Today’s reading: Matthew 10-18; Psalm 118
When I celebrate Holy Communion, I sometimes will say, “When Jesus came, he gathered a group of friends around him. . .ordinary people with flaws and blemishes just like you and me who became his disciples. It’s a reminder to the congregation that those early followers were not chosen because they were extraordinary or unusual. They simply responded to Jesus’ invitation to “Follow me.”
Even after they decided to follow, they still didn’t have it all together. Throughout the gospels, we see Jesus nurturing the disciples along in spite of their bumbling. One of the things we learn about them today is that they are slow learners–can anybody out there relate? Consider these two scenarios that repeat themselves in Matthew’s gospel. In both cases, you would think that after the first experience, the disciples would be more prepared for what to expect the second time around.
In one scene from yesterday’s reading, they are all out in a boat and a storm comes along. The disciples are terrified. They ask Jesus to do something. . .and he does. Today, we read another episode about the disciples in the boat when a storm comes along. And guess what? The disciples are terrified again! Jesus calms them (and the storm) again, after his little faith experiment on the water with Peter.
The other repeat performance involves meals for the masses. Matthew is the only gospel that tells us not only about the feeding of the five thousand but also the four thousand, both found in today’s reading. The scenario is quite similar in both–hungry people, an isolated location, and only a few loaves of bread and a paltry amount of fish on hand. When the disciples ask Jesus what to do the first time, his answer is simple–feed them. They do, and after everyone is served there is plenty of food left over. So, the next time it happens, what do the disciples say? “Jesus, where are we going to get enough food?”
I don’t know about you, but I have this terrible habit of needing to learn things more than once. Today lets me know I’m in good company. I really want to be a disciple. If that early bunch of Jesus followers could do it, maybe there’s still hope for me, too.