In “10 Lesser Known Heroes of the Bible Part 1“, we talked about 5 lesser known heroes from the Old Testament. This time, let’s take a look at 5 from the New:
The Owner Of The “Upper Room”
“And ye shall say unto the goodman of the house, The Master saith unto thee, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples? And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready.” (Luke 22:11-12)
The Lord gives such detailed instructions to His disciples, telling them exactly what and who they will find when they get there, that it becomes easy for us to forget that these were real people whom the disciples encountered. The master of the house where the Lord and His disciples ate the Last Supper was a real individual. He was not just someone who Jesus selected at random, this was a particular man whom Jesus chose to serve God in this manner. It all seems so miraculous and mystical the way the Lord commands Peter and John to seek this man out, but it is likely that the owner of the house was someone who had offered the use of his home to the Lord beforehand.
Jesus did not simply “commandeer” someone’s living quarters on the spot. I rather think that this man had probably heard Jesus speak at some point, or seen Him perform a miracle, and had quietly offered to serve him in any way He needed him. Even Peter and John — the two closest disciples of the Lord Jesus — had no idea who this man was. There was no dramatic invitation to his home; no grand spectacle in offering the use of his guest room. I believe he had at one time just come to Jesus and said, Whatever I can do to serve you, just say the word. All that I have is Yours.
It seems that this man continued to make his home available to the disciples even after the Crucifixion and Resurrection (Acts 1:13). When we serve the Lord, it follows that we also serve those who belong to Him. We do not even know the name of this man who owned the house with the Upper Room, but we know that he faithfully served the Lord.
The Man At Gadara
“And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee. And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.” (Mark 5:18-20)
I have heard this man (and the other man with him; unmentioned here but referred to in Matthew 8:28) described in Bible commentaries as the “Gadarene Demoniac.” To me, this suggests that the most notable aspect of this man’s appearance in the Bible is the fact that he was demon-possessed. While being demon-possessed served as the circumstance for his encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, is it not what Jesus did in his life that is the more noteworthy? Do we not all wish to be described by the condition we found ourselves in after the Lord laid hold on us, and not before? We refer to Saul of Tarsus as The Apostle Paul, not Saul: murderer of the saints, persecutor of God’s Church, and Chief of Sinners. For indeed he was such, but that was before he encountered the Lord Jesus on the Road to Damascus. I know what epithets could accurately be used in defining the person who I was before I came to know the Lord; yet I hope that my own legacy will be marked by what Jesus did in my life, rather than the shambles I had made of it before I encountered Him.
While the image of a man with super-human strength, running wild through a graveyard, ripping apart chains and shackles and cutting himself to pieces with stones is definitely a very vivid and dramatic picture to consider, the most striking part of this whole account is how he is described after the demons leave him. After the Lord Jesus is asked to leave by the locals for what He did by sending the unclean spirits into a herd of pigs, He makes His way back to the ship which brought Him and the disciples to that place. When He gets there, he finds the man who had been demon-possessed among the disciples. The man’s explanation for why he’s there? I want to be with You. I want to go where You are going and be where You are. When we first come to faith in Christ, isn’t this the only thought that crosses our mind? We don’t know where He is leading, we don’t know where we will end up, but we know that, as long as we are with Him, everything will be all right. Lord, that we might follow You and serve You wherever You go! But notice what the Lord tells Him:
“And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” (Mark 5:19 ESV)
Jesus tells him: I don’t need you to go halfway across the world and preach in the mission fields, I need you to go back home and tell those people who know you, your friends and family, those people who know what you were like before, tell THEM what God has done for you. The story has been told about the man who prayed and prayed for God to use him as a missionary. He asked the Lord to send him to Africa, or to India, or maybe even to China. No, the Lord told him, I want you to stay right where you are and be a witness for Me where you live. When the man complained and insisted that he wanted to go abroad and work as a missionary in a foreign land, the Lord told him: How is it that you are willing to go halfway across the world to serve Me but you are not willing to go across the street? The man at Gadara was a hero of the Faith because he was willing to do either one.
“And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them.” (Luke 4:38-39)
I have always found this woman’s response to Jesus’ healing her remarkable. She is very sick, so sick that she was likely on the brink of dying. Who knows just how long she had been bedridden with this sickness. Then she encounters the Lord Jesus and He heals her. And what does she do after she’s healed? She arises immediately and begins to serve the Lord and His disciples. This has always impressed me because I can only imagine how I might have reacted in her situation. We know that her health and strength came back to her completely and in an instant, and she was naturally very grateful for what the Lord has done, but the fact that she gives no thought to anything but serving the Lord is compelling. What about all the things in her own life that had gone undone since she had become sick? I don’t mean to sound like a selfish person, but is this not what many of us would think of before anything else? I am well now, let me pick up with my life where I left off before I got sick. Oh, sure, we would be grateful and thankful to the Lord Jesus for healing us, but would we overlook everything else to serve Him in earnest? Maybe we can better gauge what our own response would be by considering how we responded the last time God did bless us, or heal us, or perform some other miracle in our life. How did we react then? Did we drop all of the plans we had put on hold, did we forsake all of our own “urgent” tasks calling for our attention just so we could serve Him? This woman is a hero to me because she responded in the right way. I don’t know if I would have or not.
