Theme of the Week: Peter’s Spiritual Growth… and Ours
Bible Verse: Peter said, “Explain the parable to us.” Matthew 15:15
Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:1-20
Let’s be fair, there are plenty of confusing things in the Bible. Even ignoring the time and culture differences, and the uncertainty they can create, there are just some flat-out confounding things in Scripture. It’s probably not too unusual or too long since you’ve asked, now what does that mean? And quickly turned to your favorite commentaries or Google to help you sort through the difficulty of a certain passage . . . which may or may not have been helpful. Your mind may be wandering to that passage even now with a fresh plausible meaning.
Now, imagine you’re sitting with a rabbi named Jesus. Things are relatively new; you’ve seen him do some pretty amazing things. You’ve heard some teaching that is just radically different than what the other rabbis have said. More than once you squint your eyes and your thought process grinds to a halt as you try to process what Jesus has said. Things that seem to contradict what you know Torah says. It’s all just a little disorienting.
And then you hear him say things that directly contradict how you have lived your entire life. “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them” (Matt 15:11). That can’t be right! Of course there are unclean foods! And if you eat them, you become unclean! Moses couldn’t have been clearer.
But instead of walking away from the new rabbi, which may have been understandable—Jesus wasn’t interpreting Moses, the way the other rabbis did; He was correcting him . . . you didn’t correct Moses—Peter asked a question. He wanted to understand. Peter assumed it was a parable (it wasn’t) and so he asked Jesus to explain what he meant.
Peter was open to learning. Despite being uncomfortable with something new (the offense of the Pharisees (see vs. 12) may have just been a foil for the disciples’ own confusion and discomfort). No brashness and bold correction in this instance. No confident rebuttal. Just a confused, and probably deeply honest question.
This is a challenging story. All of us are open to learning new things about God, Jesus, and the Scripture. But often that openness means depth, not width. We want to go deeper but get uncomfortable when what we “know” is challenged. Don’t misunderstand, this is no endorsement for any and every new teaching that you may come across. But it is a challenge to our confidence that we are the best and final authority of what is correct.
Are we open to wider as well as deeper in our learning? It can be uncomfortable, disorienting, and may feel “all wrong.” But sometimes, like Peter, we need to ask Jesus “help me understand.”
Prayer: God, thank you that you are an inexhaustible source of knowledge and learning. I can never reach the depths of what there is to know about you. Help me to develop a curious heart that wants to know you deeper and better. Help me to be open to both learning, and, when necessary, unlearning what is right and true about you.
Reflection: When was the last time you had to adjust what you know about God? Not just deepening something, but actually wrestling with a belief that you had to change?
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