• Steve Johnson

Real People - by Brent Neely

Updated: Apr 23

The Gospel reading for Resurrection Sunday reminded me of something I realized a few years ago when I was college. I’d like to share it here.  Growing up I loved the Bible. It was God’s way of speaking directly to me and telling me all about who this great, big God of the universe was. However, growing up I also struggled with the Bible. I could never be like the characters in it. I would never be able to live up to the standard they had set. They followed God, they loved God, they did right by God. Abram left his family and country to follow after God. Moses led God’s people in the desert for 40 years and wrote down God’s law so all God’s people could know it. David was a man after God’s own heart. The disciples gave up their livelihoods and everything they had to follow Jesus. Paul started out pretty terrible, but then he was blinded by Jesus and became the greatest missionary ever. As a child I would hear these stories about these great followers of God and I knew I just didn’t stand a chance. I especially knew this to be true once I hit my late middle school / early high school years. I was terrible at loving God and doing God’s will, so why even bother? I still tried to follow Jesus and do my best, but my best never felt good enough. This feeling continued on throughout high school into college.  As a Christian Ministry major in college it was important that I read the Bible and looked closely at it. It was my major to be “that Christian kid,” you know, the one always reading his Bible. Well, it’s a good thing I was because otherwise I would have never read John 20:1-8 as closely as I did: Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came early to the tomb, while it was still dark, and saw the stone already taken away from the tomb. So she ran and came to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken away the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid Him.” So Peter and the other disciple went forth, and they were going to the tomb. The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. I read this and realized something:  John, or whoever wrote John’s Gospel, was kind of a jerk to Peter. The other disciple beat Peter to the tomb. The other disciple, not Peter, was first to the tomb. Did I mention that Peter got there after the other disciple? I just want to make sure we all got the picture, other disciple, not Peter, got to the tomb first. Cool, glad we’re clear on that. “What a jerk. Like dang dude, chill.” Those were my initial thoughts after I read this passage in college one day. Later that same day I thought back to another time when the writer of John’s Gospel was a jerk to Peter. Who cut off the guard’s ear at Gethsemane? Did you say Peter? Yeah, well how do you know that? Let’s look at the Synoptic Gospels. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached and drew out his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. (Matthew 26:51) But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. (Mark 14:47) And one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear. (Luke 22:50) Notice anything about those? None of them say it was Peter, it was just “one of those/them.” But let’s get back to see what John’s Gospel has to say. Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus. (John 18:10) See that? This time Peter got called out. It was Peter. Peter did it. Peter did a bad, bad thing. Ha, Peter. Let’s not forget about the calling of Peter by Jesus. Wait, how’d that happen, again? Matthew and Luke say that Jesus went to Peter and Andrew and called them to be his disciples. John’s Gospel calls shenanigans! Instead, he says Andrew brought Peter to Jesus. Dang, this gospel has no problem calling Peter out. AND THAT’S WHEN I REALIZED IT – THESE BIBLICAL CHARACTERS WERE REAL PEOPLE, WITH REAL LIVES, AND REAL PERSONALITIES, AND REAL ISSUES. THESE PEOPLE THAT I READ ABOUT AND HAD PUT ON A PEDESTAL WERE NO BETTER THAN ME. THEY SUCKED JUST AS MUCH AS I DO. BUT GOD STILL USED THEM AND TOLD US THEIR STORIES. THAT GAVE ME HOPE. Samson wasn’t a hero; he was a cocky fool. David did some great things; he also did some real jacked up stuff to Uriah. Abram didn’t fully trust God all the time; he lied about Sarai being his sister instead of his wife...twice. Moses killed some dude, then led the Israelites for 40 years in the desert. The only reason they were in the desert for 40 terrible years was because they were a bunch of forgetful, unfaithful dum-dums (I’m pretty sure that’s the proper Hebrew translation for how to describe them ☺). The disciples all had their unflattering moments. Denying Jesus. Doubting Jesus. Arguing about who’d be the best in the Kingdom and completely missing the bigger picture that they were called to servitude and a life of humility. THE BIBLE BECAME REAL TO ME THE DAY I REALIZED THAT THESE CHARACTERS WERE REAL PEOPLE WHO STRUGGLED JUST AS MUCH AS I DO. GOD USED THEM, AND IS USING ME, NONETHELESS. GOD IS USING YOU TOO! THIS GIVES ME HOPE THAT YOU AND I CAN ALSO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THIS WORLD FOR CHRIST. IT GIVES ME FAITH THAT OUR FAITH AND OUR STRUGGLES ARE VALID AND CAN STILL BE USED FOR THE KINGDOM OF GOD. THAT DAY IS THE DAY THAT I FELL IN LOVE WITH SCRIPTURE. IT’S THE DAY I REALIZED THE STORY OF GOD’S PEOPLE WAS ALL OF OUR STORY AND OUR STORY WAS THEIR STORY. IT’S ALL INTER-WEAVED. THEY HAVE ALL STRUGGLED AND SO HAVE WE.  And that’s okay. We have a Lord who redeems us. A Lord who uses us and our stories for God’s glory. As we celebrate the season of Easter rejoice in the fact that God uses everyday people like you and me!  On the Journey,

Brent +

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