The Failures of Jesus’ Followers, part 1
Abysmal failures often follow mountain top experiences. In the 1981 NFL season, the SF 49ers beat the Cinci Bengals in the Super Bowl. The following year, the 49ers finished in 11th place. The 49ers were the fifth team in NFL history to enter a season as the defending Super Bowl champion and miss the playoffs that year. It’s not uncommon for teams to win the SB one year and do quite poorly the next. Teams and individual athletes often experience “the thrill of victory” one year and “the agony of defeat” the next. Gloom often follows glory.
That’s sort of what happened in the text before us today. Several of the disciples had an amazing experience with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration—we might call it a mountain top experience. But almost immediately following that great event, they experience a series of failures.
This passage contains five separate scenarios, and the theme that draws them all together is failure. In each case, someone failed or at least displayed a wrong attitude. I would suggest that Luke is intentionally showing us these examples of failure among the disciples to show that disciples are far from perfect. They are not ready to deal with Jesus’ upcoming death. Spiritual lows often follow spiritual highs. People who should demonstrate great faith, knowledge, and humility often display the very opposite characteristics.
These scenarios show us that disciples should stay humble. Failure easily and often follows success. As Paul exhorts us, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. If we are not humble, we may fall into the very sins that we thought we had victory over. Any of us could experience these same failures if we are not careful.
Let’s consider several reasons why disciples often fail.