In addition to “fruit,” another indicator for assessing spiritual growth or progress as a disciple is questions. Not only does Jesus question his disciples, the disciples question Jesus.
Questions from a storm
“You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The disciples had been following and watching as Jesus healed a leper, then a centurion’s servant, and others. Jesus then “gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake” (8:18b). During the crossing and “without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” (8:24-25).
Jesus “replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’” (8:26-27) Note that the disciples also have a question.
In these extreme circumstances, what is the purpose of Jesus’ question: You of little faith, why are you so afraid?
Among other things, it is eliciting what they have learned of who he is, and what it means to trust him. His miraculous healings should have convinced the disciples that Jesus was special and powerful.
When it comes to a dangerous situation in which it looks like they are going to drown, the disciples' fear seems to cause them to forget. Circumstances displaced confidence. The man who had miraculously healed had also given orders to cross to the other side of the lake, and they do not grasp the significance of who this man is yet.
Jesus' question focuses on the cause of their fear. They may have an intellectual understanding that there was something special and powerful about Jesus, but they had not realized who he actually is. If they knew who Jesus really is, they would know that crossing the lake could not be frustrated, even if there was a furious storm. Jesus' question identified a lesson they needed to learn.
What follows is their own question: “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” Their question confirms their limited awareness of who Jesus really is.
This lesson of the radical obedience of faith to the commands of Jesus who controlled the environment needed to be learned. When the lesson is taught again in 14:22-33, they have grown – even though there is another question.
Be aware of the questions asked in Matthew. Who asks the question, and what does it reveal? In particular, what insights do you gain regarding the progress of the disciples?
In one scene there is a series of questions Jesus asks his disciples, concluding with “Who do you say I am?” (16:13-20). What does this reveal about the perception of the disciples?
In another situation, the disciples ask Jesus a number of questions after a meeting with a rich young man (19:16-30). The questions include “Who then can be saved?” and “What then will there be for us?” What do these questions expose about the mindset of the disciples concerning wealth, finances, and possessions?
Questions have a way of uncovering perceptions, mindsets, biases, presumptions, and so much more. So, pay close attention to questions and what they indicate about spiritual maturity.
As we proceed through The Matthew Paradigm we will have many opportunities to identify and use these and other tools for evaluating spiritual growth and the progress of disciples.
What other indicators of maturity have you identified in Matthew? You can contact me here.
This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, The Matthew Paradigm: reclaiming an ancient way for being and making disciples. To get further resources and news subscribe here.
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