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Whenever I am reading through the Bible, I always experience a sense of welcome familiarity upon returning to the Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – that feels like returning home after a long trip. As rich as many of the Old Testament books can be, they often require an understanding of the history and key people of Israel, as well as familiarity with the general scope of the Bible. But the Gospels are familiar ground, the stories of Jesus’ life both beautiful and easier to relate to.
This summer, beginning on June 13th, I’ll be preaching through different interactions with Jesus found in the gospel. From Peter walking on water to the woman caught in adultery, from Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead to Jesus healing the blind and the lame, these stories serve as pictures of the God we serve, in all of His power and compassion. If you are not currently following any Bible reading plan, I would encourage you to spend your summer reading through the Gospels, the stories of Jesus’ life, and let God open your eyes anew to who He is and how He deals with His people.
As I prepare for this summer, I would love to hear from you – what story or stories are most meaningful to you, and why? What is it about Jesus that attracts, intrigues, or challenges you the most? Let me share a three of my thoughts below:
(1) I have always been fascinated by the fact that Jesus was a sinless friend of sinners. In John 8:46, Jesus asks the Pharisees, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?”, and in Hebrews 4:15, we are told that Jesus was tempted in every way we are, yet was without sin. Yet somehow, despite His perfection, it is obvious on every page of the Gospels that the outcasts and sinners of society loved to be near Him, while the religious people wanted to kill Him. This just blows my mind. I think that many Christians believe that in order to relate more to those who seem far from God, they need to be relevant to them, that perhaps by behaving more like the people of the world, we can seem more “real” to them and therefore point them more easily to God. But here is Jesus, without one sin, and those who feels rejected by the religious elite (and therefore by God) just want to be near Him. If that is not the case in our lives (or in our church), we would be wise to ask how we are different than Jesus.
(2) It can also be shocking to see how directly Jesus communicates with people, especially when He is confronting them. I think that Jesus often gets a reputation of a meek and mild teacher and healer, a wise sage who is just loving and nice to everyone. But the Gospels reveal someone who did not hesitate to sharply confront people, even his own disciple Peter when he turns to him and says “Get behind me Satan!” in Matthew 16:23. The target of most of his sharpest criticism is the religious elite, something that should make all of us who are part of the church stop and reflect on whether or not we are displaying Christ to the world.
(3) I am also encouraged and challenged by Jesus’ range of emotion. In the gospels, we see Jesus weeping at the tomb of Lazarus, displaying zealous anger as he overturns the tables of the money changers in the temple, anxiously sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, and tenderly touching and healing a leper. Jesus was no robot impassively walking through this world, but he fully experienced everything.
What about you? If you have any thoughts to share, post a comment below. And consider reading through the Gospels with fresh eyes this summer.
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