Names, names, and more names. The Bible is full of names from Adam and Eve in Genesis to the apostle John in the book of Revelation. In amongst them all are lists of names, including the genealogies of Jesus in the Gospels. But at the same time, there are recorded accounts of interesting people who are not named. Rather, they are unnamed heroes.
A LAD AND HIS LUNCH
The miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves and two small fish is recorded in all four gospels, but only Johns’ gospel makes reference to the little boy who provided the meal. In John 6:9, John records, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fishes.” I can’t help but wonder who this little boy was. No name is given to this lad, but for the rest of his life, he would always remember how, when he gave his lunch to Jesus, Jesus miraculously fed 5,000 people. This little lad was an unnamed hero.
In Acts 13, we have the story of Paul on trial for his faith and how a group of more than forty men formed a conspiracy to kill him. It states, “They bound themselves under a great oath that we will eat nothing until we have killed Paul.” So, this group hatched a plot to carry out their plans.
However, a young man, Paul’s nephew, heard of the ambush and went and told Paul all about it. Paul, in turn, called one of the centurions and stated, “Take this young man to the commander for he has something to tell him,” whereupon he told the commander all about the plot to take Paul’s life. This young man’s actions saved Paul from this evil plan. Again, no name is given. He is simply described as a young man. However, he, too, for the rest of his life would remember how he had been able to save Paul’s life. This young man was an unnamed hero.
A NAKED YOUNG MAN
In Mark 14, we have a little story, a kind of aside to the main event of that chapter, which concerns Jesus’ arrest and his appearance before the Sanhedrin. Verse 51 tells us, “a certain young man followed Him (Jesus) having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body.” What happened to him? Well, he escaped capture, leaving the linen cloth and fleeing from them naked. Now the addition of this curious detail has suggested to many that this young man may have been Mark. But the Bible doesn’t tell us his name. This young man, whoever he was, would undoubtedly remember the night when, while seeking to follow Jesus, he had to flee naked to escape capture.
TWELVE MEN AT EPHESUS
In Acts 19, Paul comes to the Ephesus and encounters about twelve men who were called disciples, though they had not received the Holy Spirit when they first believed. Paul recognized that something was missing, and after questioning them about their spiritual life, he laid hands on them. The Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied. What were their names? We do not know? These twelve would surely remember their meeting with Paul and what they had received as a result of his prayer over them. I wonder what happened to them? Did they become leaders in the church? Once again, they were unnamed.
We could go on, as there are many people, both young and old, whose name we do not know that hold a special place in the stories of the Bible.
The same thing has also happened throughout church history, as there are countless stories of people who played a God-given role in the lives of others, whose names we do not know. Let me tell you one such story taken from a devotional book.
A SWARTHY FACED, GRIMY HANDED BLACKSMITH
The setting was a tiny Methodist chapel in England. It was a stormy night and only eight people were present. One was a visitor who had been on his way to a church social, but due to weather had stopped at the chapel instead. In the absence of the minister, a layman – “a swarthy faced and grimy handed black-smith” – arose to speak. He read from Isaiah 45, “Look unto Me and be ye saved.”
His pointed and personalized commentary on the passage was very simple and is equally appropriate if the opening imperative is translated turn rather than look. “Well, a man needn’t go to college to learn to look. Anyone can look. You may be a fool, and yet you can look. You will never find comfort in yourself. Look to Christ. Young man, you look very miserable. You always will be miserable if you don’t obey the text; but if you obey now, this moment you may be saved.”
The young man who was visiting was Charles Haddon Spurgeon, and he was converted that night. “I could dance all the way home,” he testified. “I understand what Bunyan meant when he declared that he wanted to tell the crows on the plowed land all about his conversion.”
That night makes a mighty change in Spurgeon’s life. At the age of seventeen, he began his preaching ministry, and during the nearly forty years that he was a pastor in London, he had brought some twenty thousand people into his church. He was convinced “that there was not a seat in the Tabernacle, but someone had been saved in it.”
In addition to his pastoral ministry, “he conducted a pastor’s college for the training of preachers; opened through his workers 36 chapels in London; conducted an orphanage with as many as 500 children in it at one time, and wrote scores of volumes.”
Spurgeon will always be remembered as one of England’s greatest preachers. The nameless blacksmith, who was willing to stand in for the pastor and was courageous enough to challenge him about his lost condition, has been forgotten. Forgotten by man but not by God.
Who was that layman – “a swarthy faced and grimy handed blacksmith.” We don’t know who he was. We don’t know his name. I wonder if, in later years, he was aware that the young man that had responded to his message that stormy night become one of England’s greatest preachers. That blacksmith was an unnamed hero.
Maybe your life has been touched by an unnamed hero who God used at a particular time in your life. God used a young Salvation Army boy to invite me to an evangelistic meeting, where I gave my heart to Jesus. Soon after, this boy exited my life, and I never saw him again.
Maybe you have been such a person to someone else, and God has used you as he did with the young boy and his lunch or the blacksmith who shared the gospel in the chapel that night.
Tucker, Ruth. Stories of Faith: 365 Daily Devotions. Daybreak Books, 1990.