Whether when we are worshipping together, or are in prayer on our own, we think about our Lord Jesus. I am sure that you, like me, try to imagine yourself being with him. What would it be like hearing his words or watching him free people from sickness?
I often wish the gospels had given us more details. Just a clue about what he looked like. More about those ‘hidden years’ before he began his ministry. And as for St John’s comment that there were “many more things that Jesus did”, which if they were written down, even the world itself could not contain the books… Well, c’mon, John, couldn’t you have made it just a few more stories…? Most of the novels and biographies crowding the shelves give us all the detail we want, and more, about their far less important, and often fictional, characters.
I am sure this is a big part of the reason why, right from the beginning of the church’s history, other gospels appeared giving sometimes weird and wonderful stories to plug the gaps. The gospels of Philip, Mary, James, Nicodemus, even ‘Pseudo-Matthew’ and ‘Secret Mark’. Not forgetting the Turin shroud.
I think that the four writers of our gospels were still overwhelmed by their encounter with Jesus. He was like nobody they had ever met before- so perfect, so noble, so challenging yet at the same time so caring- that it was almost beyond words. The holiest things, the deepest feelings, the most beautiful sights, are those which we talk about least. Putting them into words feels almost impertinent. But, as time went by and they grew older, and the new followers of Jesus were those who had never met him, they captured their memories in order for His message to tell its own story.
Is this not the answer to our frustration about the lack of information we have? In His wisdom, God has left every generation, and every person, to share that same awe-struck silence at our encounter. If we had a ten volume biography of Jesus, with accurate portraits [even photos and film footage!] of Jesus, what would that do? I think it would just get in the way as I thought about his meaning for me, His encounters with me in my life. Would more people turn to Jesus in time of need if they had a photo of Him? The gospels give me enough of a picture to meet with the real Jesus, and then enough space to understand this in a way that is true to my experience. To be ‘lost in wonder, love and praise’.
In choosing what they recorded, the gospel writers have passed on to us not just one more biography to join all the others, but their temper of mind which had developed while walking with him, both in his presence on earth and as he continued to live with them by the spirit.
Merciful God, you gave us your son to live among us, sharing our human life but showing how a human life, in all its weakness, can reflect your nature.
As we think, with your help, about each sentence Jesus uttered, and each thing that he did, may he walk with us in our lives until we see Him face to face.
by Dave Pitcher