One of the things I like about the Bible is that it doesn’t leave out the mistakes of its heroes. Some of even the bet of them lied, took things into their own hands, held temper tantrums, had sex with other men’s wives, murdered patriots, and on and on. Their mistakes were “descriptive” versus “prescriptive” – that is, they were recorded but are not encouraged. “These things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things.” 1 Corinthians 10:6
Even our New Testament heroes had their bloopers and made their blunders. We all know how the twelve failed test after test in their three-year apprenticeship program with Jesus. They were sometimes arrogant and impulsive students who spoke when they should’ve been silent and were quiet when to speak would’ve been appropriate. Their faith was tentative, they missed prayer meetings for naps, and they split on Jesus when he needed them most.
But after they watched him die (from afar), saw him alive again, and spent another forty days under his final tutelage, they were off and running as the elite Twelve (minus one). Lately I’ve been reading and rereading the book of Acts, looking in particular for “What Apostles Do” and I’ve become more aware that sandwiched between their heroic feats of faith Luke recorded a number of their mistakes. And if their blunders before the resurrection were instructive to us, those after it would be also.
That they weren’t perfect in judgment and action is no indication that their writings – the ones we have in our Bibles anyway – are anything but the watertight Word of God. He, who had things to say, got them said in spite of the frailty of the ones through whom he chose to say them. These faithful writings came through flawed people. An adulterer and murderer, for example, wrote the bulk of the longest book of the Bible. God uses whom he chooses – that’s the way it’s always been.
One of my recurring prayers in the last few years has been, “Lord, I know I’ll make mistakes, but may they be small and seldom.” Though I haven’t always done my part, he’s always done his. You’ll notice right away that the Apostles mistakes that I cite, with one possible exception, are not really sinful or moral failures (they’re more like blunders or errors in judgment), and admittedly, they’re quite small and definitely seldom.
My motive in pointing these out is… well, you’ll see.
So when the apostles were with Jesus, they kept asking him, “Lord, has the time come for you to free Israel and restore our kingdom?” Acts 1:6
I find this disturbing, and I imagine how frustrating it must have been for Jesus to hear these guys ask this question. They were his roomies (more like fellow campers) for three years. If that weren’t enough (and obviously it wasn’t), after his resurrection, he spent another six weeks with them teaching them about the Kingdom of God while in his resurrected body! I don’t want to be too hard on them, but it just seems to me that after all they’d heard from him about the way his kingdom worked and their role in advancing that kingdom in the world, they should’ve known better than to think this was the day Rome and the rest of the world would finally belong to them. They say there are no dumb questions, but…
Jesus was patient, sort of – “That’s above your pay grade, stay on task here, gentlemen. Get saturated with the Spirit when he comes, because you’ve got a job to do. You don’t get to wear crowns just yet – put on your hard hats and get to work!” (Wiget’s Free Translation)
Does their mistaken idea and Jesus’ correction sound at all familiar? Like the Apostles, you’ve read the Bible, and I’m sure you’ve even tried to read it right. But are your expectations as a Christian more about what you’re going to get from the King than about what you’re supposed to do to advance his Kingdom? After all that he’s taught you and invested in you – what’s more important to you, what you want him to do for you or what he wants to do through you? Just asking.
[More mistakes to come…]