I worked with my brother, Ray, off and on for 4 years between 1978 and 1981 and no one ever seem to have picked us as being bothers. Some, surprised to find out, still couldn’t see a resemblance. 40 years later, things have changed. As I watch myself preach on Facebook Live during this Lock-Down, I can see that I not only bear the family resemblance, but I have words and gestures that are unmistakably his; I have smile at the irony. Ray (now passed on), was a hero to me as a kid. He was 7 years older than I was and swept me along in the excitement of his growing ambitions. I am blessed to have had him as my brother and I miss him. It goes without saying that, as an apprentice (and a little brother) to him, I was not only picking up his work skills, I was learning his ways.
Jesus’ apprentices were selected for that very purpose—“It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher” (Mt.10:25), Jesus told them. You have to wonder how Peter was grading his own performance as a disciple as he was denying Christ for a second time. It was “a little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk gives you away”” (Mt.26:73). This man who had told Jesus that leaving his side left him nowhere else to go for the “words of eternal life” (Jn.6:68), couldn’t be mistaken as someone else—recognisable, even in the throes of denial. Better days followed. Jesus rose from the dead, ascended on high and the Spirit came upon the apostles (Acts 2). All began to make sense. The gospel was spreading, and hearts and minds were turning to follow Jesus.
The religious authorities tried to stop the preaching. It should have been easy. After all, these Johnny-come-lately street preachers were “uneducated and untrained men.” How hard could it be to shut them down as being just another fad? However, the confidence of Peter and John was even too overwhelming for them. They too were amazed. But how could they not be? These men had an unmistakable way about them. A way forged in the white heat of demonic warfare and hammered on the anvil of this uncompromising expectation—“He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters” (Mt.12:30). Three years of on-the-job training with the Master Teacher changed them. It became so evident to those religious leaders that they could do nothing other than “recognize them as having been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13). The world was being turned upside-down by a bunch of Jesus-like nobodies.
Finally, only those who knew my brother Ray can be the judges as to how much I turned out like him. But one thing we would agree on is that Ray would have said, “John, if you’d tried harder, you would have done better—to be like me, that is!” I believe that he also would have been right if he applied that to my efforts to be like Jesus, too. “Iron sharpens iron, So one man [brother] sharpens another”. (Proverbs 27:17). firstname.lastname@example.org