“Who’s your favorite superhero?”
The question was not uncommon, but for this missionary kid who was more familiar with Mandie books than comics, it was a real stumper.
“Um… I don’t know.” Belle from Beauty and the Beast seemed a childish answer to give at age 11, and I needed something more respectable. I racked my brain to come up with something. Anything.
“Esther,” I finally decided. “I really like Esther.”
Though I couldn’t relate to Esther’s childhood as an orphan, I hoped to someday become a princess and do brave things that change lives. Great was my dismay when I later discovered, in my Old Testament Survey class in college, that Esther isn’t nearly the moral model I had pinned her to be. But that’s another discussion for another day.
It’s easy to read the Bible as a fairy book even though we don’t mean to. We forget that the characters in the stories were real people—with real struggles, emotions, families, dreams, and failures. We’re quick to judge “bad” people of the Bible and identify ourselves with “good” people of the Bible.
We want to be courageous like David, faithful like Daniel, obedient like Noah, and loyal like Ruth.
But as we dig deeper into Scripture, we’ll find that more often than not, we’re more like the less-savory characters of the Bible than we’d like to think. And the closer we look at even the “heroes” of the Bible, the more we’ll see that they were fallen humans in need of God’s grace, just like us.
I’m so glad the Bible includes stories of David’s adultery, Noah’s alcoholism, Abraham’s doubt, and Esther’s immorality. And then there’s Peter’s big mouth, Paul’s unforgiveness, and James’ and John’s anger problem. Because I can identify with messed-up sinners in need of grace. The Bible isn’t a storybook about saints who got it all right–it’s a story about a God who is faithful despite His people doing everything wrong.
When we spend time in our Bible study identifying with the characters in the story, whether they first appear to be “good” or “bad,” we’ll find that we are more similar to them than we first thought. This step of identifying with the characters helps us place ourselves in the story and internalize the teaching—because we realize we’re no better than they are.
You ready to dig in?
- Before you begin your study, spend time preparing your heart in prayer. Here are some ideas to get you started.
- Read John 11. As you read, pay close attention to each character in the story. This may be a good time to read the passage more than once.
- Make a chart in your notebook and make a column for each character, writing their name (or identifier, like “the disciples”) at the top, and fill in each column with their actions, words, reactions, fears, motivations, and anything about their personal history that would be relevant to the story. Try to picture what their life was like, and what all played into their actions during the story described.
- In your notebook, reflect on what you’ve compiled in the chart. As you look over each character, how can you identify with each one? In what ways are you similar, and how are you different? Of all the characters, which one do you identify with the most? Why?
- Take what you’ve studied to the Lord in prayer. Thank Him for graciously providing real-life stories that include the good, the bad, and the ugly. Ask Him to work in your heart the transformation needed to make you more like Jesus, because He is the ultimate Bible Superhero.