Understanding the Bible: Part 5

The New Testament – Making Sense of Jesus

Think for a second of the greatest, life-altering event you have ever experienced. Maybe it was something tragic like an accident or a death. Perhaps it was something wonderful like a wedding or the birth of a child. Think about how that one event has shaped your life after it occurred.

For me, the most recent event of this nature would be the birth of our son Micah. From the moment he arrived every aspect of our life has been changed. Whatever the decision, however my wife and I choose to live from now on, our decisions carry with them the responsibility to consider Micah’s existence in the equation. Micah’s arrival was and is a great blessing for our family, but we can no longer look at life through the lens that we did before we had a child.

Jesus – Everyone’s Life Altering Event

This is how we have to read the New Testament. The writers of the New Testament were writing in various forms and to varying audiences as a means to make sense of the world after the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. The early church, blossoming from the day of Pentecost onward, recognized that a new age had dawned and that life could not go on in the same way. The price Jesus paid on the cross, the victory he acheived in the resurrection, the fact that all authority was given to him on heaven and on earth, and that the very Spirit of God had been sent to breath life into all who would receive the gift all meant that there had be a new way to understand reality.

The gospels show the early church who Jesus is, how he fulfilled and transcended the expected role of the Messiah, and proclaimed the good news that Kingdom was at hand and Jesus had risen from the dead! The letters were written so that communities of faith could understand how Jesus changed the way they lived with one another. Revelation, with all its wild symbolism and cataclysmic imagery, was a powerful document using graphic language to describe just how much everything was and will be changed because of Jesus. Every sentence of the New Testament is meant to reorient the life of the reader around this one person, Jesus and this one reality, the coming of the Kingdom of God.

So, how shall we then read?

It becomes important to approach the New Testament then, with a heart open to being reoriented toward Jesus. When you read a text, ask questions like:

  1. How does this make sense of the new reality made possible in Jesus?
  2. How does adopting this lifestyle move me more toward being a person under Jesus’ kingly rule?
  3. (If reading the letters or Revelation) how does this passage line up with what Jesus taught and modeled in the gospels?

It is important to remember that the New Testament is making sense of what happened when Jesus lived, died, was resurrected, and ascended, or we can turn the whole thing inside out. It is always Paul, Peter, James, and John who are following Jesus and whose teachings must line up with his—not the other way around.

What New Testament passage has always seemed out of sorts with the teaching and life of Jesus for you? How might this perspective, or these questions help make more sense out of the passage?

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