No More Crabby Jesus
As I work with people in picturing how gospel scenes played themselves out, I find that most people view Jesus as a crabby person. They don’t say this, of course, but they interpret many of his phrases as scoldings.
A prime example of this is how people interpret Jesus’ response to Peter’s attempt to walk on the waves of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus did this in order to help his disciples and Peter, like a good disciple, wants to do whatever his master does.
So . . .picture Peter climbing down out of the boat. Thud! Landing on waves of water that he can stand on! He walks toward Jesus. Keep in mind that no other disciple ever does this. Even Paul didn’t but had to swim his way out of shipwrecks! Then Peter behaves as any of us would and becomes understandably scared of the wind. As he sinks, he trusts Jesus and immediately shouts to him to save him. Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him.
Based on Jesus’ character and teaching, what was most likely the look on Jesus’ face at that moment? Most people I work with are certain that Jesus looked disappointed or even disapproving. How could Peter be a mere human instead of supernatural? Over and over Jesus was moved with compassion—why not this time? This scene reminds me of how we watched my granddaughter do something she’d never done before—lift her hand off the coffee table and take a few steps. When she began to sink, we were not disappointed. We clapped! She did something she saw us doing, but she had never done it before.
To be fair, one reason people assume Jesus is crabby instead of encouraging comes from our misinterpretation of the words he says: “You of little faith. Why did you doubt?” Although that sounds crabby, let’s look a little deeper. “You of little faith” (the Greek word oligopistoi) appears no one else in literature except these few times in the gospel. It seems to have been a made-up nickname Jesus used not as a put-down but a complimentary pet name. “Little faith” (even faith as minuscule small as a mustard seed, which Jesus praised) was much bigger than many others who could have been called “no faiths.” (John 6:66; 10:40). Peter’s faith hadn’t moved mountains but it had moved his body out of the boat and across the waves.
Also, the logical answer to Jesus’ subsequent question, “Why did you doubt?” would have been “Because anyone in their right mind would doubt!” I can’t help wondering if Jesus winked when he said that, as if to say, “Never doubt that you guys are on a roller coaster ride in the Kingdom of God!” Even today life with Jesus here and now can be an adventure. (Adapted from Meeting God in Scripture, pp. 226ff).
Here’s a quote about Jesus (Divine Conspiracy, p. 239) Which descriptive words about Jesus intrigues you most? Why? I’ve italicized the ones that work for me. Please enter the word that stands out to you on my Facebook Author Page.
The accepted image of Jesus makes it all but impossible to find Jesus interesting and delightful. In truth he was such an attractive person and such a powerful speaker that the leaders of the day killed him out of envy of his popularity (Matt. 27:18). He was a master of humor and often used it to drive home the truths he imparted. But few today would put him on their guest list for a party— if it were really going to be a party. Most people don’t think of Jesus as pleasant company, someone to enjoy being around.
Grace and peace,
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