The Ultimate Story. Here’s what that means:
A story is about a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.
Or, a story is about a character who meets a guide, who gives a plan, and the character follows that plan to success or failure, aka comedy or tragedy.
Those specific definitions were formalized by Donald Miller, or at least that’s where I heard them first. He got them Robert McKee. Robert McKee probably got them from someone else. That’s how story works. It gets handed down from person to person.
Now, if we unpack that simple story framework while looking at the Bible, we’ll see the Bible as the ultimate story. I realize this is a broad summary of all that is in the Scriptures, so please keep that in mind. Any single blog post trying to summarize a 1200+ page book(s) is going to have some inherent shortcomings.
Who is the main character of the Bible? The protagonist?
There are many characters in the Bible, but I hesitate to call them characters lest we think of them as fictional. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph – they were all very real men, in real time and history, with real problems. But they aren’t the main character.
Each of them was leading up to the tribe and nation of Israel. Some might say Israel is the main character of the Bible. If you’re only looking at the Old Testament, I could see where you would get that notion.
As much as I love my Jewish friends and enjoy their deep knowledge and insights, I’m afraid this is one of the areas they have it wrong. The nation and people of Israel is not the main character of the Bible. They are supporting characters.
If you, in Sunday School mode, called out, “Jesus,” or “God,” or “Holy Spirit,” as your answer, you’re right.
The main character of the Bible is God / Jesus / Holy Spirit. He’s the one main character throughout the book, always working, always moving, always with a deep desire for…what?
Who Wants Something
God wants something.
What does He want?
World domination? No.
The Republicans (or Democrats) to win the next election? No.
The Bears to win the Superbowl? Maybe, but no.
God wants a relationship with us.
He’s the lover, pursuing His beloved, in story after story within the Bible. He’s the one longing for us even when we’re not longing for Him. He’s the one who jumps in and intervenes at times to show us His deep care, compassion, and empathy.
According to the Scriptures, God had a relationship with us in the Garden. We broke it. He, being a holy God, had to lay down some boundaries and consequences. Our own devices led us further astray and estranged from God.
God gave some laws and guidelines by which we were allowed to get back in proximity with Him. We followed them, then broke them, followed them, then broke them, followed them, then… you get the idea.
And that’s most of the Old Testament.
God utilizes the Prophets to call us back to Him. Sometimes we heard and responded, at least temporarily. Sometimes we killed the Prophets and said screw it.
And Overcomes Conflict
This conflict of a broken relationship just keeps rising and falling, rising and falling, throughout the Old Testament.
Then, it’s as if God finally has enough of it and says, “Here! I’ll make this easier for you. Not easier for Me, but easier for you. Since you don’t understand how much I love you, and you think this is all about a power play, let Me show you that it’s not about power, it’s about love.”
And a virgin becomes pregnant with a child and all kinds of miraculous things happen to bring this baby into the world. And when He is born, they call him Jesus / Immanuel, meaning “God with us.”
For thirty-three-ish years, this Jesus / Immanuel is with us. He demonstrates deep care, compassion, and empathy. Sometimes, this comes out in rebukes of the religious elite. Sometimes this comes out in miraculous healings. Sometimes this comes out in teaching. Sometimes this comes out in sharing meals with people of all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and color.
Jesus, the God in flesh, demonstrates His love in the ultimate climactic scene. In nonviolent protest, with no wrongdoing on His head, He takes on the established system’s guilt, corruption, inhumane practices, abuse, shame, ALL of it. He takes it all on Himself and says, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.”
Stew on that for a bit.
Then, just when it seems all hope is lost, three days later, this Jesus rises from the dead. He comes back to life and says, “This system can’t kill Me. This system can’t kill My love for you. Let’s re-unite.”
To Get It
And then, we read the stories of Peter being restored, the disciples as a whole being re-united, Jesus revealing Himself to the greatest persecutor of the church at that time, Paul, and all the rest of it.
Jesus / God / Holy Spirit gets a restored relationship with folks in droves.
And it sets off a spiritual revival of folks in the first century, which continues into each century following.
It seems to look a bit different with each century, in each different cultural context, but the effects are much the same.
People find a renewed life, a renewed mind, a renewed mode of being. And their hearts and minds are captured with the living God, who deeply cares for them.
Visit this page for more posts in this series on “What is the Bible?”.
Visit this page for commentary on different books in the Bible.