Thankfully, God’s story told in the Bible is not about hothouse flowers far removed from the winds, drought, and heat of the real world. The stories of our Bible heroes are brutally honest about their failures, misaligned values, and their absolute cluelessness about what was most important.
Peter leads the way. The other 11 apostles of Jesus follow close behind in this parade of loose lug nuts and people who don’t get it. Nothing reveals this lack of perspective and selfishness quite like Jesus’ three warnings about his impending death in Jerusalem. The apostles' responses to these warnings were unmercifully out of touch and hurtful:
- The apostle Peter rebuked Jesus and adamantly told the Lord that the Christ couldn’t suffer in these ways (Mark 8:32).
- The disciples argued about which of them was going to be greatest in the kingdom of God (Mark 9:34).
- James and John (prompted apparently by their mother) asked to be Jesus’ left and right-hand men when he came in his glory (Mark 10:35-41).
Talk about being clueless! How can anyone — much less 12 “anyones” — be so inconsiderate and devoid of empathy toward someone they claim to love? Jesus is talking about dying brutally in abject shame at the hands of his leaders. He talked about being rejected by the people he had served, blessed, and healed. His closest followers, on the other hand, were thinking only of themselves. They wouldn't hear of his rejection, crucifixion, suffering, and death.
On realizing the apostles foolish and selfish responses, we are flabbergasted at Jesus' friends. How could these spiritual giants be so completely detached from concern for Jesus and so focused on their wishes as he spoke about his death! They didn't get what Jesus had done in his ministry. They hadn't heard what Jesus had taught about love, service, and greatness. How could they be so stupid?!
Then, however, we all recognize times when we’ve done the same kind of thing in our own lives to the people we say we love. We acted out of self-interest. We responded selfishly when tenderness and grace were needed by someone else. We expected to be served because we paid for a service rather than thinking about the pressure and mess in someone else’s life. We realize that we have been part of Jesus’ clueless “anyones” and made a mess of things with our self-aggrandizing wills.
Jesus’ grace eclipses the apostles’ stupidity and our selfishly ignorant actions in one declaration:
For even [Jesus] the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).
This clear statement was Jesus’ way of saying truth we all need to hear:
To help us know that we can use the freedom Jesus bought for us as our ransom and use it powerfully, the Bible also gives us a “ransomed” view of his flawed apostles. Tradition tells us that all the apostles — except for Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed Jesus and hung himself — died serving Jesus and leading others to him. Jesus’ sacrifice for them changed them… forever. That didn’t mean they were perfect, but they became more and more like Jesus as the Holy Spirit worked his transformation in them. That same kind of redemptive change can happen in us, too, as we focus on Jesus and the Holy Spirit transforms us (2 Corinthians 3:18).
We can't be sure where you need freedom most in your life. We do know, however, that Jesus has already died to ransom you from sin, death, and hell. That ransom is your freedom to become the person you want to be for God, for your family, for your friends, and for yourself. So, we hope you will think about and identify where you most need Jesus’ freedom in your life, and then pursue Jesus, and his values in life, with all your heart. After all, the Bible contains the story of Jesus and his boneheaded apostles so that we can know we can be part of the Jesus story, too. Since Jesus took such out of touch and inept friends and changed the world, imagine what he can do through us, today!