As we begin a brand new year with our brand new re-commitments to our Lord and to his eternal Kingdom, let’s consider a final trait of Christ’s twelve apostles that were lacking in most everybody else who ran into Jesus during his ministry. That last trait is submission. Or you might call it obedience.
Jesus’ disciples recognized that they needed his instruction. No matter how harsh they sometimes were, they knew they needed to apply Jesus’ teachings to their lives. Now, they were not perfect students. Not by any stretch. Sometimes Jesus was angry at them. Frustrated. I’m sure he was sick of them sometimes. When, at the drop of a hat, they’re wanting to call down fire from heaven and burn out a whole village. When they wanted to censor other followers who were teaching in Jesus’ name but not doing things exactly as they were doing them. In Matthew 17, these disciples can’t cast a demon out of a sick boy and Jesus says, “How much longer must I put up with you?” If you’re a school teacher or a parent, you can relate to our Lord’s exasperation. When Peter got sidetracked during a critical moment, Jesus called him Satan.
Yet these apostles continually repented and re-repented and re-submitted themselves to the lordship of Jesus and his teachings. One minute, yes, they’re arguing over who will be the greatest in the Kingdom, but the next minute they’re submitting to a foot-washing lesson on selfless service. Peter denies Jesus three times and then enjoys a breakfast on the beach with Jesus, repenting and accepting forgiveness and recommitting to submission and obedience.
Humility, trust, and submission. You can’t know a person has those traits by looking at his SAT scores. But if one doesn’t possess these qualities in increasing measure, one cannot understand Jesus the way his first disciples did. These are absolutely essential qualities for a follower of the Lord. They’re indispensable traits that give a person the ears to hear what Jesus is saying and the eyes to see what Jesus is revealing. Because Jesus is not the kind of teacher everybody gets.
He teaches in parables and questions and difficult language to make sure their level of understanding is never past their level of personal involvement. He made them dig. He made them get invested and involved. He made them sacrifice. Their personal relationship is a major part of Jesus’ teachings. With Jesus, you don’t just listen and then regurgitate facts and ideas. You have to have a change of heart. If you don’t have the right kind of heart, you can’t really comprehend everything Jesus is doing.
It’s never merely informational with our great rabbi. It’s transformational. His teaching always starts and finishes in the heart.
May we each approach our Lord and Master with humility, trust, and submission. May we see with his eyes and hear with his ears. And as we learn, may our hearts grow and be transformed and become one with his and with one another’s.
Sorry. Couldn’t resist.