Rob Bell inspires me. I must say, growing up in a church with a denominational slant being evident to nearly every sermon and Bible study, the last several years have been a relief. When I was in my undergraduate program I begun really seeing how amazing the Bible really is. Whether it is driving me to anger, confusion or delightment. And the reason I mention Rob Bell is because he shows you can still grow a church while preaching/teaching with great depth and insight.
So, I have taken that inspiration and embarked on the challenge of understanding Jesus and his teachings in their original first century context. Two-thousand years of Western Christianity is bound to have infused new meaning to sayings and narratives found in the Scriptures.
Now this does not mean I will never miss understand a biblical passage again or that all the research done on first century culture, idioms, and so forth is totally accurate. But it helps.
Currently I am reading N.T. Wright’s The Challenge of Jesus. Fantastic! There are more resources out there I am sure. And I will find them. But Wright is a great start.
Understanding Jesus has been a passion of mine. I guess that makes a lot of sense being a Christian but not all Christians care about Jesus at all. As my friend Josh Espinosa has observed, he finds very little teaching on the personality of Jesus. What angered Jesus? What delighted him? What motivated him? What made him weary? When and to whom did he show kindness and forgiveness? When did he have something harsh to say? Something hard to accept? Who was/is Jesus?
I know thus far studying Jesus has convicted me. I realize I fall way short. But not in a bad way! I know, thanks mostly to the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, that my failures are not “salvific” in the generic sense of the word (if salvation to you is merely about heaven and hell you don’t grasp what salvation really is). But it challenges my arrogant, narcissistic, American worldview and makes me realize some things.
When Jesus said God would take care of your “need” what did that consist of? When Paul echoed those words it came from a man who had been ship wrecked, beaten, and eventually would be martyered. What did they mean then? I don’t really know I guess. Are there promises for believers that may not apply to those who take on the challenge to follow the rabbi as disciples?
I seek to understand Jesus but I know it is and always will be a challenge. Even those around him during his short time in Judea struggled with Jesus. And I guess that makes sense because he is the Son of God.