How the Disciples Missed Jesus’s Purpose and Power

Have you ever had an intimate relationship with someone only to find out they were not who you thought they were? Or maybe you had a certain expectation of someone and things didn’t transpire the way you expected it. You might have in mind someone who disappointed you but the same could be true for someone who surprised you in a good way.

And then there’s Jesus. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like I was walking in step with Jesus, only to have my life change in an unexpected way. “This isn’t how it was supposed to go!” I cry.

The twelve disciples walked intimately with Jesus during his three year ministry. They saw it all and knew Jesus more deeply than anyone. And yet, they still missed out on who he really was!

In this two part blog series I’m reflecting on how Matthew’s gospel shows us that we can miss God at work in our life. When we look back we wonder how we could miss something so obvious. In part one I discussed how religious leaders, like the Pharisees, missed their messiah. In part two I will show you how Jesus’s disciples missed his purpose and power.

Jesus’s Feeds the Masses

In Matthew 14:13-21, we read about Jesus feeding the 5,000. This number did not include women and children, so we’re really looking at about 20,000 people! That’s enough to fill a college basketball stadium! Once word spread about Jesus’s miracles and teaching, droves flocked to him wherever he went. This group of people had been with him, being healed and listening to his teaching, for a whole day. When the disciples suggested he send them to town for dinner, Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” And with five loaves of bread and two fish, they found that everyone had something to eat and there were leftovers. Wow! 

Fast forward a second to the next chapter–

Then Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me now three days and have nothing to eat. And I am unwilling to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.”

Matthew 15:32

I think Jesus is testing them. He had already fed 20,000 people and he wanted to see what the disciples would do. They failed the test.

And the disciples said to him, “Where are we to get enough bread in such a desolate place to feed so great a crowd?”

Matthew 15:33

While there are less people than Jesus’s first food miracle, they still doubted. 20,000 people! That’s a LOT of people! How did they forget this? After seeing all of the miraculous things Jesus had done, did they miss his almighty power to feed them?

Jesus Sends Out the Disciples

Jesus wasn’t the only one to perform signs and wonders. In Matthew 10:5-15, he sent his disciples out to do the same. 

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. 

Matthew 10:8

And yet, the disciples lacked faith in their efforts.

And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.”

Matthew 17:14-16

Jesus rebukes his disciples before casting out the demon himself.

And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”

Matthew 17:17

The disciples, with their lack of faith, asked why they couldn’t cast out the demon. Jesus gave them a lesson:

He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”

Matthew 17:20

Basically he’s saying, “How can you, after being with me for so long, still not have faith enough to work in my name? Is my father not powerful enough?”

Jesus Foretells His Death and Resurrection

After seeing Jesus raise the dead, heal the sick, cast out demons, and stand up to the opposing religious leaders, you would think they would hang on every word and take him seriously. And yet, though he tells them multiple times that he was to die and rise again, they didn’t get it. He’s referred to as the “son of man” thirty times in the book of Matthew and ten times as the “son of God.” The disciples truly believed that he was their messiah.

Jesus gives the prophecy of his death and resurrection four times in the book of Matthew:

  1. Matthew 17:9
  2. Matthew 17:22-23
  3. Matthew 20:17-19
  4. Matthew 26:2

Each time it’s clear that they didn’t fully understand what he was talking about. In Matthew 12:23 “they were greatly distressed.” In Matthew 20:20-28 they got into a tiff over who would sit on the right hand and left hand of Jesus in his kingdom. When Jesus asked, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” they said, “We are able.” Jesus has told them about how he was to die and I don’t think they truly understood what they were saying. 

When we finally get to Jesus’s final hours, the disciples fall away.

Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’

Matthew 26:31

Judas betrays Jesus, then, finally realizing what he has done, hangs himself.

When Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, Peter, James and John fell asleep. Jesus had chosen these three to be with him in his last hours as a free man and they failed him. 

Peter denies Jesus three times. 

John was the only disciple recorded to be by Jesus’s side as he lay dying on the cross.

As Jesus lay in the tomb, the disciples were beside themselves. John 20:19 tells us that the disciples were locked up together in fear of the Jews. I imagine they were all mourning their loss and trying to make sense of things. They had forgotten Jesus’s promise that he would rise again on the third day. Per Jewish custom, Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Salome, the mother of James and John, went to Jesus’s tomb on the third day to embalm him. He said he wouldn’t be there and yet they acted as if he would be.

Like the Marys and Salome, the disciples were certainly surprised to find out that Jesus had risen. Peter and John ran to the tomb to see for themselves. Later, Jesus presents himself to the disciples but Thomas was slow to believe. He told them four times what was going to happen, they fully believed that he was the messiah, and yet they still struggled to wrap their minds around Jesus’s death and resurrection.

Have you been missing God in your life?

Jesus came to earth in human form to bridge the giant chasm between man and God that Adam and Eve left in the garden. Sin separated man from his maker. What was meant to be a deeply intimate relationship with God and his people was destroyed by an act of disobedience. For more than 1500 years there was no way back to the father. Man struggled to follow a host of rules in order to repair this relationship. It’s simply not possible to keep all the rules. To be a good enough person. To repair a relationship with the Almighty God with one’s own strength. So Jesus came.

Jesus’s life was like no other life. It was perfect. He was perfect. He is the only human being who has ever been and ever will be able to keep all of God’s rules.

Jesus’s death was like no other death. He took on the sins of everyone who was, who is, and who ever will be and endured our punishment for us in hell. He took on my sin. He took on your sin. But then three days later, he rose from the dead and walked the earth yet again. Our Savior overcame our sins and is alive!

Jesus is our almighty redeemer. The disciples eventually realized the fullness of who Jesus is and made it their life’s mission to share the gift of salvation with the world.

Have you received this free gift from God? Are you ready?

Please pray this prayer with me:

Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins. I open the door of my life and receive You as my Savior and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.

If you have just prayed this prayer, please contact me. I would love to rejoice with you and help get you connected to other believers so that you can learn how to walk out your new faith.