Jesus Died For Johnny Too
By © Jeff Shumate 2008
It was a warm Michigan summer day as Johnny and his friend played catch with the baseball on their street. They threw the ball back and forth, back and forth, every once in a while mixing in a grounder or popup. "Come on put some heat on this one," Johnny yelled to his friend. Billy wound up and threw a real zinger. Whap! went the sound of leather smacking. "God @%#! You hurt my hand, man," Johnny said as he quickly shook his ball glove off his hand. When Johnny and his friends were away from adults they liked to use a lot of big words, and normally Johnny's friend would join right in with him, but this time he just looked at Johnny and said, "Your gonna go to hell, man!" Johnny laughed as he said, "What are you talking about?" "You shouldn't say the GD word. If you say the GD word you will go to hell," his friend replied.
Johnny had heard about hell before. In fact, this was not the first time somebody told him he was going there. One of his friends one time told him that he and his whole family were going to hell because they never went to church. Just about everyone in the neighborhood went to church; some were Catholics, some were Methodists, some went to Baptist churches, and some went to Pentecostal churches. Johnny didn't really know much about church. Johnny knew his dad went to church when he was a boy, but something happened that made his dad angry with God and even angrier at the people at the church he went to. So Johnny and his family never talked about God, and never went to church.
Still shaking his hand, Johnny said, "I'm not going to hell because me and my family don't believe in God, so we aren't going!" The boys played on, but young Johnny now had his mind on something else besides baseball. Johnny wanted to know about God. He also wanted to know why God wanted to send him to hell so bad. But whom could he turn to? He was too embarrassed to ask any of his friends about God. Johnny figured they would just laugh at him and tell him he was going to hell, and besides Johnny had made fun of all these church goers every chance he got, so he figured they were just waiting to get back at him. What would he do? It seemed he had nobody to turn to. He thought there was nobody who would understand his concern. Johnny was wrong. There was One who knew; it was only God who knew the desire in Johnny's heart.
A few months later, Johnny was eating dinner over at his buddy Frank's house. Frank asked his parents if Johnny could spend the night. They said he could, but Johnny would have to go to church with them in the morning. Johnny said he would go, but only so he would be able to spend the night. Inside his heart, Johnny thought something different though. He thought this would be a perfect opportunity to see what goes on in these churches, and to learn about God and hell.
The next morning Frank's family, along with Johnny, went to church. It was a big place with tall ceilings that seemed like they reached the sky, and the place was packed with people. They were all dressed up fancy with suits, ties, and dresses and such. Johnny felt nervous and out of place. He didn't have any fancy clothes on, and he thought people might look at him funny because of it. They all sat down, and Frank's younger brother Tommy sat next to Johnny. Johnny didn't really like sitting next to Tommy because Tommy was a gross little kid; he always had snot running down his nose. In fact, he did right then as he sat there next to Johnny. Frank's mother handed Tommy a tissue and whispered for him to blow his nose. As Johnny was paying attention to Tommy he looked up and realized there was a big line going up the middle isle. "What were they all lined up for?" Johnny thought. Frank's mom said quietly, "Ok, you boys all get in line." Johnny got in line and as he walked closer and closer to the front he kept hearing snickering from the people sitting on the sides of him. "What's so funny? Are they laughing at me?" Johnny wondered. Johnny got to the front of the line where a man handed him a tasteless little cracker to eat, and then he followed the others back to their seats only to hear laughter from side to side once again. When they got back to their seats Frank's mom told Johnny to turn around, and she pulled Tommy's tissue off the seat of Johnny's pants. "They were laughing at me," Johnny cringed to himself inside.
On the way home from church, Johnny peered out the window of the car and thought to himself. He knew he wasn't as good as those people at the church; he knew he didn't belong. Johnny decided right then and there that he would never go back to church again. He still had unanswered questions, "Who is God, and why is He going to send me to hell?" Saddened, Johnny somehow thought maybe the others were right about him. Maybe he and his family were just going to hell and that's just the way it is. God knew Johnny's heart; He was listening to Johnny.
Several years later, Johnny was 16 years old, and he had an after-school job stripping furniture at the refinishing shop. He liked working; in fact, he was the hardest worker of all his friends that he knew. They had their God, but Johnny counted on himself.
Johnny had been working there for a few months and business was good at the furniture shop. The owner of the shop had hired a new man in the shop, Tony. One day at break time, Johnny overheard a couple of the workers talking about Tony. They said he was a weirdo, a drug addict who turned into a religious nut. He seemed to be a pretty normal guy to Johnny.
One day after work, Johnny was about to hop on his bicycle and go home for the day when Tony pulled up in his truck and said, "Throw your bike in the back, I'll give you a ride home." That sounded good to Johnny, it would surely be a lot quicker than riding his bike home.
As they rode Tony told Johnny that he was heading to church later that night, he asked him if he went to church anywhere. Johnny replied, " No, I don't really believe in God." Johnny expected Tony to tell him he was going to hell, but he didn't. Instead, Tony told him that he used be like that too. He said he went to church all through his childhood but never really believed in God. He said as he got older he began getting messed up on drugs, and had done many things that he was ashamed of. Tony said it was at that point that He placed his faith in Jesus for forgiveness of his sins. He told him it was at that time that he was saved.
"Jesus? Who is that? And what did he save you from?" Johnny inquired. "Jesus saved me from my sins. You see, I used to be a sinner, but then I was saved by God's grace." Tony went on to tell Johnny about Jesus. He told him how Jesus is the Son of God, and that He lived a sinless life here on earth. He told Johnny that Jesus was crucified, nailed to a cross, put to death, and He died for the sins of the world. He told Johnny that Jesus died for his sins too. He went on and said that they buried Jesus, and three days later Jesus rose from the dead, and hundreds of people witnessed him alive. Jesus actually was God in the flesh. He told Johnny about the Bible and how God tells us in the Bible that if we believe in Jesus, that He died for our sins, was buried and rose from the dead three days later, that you would go to heaven when you died. Johnny listened to Tony, and he didn't know it yet, but God was listening to Johnny. You see, Johnny took that moment and believed in Jesus; he was saved by the grace of God, right there in Tony's truck.
As the months and years went on, so did Johnny. Only Johnny was a lot different than he used to be. After that day, he had Jesus on his mind. He began studying the Bible and going to a church that one of his schoolteachers went to. Most importantly, Johnny knew that he wasn't going to hell no matter what anybody said. Jesus had saved him. He told his friends about Jesus, he told his neighbors about Jesus, he told his family about Jesus, he told anybody who would listen about Jesus. People talked about Johnny, they couldn't help wonder what turned him around. One day Johnny ran into one of his old neighborhood friends whom he hadn't seen in years. They talked about all the things they used to do, like playing catch in the street. His friend said that he heard Johnny was a Christian now. Billy couldn't help but ask him, "How did you ever get saved, you never went to church, I don't understand." Johnny looked him in the eyes and replied, "Jesus died for me too!"
29Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30And he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31So they said, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:29-31)
8For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
1Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, 2by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you-unless you believed in vain. 3For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, 5and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. 6After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. 7After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)