Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Gospel About Jesus Christ

Mark 1:1 says this: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."

It is almost certain that the first "of" should be taken as objective (i.e. "the good news about Jesus", not "the good news from Jesus", which would be subjective). I will take the point for granted here- challenge me in the meta if you disagree.

This means at least two things:
  1. Mark's book is about Jesus.
  2. Mark's book is not about you.
Since we believe that the Bible is authoritative, we are encouraged to read it always with a view to personal application. We know that we should be reorganizing our lives according to what Scripture says, so we faithfully read our Bibles in the morning and ask, "How do I apply this to my life?"

At a basic level, that is a good question. I encourage it and I practice it myself. But that is often an easier question to answer when we read the Epistles than when we read the Gospels. The command to always be edifying in Ephesians 4 directly challenges what comes out of our mouths. "How do I apply this to my life?" is a simple question: I need to always be edifying!

But then we read the stories of healing in the Gospels and think, "OK, so Jesus can heal. That's nice. I'll pray for healing." Then we get bored when the Evangelist piles up a few stories in a row on the subject. We can think of no other application, so we skim until we get to some of Jesus' teaching, since that is easier to know how to apply.

All of this is why we need to remember that the Gospels, as Mark makes clear, are not about us. The application question can mislead us to always be looking for ourselves in the text.

But the Gospels aren't about us.
The Gospels are about Jesus.

So as you work through the Gospels, ask "What does this text teach me about Jesus?" The practical benefits will almost always fall into place when we do this, because quite simply, when we get Jesus right, we'll get our lives right.

For all of its good, the application question can also be symptomatic of the cultural value on the self. Focus on Jesus, brothers and sisters! Mark tells you that Jesus is his subject. He should be yours too. Fix your eyes on our Lord, and be amazed at how easy the application comes along.


Jason said...

I think of how much talk I and others give about having "Jesus-shaped spirituality." How can we know what "Jesus-shaped" looks like until we know what Jesus was like?

It's hard to always find application in narrative. However, I am realizing that sometimes the application is simply a better knowledge of who God is. I know that my life often reflects my poor understanding of His greatness. I need those narratives to appreciate Him more.

Zwingli 2.0 said...

Your post reminds me of the way some people go about 'getting to know' someone, whether it's in dating or simply platonic friendships, by sitting down for dinner/drinks/coffee/whatever and asking, 'so, tell me about yourself...' I find it exasperating, since that direct approach is emphatically not the way we have hitherto gotten to know the many people in our lives. We get to know people, whether spouses or Christ, obliquely, indirectly. By spending time with somebody, hearing their stories, observing their habits and dealings with others, we slowly get to know them, and slowly change ourselves as they get to know us.