Teaching the Gospels, Part One: Finding Jesus in the Gospels
“Teach the Gospels!” That’s a journey worth the travel, an adventure worth the price. In the Gospels we meet Jesus in person, hear his voice, see him die and rise again, and learn his ways. Teaching the Gospels can be a dynamic and life-changing experience, an encounter with the living Lord. But it’s not a safe journey. No, never safe. As Mr. Beaver says about the great lion Aslan in C. S. Lewis’s The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, “’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.” Sometimes we need a guide for a journey, or at least advice from travelers who have been there before. We need a Bible-trip advisor. In this series I will be sharing some travel tips for the adventurous. To start with:
Finding Jesus in the Gospels is more important than finding ourselves.
Naturally, when we teach the Bible, we want people to make a personal connection to the text, to make it real to them, to come alive. So sometimes we focus on what the characters in the story might be feeling. There’s nothing wrong with using some sanctified imagination in our teaching, but it can be overdone. I heard someone teaching on John 19:25, which mentions that Jesus’ mother (Mary) was near the cross. The talk focused on what Mary must have been feeling as she watched her son dying. It went into the issue of grief, and how we can cope with our suffering, and with the pain of loss. This is a really important issue, but it was not what John was focusing attention on in his gospel. Mary’s feelings are never addressed.
This is an example of what I call “imagination over text,” when we privilege our creative musings on the Bible above what the scripture actually says. Now Jesus’ mother is mentioned by John a couple of times in the crucifixion account, so she is not unimportant. But the focus of the passage is on Jesus himself. The Gospels are Christ-centered. They are written by followers of Jesus, tell the story of Jesus and preach the gospel of Jesus. No matter where you are in the Gospels, you can’t go wrong by asking, “What is this telling us about Jesus?” When we find and get to know Jesus, in and through the Gospels, we will ultimately discover who we are, and who we can become. But if we start by looking for ourselves, we will get lost on the road to nowhere. As Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25).