rose turns Jack away at first, she yearns inside for someone to break her free of her dismal life. She says, “Outwardly, I was everything a well-brought-up girl should be. Inside, I was screaming. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared or even noticed.”
In perhaps the most famous scene of the movie, Rose has decided to give their romance a chance and has sought out Jack on the bow of the ship. When he sees her change of heart towards him, he reaches out to her and says, “Take my hand.” He asks her not to speak but to close her eyes, and then he leads her to the very bow of the ship. He has her stand up on the railing, while he holds her steady.
He asks Rose, “Do you trust me?”
She responds, “I trust you.”
The scene radiates as the sunset streaks in the background. As Jack stretches out her arms over the bow and tells her to open her eyes, she’s overwhelmed by the beauty of the waters and the sunset before her. All she can say is, “I’m flying!”
Rose is being rescued from a predictable and passionless life and invited to pursue something more. This is what happens in our new life in Christ.
Like Jesus did to Peter in that storm on the sea, Christ extends himself to us and commands graciously: “Take my hand.” Then he asks one simple question, “Do you trust me?”
When you think instead of trust, you sink. But when you trust, like Peter and like Rose, what follows is pure adventure.
Are YOU ready for that adventure?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at [email protected] .