Jesus and the Gospels

About 2 weeks ago I finished a series of lectures delivered by Darrel Bock on “The Life of Christ.” It was 15 hours, 6 minutes, 3 seconds long, and I loved (almost) every minute of it. Bock is a skilled expositor of God’s Word, and he walked through a rough harmony of the gospels to show what Jesus’ life and ministry were all about. Now that it’s had some time to sink in, I thought that I’d share 1 observation about format, and 2 about content:

1. Redeem your commute

If you’re driving about 30 minutes a day (like I do) or more, use that time to sharpen up an area that’s grown dull — use it to learn.

Redeem your commute/walk/free time!

2. Jesus understood what was expected of him, and wisely refused

Now let’s get to the good stuff.

Jesus was constantly engaging and reshaping people’s expectations of who the “Messiah” was supposed to be. You don’t have to be a Bible scholar to see this happening. I’ll pick just one place: Mark 8.

[27] And Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” [28] And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” [29] And he asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” [30] And he strictly charged them to tell no one about him.
(Mark 8:27-30 ESV)

Jesus is self-conscious in the best way possible — he knows people are thinking about him with certain categories. “Lines are being drawn in the sand,” as Bock says in his commentary on Luke. Jesus wants to see what kinds of lines his disciples are drawing.

Peter’s line (literally and figuratively) is, of course, the most famous, “You are the Christ.”

At first glance, it seems like Peter understands who Jesus is. He’s certainly got the right title for Jesus. But he’s filled that title with content (expectations) that don’t match the container. So when Jesus says that the Messiah has to suffer, Peter rebukes Jesus. Peter’s “Messiah,” (and most 1st century Jew’s Messiah) came to conquer — not suffer.

And here we have it: Different understandings of what Messiah came to do. Peter’s is simplistic. Jesus’ is nuanced and filled with apparent paradoxes. He knew Peter wanted a Messiah with power to destroy the Roman enemies and free Israel from their captivity.

Jan_Brueghel_the_Elder_-_The_Sermon_on_the_Mount_-_Google_Art_Project

A beautiful (but completely anachronistic) painting of the sermon on the mount.

Despite resistance from every party, Jesus insisted that this Kingdom he came to bring belonged to the meek, weak, weeping, sorrowful and persecuted (cf. the beatitudes, Matthew 5:2-11). It would come in power, that was sure. But not the kind of power that most Jews longed for.

Jesus knew that every person spiritual freedom more than they needed political freedom.

Jesus knew the box he was supposed to fit into, and wisely refused.

3. Sometimes the disciples/crowds ask really dumb questions

We’re told all through school, “there is no such thing as a dumb question.” But the way Jesus responds to certain questions makes me think that his position is more nuanced. There are several places in the gospels where Jesus responds in a certain way because the question is, well, kind of dumb. If he were to answer it directly, it would take the discussion in the wrong direction. And so he doesn’t really answer it. He sees the train-wreck question coming, and stops the conversation from derailing by steering it in a new direction.

Perhaps the easiest place to see this happening is when Jesus interacts with a Pharisee in Luke 10:25-37. A Pharisee comes to Jesus to ask a few questions. After some pleasantries (verses 25-28), he asks the question that’s really been on his mind. He wants to know how little alms-giving and charity he can get away with. His question is “Who is my neighbor?” He’s asking, “who is the person I’m obligated to help? I want to help them so that I’m justified… but I don’t really want to do anything more than that. Who is my neighbor?”

Dumb question.

Jesus responds with the famous parable of the good Samaritan. His point in giving this parable? Be a neighbor. Just be a neighbor. Help people who need help. Be a neighbor. “You’re asking the wrong question, so I’m not going to answer it. Here’s the answer to the question you should have asked.”

Conclusion

Follow this link to the course page and take a look at the lectures summaries. They provide a brief 20-30 word description of each lecture. Download them for free and start learning!

If you already know you don’t have the time/resources to do that, I hope my observations have been helpful. Let me know what you think in the comments.

When you read the gospels what stands out to you?

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