The Centurion At The Cross
“And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39)
The 1965 movie The Greatest Story Ever Told was truly an epic Biblical motion picture. The producers cast some of the biggest names in Hollywood at the time to fill even the supporting and minor roles of the film. Van Heflin, Charlton Heston, Sal Mineo, Sidney Poitier, Claude Rains, and Shelley Winters were part of the all-star cast. It was made at the tail end of the era of the big-budget, epic historical and Biblically based films and aspired to be the grandest movie ever made about the life of Jesus Christ. One of the strangest casting decisions in cinematic history, however, occurred when John Wayne was placed in the role of the “Centurion at the Crucifixion.” The image of a hulking but practically indistinguishable figure clad in full Roman armor, rain beating down fiercely on his head, and the unmistakable voice of “The Duke” drawling out the words: “Truly…this was…the Sonna Gaaawd!”forever fixed this Bible figure as little more than a cartoonish caricature in the minds of an entire generation (as well as all of those who watch this movie on one of the Cable networks at Christmas and Easter). But, as we mentioned about the man who owned the Upper Room house, this was a real and actual person who was present at the Lord’s Crucifixion. Not only was he present, he was the man in charge of carrying out the actual execution!
One cannot imagine a man achieving the rank of Centurion in the Roman Legion by being prone to emotional outbursts or by being moved with compassion toward convicted “Enemies of the State.” These were hardened, rough and tough career military men; the Non-Commissioned Officers or Sergeants of the day. John Wayne’s personality and powerful on-screen presence were certainly appropriate for the role, even if his anachronistic Southern drawl was not. In fact, the John Wayne tough-guy type is probably a pretty good image to conjure up when we think of a typical Roman Centurion. Especially one assigned with the unenviable task of “prisoner execution” detail. Like anything else, it is easy to imagine that Roman soldiers commissioned with such heinous tasks would eventually develop a hardened heart as they gradually became more and more calloused to the sufferings of their fellow-man. Torturing and executing miscreants would become as routine for these soldiers as sharpening their swords, mending their sandals, or polishing their shields; and would likely be carried out with the same dispassionate sense of duty.
But something was different this time for this particular Centurion. The procedure didn’t vary in the slightest; he performed his duties exactly as he had countless times before. But something caught his attention this time. This “criminal” was different from any other he had ever executed, in fact, He was different from any other person he had ever encountered. With the attention to detail that is characteristic of any disciplined man-of-war, the Centurion silently watches as the events of that Friday afternoon unfold. He and his soldiers have carried out their orders. They have flogged Jesus, mocked Jesus, crowned Him with thorns, mocked Him some more, and then finally fastened Him to the Cross. All that was left now was to stand by and wait for the blood thirsty crowd to revel in their cruel satisfaction before snapping their victims’ legs as one would squash a bug. Usually, such a swift completion to the ordeal would not be carried out; the victim’s agony would be prolonged as much as possible. But the religious sensibilities of the Jewish leaders demanded that any executions during the Passover be resolved in a tidy and timely manner.
So, the Centurion waits for his next orders to be given. But before this happens, a great earthquake shakes the ground on which he stands and the entire horizon is engulfed in thick darkness. Midday turns into night as a fear unlike anything he has ever felt grips him. Something is definitely different about this Man Who called Himself the Son of God. Suddenly, a realization strikes the Centurion deep within his heart. Maybe this is the Son of God? What if everything I have ever believed is wrong, what if everyone whom I have ever trusted has misguided me? What IF this is truly the Son of God and I have just been party to executing Him? As his cold and hardened heart begins to melt under the weight of the enormity of what is going on around him, the Centurion is struck with the same conviction of the Spirit of God which grips all of those who come to faith in Christ. This “Man”, this Jesus of Nazareth, is exactly Who He said He was.
The Centurion never met the Lord during His earthly ministry. He never heard Him preach, never witnessed one of His miracles. But when he encountered the Lord, he came to believe Him. He didn’t know a single thing about the Doctrine of Justification, or the significance of Christ’s Atoning work. All he knew is that here was a righteous and innocent Man, and he believed that Christ was Who He said He was. Even though it flew right in the face of everything he had been taught and trained in, he placed his faith in the Lord Jesus, so much as he could, based on the revelation that God gave him. Consequently, he glorified God and declared Who Jesus was(Luke 23:47). It might be presumptuous to conclude that this man became “saved”, but did he not confess with his mouth and believe in his heart (Rom. 10:9-10)? It would be interesting to know what became of this man after the Crucifixion.
“I Tertius, who wrote this epistle, salute you in the Lord.” (Romans 16:22)
Here’s a trivia question: Who originally wrote the Book of Romans? Well, technically, the words were the Apostle Paul’s, but a man named Tertius actually wrote them down. By comparing certain passages from his letters, it seems that Paul suffered from a visual impairment (see Gal. 4:15, for example). Some have suggested that this may have been a condition leftover from the period of time when he was blind for three days after encountering the Lord on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:9). It is possible that this eye conditon may have been the notorious “Thorn in the Flesh” that he mentions in 2 Corinthians 12:7. Consequently, Paul utilized secretaries to whom he would dictate the text of his letters. These secretaries would copy down, verbatim, the words that he would give them. Paul stated that he himself wrote the Book of Galatians by his own hand (Gal. 6:11), but this was very likely a rare exception to the usual practice of dictation.
So why include Tertius in a list of lesser known Bible heroes? Because he is an example of all of those who work quietly behind the scenes, assisting those who are in the more visible positions of ministry. This would include the church secretaries who help co-ordinate a busy pastor’s schedule, answering phones and setting up appointments so that he is free to devote himself entirely to serving the church; the technical workers who operate the video and sound systems for the worship leaders; and the various church officers who balance the church finances, secure the building permits for new construction, and represent the church’s interests to local and city governments. They are all serving in various support positions, just like Tertius did. But without these support positions, most ministries would completely cease to function. The Apostle Paul answered a specific calling of the Lord on his life…and so did Tertius. He performed the work that the Lord called him to do and for that, he is a hero of the Faith. So is everyone else who does likewise.
*English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.