What makes the Bible come alive for you?

I hate to admit it, but I read a lot of Scripture without really “getting into” it. I’ll read a story and it makes sense, but it’s really about someone else and doesn’t really touch me.

Too often the Bible characters seem other-worldly, like some sort of special breed of human different from me. God spoke to them differently. They somehow didn’t have the same doubts, fears, and failures as me.

Does that happen to you?

Get up and walk

In Acts 3, Peter and John encounter a lame man begging at the temple gates. Peter says (verse 6), “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”

The man stood for the first time in his forty years. Everyone was amazed, and Peter took the opportunity to preach a powerful sermon. People were converted.

Great story, but it’ll never happen to me.

Now fast-forward to Acts 4. The Jewish religious leaders are not happy with this event or the fact that Peter is proclaiming Jesus’ resurrection. So they arrest Peter and John and, because it’s evening, toss them in jail until the next morning.

What’s John thinking?

This is the sort of thing I normally skip over—but imagine what John must have been thinking.

He’s sitting in jail next to Peter, awaiting trial by the same religious leaders who killed Jesus a few weeks earlier. And Peter’s talking tough, but he talked tough before Jesus’ arrest, too. He said he’d never leave Him, that he’d follow Jesus to death if necessary.

Then, when the pressure was on, he ran away and denied even knowing Jesus.

Don’t you think John had to wonder whether Peter would hang in there or whether he’d bail? When the rulers confronted them in the morning, would he stand with Pentecost Peter or Passover Peter?

I’ll bet John lost some sleep that night wondering whether Peter would cave in as he’d done before and pass all of the blame to his partner. I’ll bet that, despite everything he’d seen, John still wasn’t quite sure what to expect when they were brought before the rulers and questioned, “By what power or what name did you do this?”

I’ll bet John felt a rush of relief when Peter stood and said:

“Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.”

The leaders were astonished as well, and sent these two uneducated men away so they could figure out how to deal with them. When they finally called them back, they commanded them to stop preaching in Jesus’ name.

This time both Peter and John replied.

“Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

So the leaders muttered a bunch of threats and let them go.

I wonder

I wonder if God used this story to reassure John that things really had changed, that he could count on Peter and his other friends. I wonder if the apostles stood together later on because of this interaction.

I can’t know, of course, but this sort of digging helps me. It helps to remember that, while Peter and John saw the central events of human history, they were still ordinary men with fears and questions.

It helps to remember that God answered their questions just like he answers mine—through apparently ordinary relationships and events. They were the chosen ones, but he answered their prayers and provided what they needed even when they felt uncertain.

And he still does. That helps me.

How do you avoid making Bible characters hard to identify with because they seem so different from you?

Tags: , , ,

Comments are closed.