by actually reading the stories of his life, the Gospels, and the writings of his immediate followers, the Epistles. That sounds like it would be obvious but I’m amazed, often, at how many people who claim to know something about Jesus have, at best, a foggy idea of who he is because they’ve not actually read much, if any, of the source material.
There are others, of course, who have read the source material and because it doesn’t suit their personal desires choose to distort it but that’s for another post. My invitation is simple, just read the stuff. Open that Bible you may have somewhere in your house, start with the Gospel of Matthew, and read it, simply, like you would read any other book.
You might be surprised at how different the Jesus presented in that book is from the popular cultural impressions. You will find that far from being some kind of perpetually nice guy who just wants you to have everything you want, a popular American image of Christ, the Jesus of the Gospels has opinions, judgments even, is robust, challenging, virile, and sometimes mind-blowing. Agree or disagree with Jesus teachings, you’ll still at least understand that if they were to be followed life, yours or the world’s, would not, could not, ever be the same again.
In our days there are a lot of people who want some of Jesus’ personal impact to bolster themselves. They understand, in some sort of way, that Jesus is important and so if they can get Jesus to agree with them than their own arguments, lifestyles, and ambitions will have a sort of “Jesus Stamp of Approval”. Largely these people have their own image of what Jesus is, an image that’s often formed by ignoring the actual stories, words, and actions of Jesus, or borrowing just the snippets of information that confirm their biases.
So my challenge remains. Read the book, the stories of Jesus. Read the whole thing and listen, perhaps for the very first time, to what is really being said. In the end if you think it’s all rubbish at least you can say you tried to understand. If, as you read, you begin to sense some wisdom, something deeper and higher in everything then pursue it because it will take a lifetime and more to come to terms with it.
But don’t claim to know anything about Jesus, even if you’ve spent a lifetime in church, until you’ve read the book.