Hey everyone I'm Josh Hawkins, welcome to episode 5 of Opening Up the Gospels. I've taken the last 4 episodes to talk about why I wanted to do a series on the Gospels and today I want to talk practically about we should approach the Gospels to grow in friendship with Him.
I believe a huge crisis in the church right now is our neglect of Jesus on so many levels. Our modern Christian culture here in the West swims in a sea of conferences and books that have a lot to do with God, the gifts, or the glory. But where are the conferences and books on the feast of the knowledge of God available to us in the Gospels? I'm not trying to be harsh by any means - Jesus loves His church and is so committed to her. But I do hope to just spark the question in your mind of how we have come to such a neglect of Jesus and the gospels. As I said in episode 1, knowing His life is an enormous part of the foundation of what it means to be a Christian and to have a relationship with Him.
Because of this neglect, the events of Jesus' life are really nothing but maybe a bit more than a fairy tale to us. We may say with our mouths they're actual historical events, but they are not devastatingly real to us in our heart and mind as they should be. The breathtaking things He did have become severely overfamiliar and we have lost the sense of awe and wonder that we're supposed to have when we see Him doing the things He did. Just look at how much the Gospels record people marveling at Jesus. Like when:
Jairus' daughter was raised from the dead in Mark 5:42: And they were overcome with great amazement…
After Jesus' walking on the water in Mark 6:51: And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. That's got to be an understatement right there...
When he was preaching and casting out demons in Capernaum in Luke 4: And they were astonished at His teaching, for His word was with authority...then they were all amazed and spoke among themselves… Luke 4:32, 36
At the healing of a paralytic in Luke 5: And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear… Lk 5:26
These things and other totally out of the ordinary events like the walking on water in Mark 6 or the feeding of 5000 in John 6 all happened on real days in history with the real Jesus we love, and thus have so much importance for how we relate to Him on a day-by-day basis. We've forgotten that we can turn anywhere in the Gospels and see dozens of things on each page that should make our jaw be on the floor in amazement.
Think about the privilege we have in the Gospels - we actually get to go into the garden of Gethsemane with Peter, James, and John. We actually get to go inside the house to see Jesus raise Jairus' daughter. We get to hear him privately explain the meaning of the parables to all his disciples. What the peasants and larger group of Jesus' followers were not able to be a part of, we can actually peer into through the window of the record of His life in the Gospels.
So how do we move from familiar fairy tale to fascination once again? Remember the cycle we talked about in episode 1? The more we know, the more we love. Our job is to engage our mind with His story and His part is to enflame our heart with love for Him. In modern terms, we could call this "pondering" or "contemplating" the life of Jesus. The Bible calls this practice "meditation".
Don't let the new age idea of "meditation" or "contemplation" burden you. This is a thoroughly Biblical reality, and it simply means to be an attentive hearer of the word. What it doesn't mean is being lost in some other state of consciousness. It means just coming to the words of Jesus and hearing them and pondering His life in a dialog with Him.
The Gospels tell us of three times when the audible voice of the Father thunders from the heavens. There's only one time where His voice speaks to those around Jesus, and that's at the mount of transfiguration in Matthew 17. We read:
While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
Those two final words are so significant. Out of all of the things that the Father could have said to Peter, James, and John on that mountain about Jesus, it was "hear Him". Now if His closest disciples were exhorted to listen carefully to everything Jesus said, Those two words are good enough reason for US to come to the life and words of Christ.
In the Gospels we see someone who exemplifies this posture of hearing and pondering. Her name is Mary of Bethany, and Jesus says what she is doing is the "one thing necessary". What exactly was she doing? While her sister Martha was preparing a meal, Mary is sitting at Jesus' feet and hearing His words. Luke writes:
“And she [Martha] had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.””
(Luke 10:39–42 ESV)
Instead of the meal that Martha was preparing, Jesus says that feasting on His words is "the right meal, the good portion". And that one won't be taken away from Mary. The friendship she was building with Jesus was precious to him.
So what does this have to do with meditating on the life of Jesus? If Jesus said that sitting at His feet was the "one thing necessary", we should take Him seriously. We need to come to Him and take the same heart posture as Mary did - we sit at His feet and hear Him. Why?
As I said in episode 4, Jesus is the very source of the fountain of the knowledge of God because He is God. And having a real relationship with Jesus is what it means to be a Christian.
Well what does this look like? Well there's not a formula because It’s so simple. We come to Jesus in prayer as we're reading His story in the Gospels and we pick a scene, preferably something not randomly out of context. The scene can be relatively obscure or something dramatic, it doesn't really matter. So begin by reading and then simply talking to Jesus about the scene. Ask Him to share His story with you. Ask Him questions. Imagine what the setting was like. Ponder who else may have been in the scene and what they were thinking or saying. What time of day was it? What was the weather like? Why did He say what He said and not something else? There's so much that can be pondered!
Don't forget - what you're pondering and talking to Him about are real memories in His mind right now as He sits in the heavens. And don't forget about the obscure moments, like when He ate meals or walked places. I mean, think about that. He walked almost everywhere with people. It wasn't like he just magically transported or took a cab to get to Jerusalem or back home to Capernaum. Right now, He remembers the walk from Capernaum to Nain in Luke 7. So on that walk - which was probably about 25 miles, at least a day's journey - who did He talk to? What did He talk about? Like I said in episode 4, this is the living God we're talking about, the LORD, the maker of all things... and He's walking on a dusty road in the Middle East. Wow. When this "clicks", everything changes.
Now it's important to understand that the goal of meditation is not to ascertain details that the Gospels do not present to us for the sake of some new revelation or new theology. The point of meditating or pondering the scene is simply to have it become more real to us in our minds. When the Holy Spirit makes the life of Jesus come alive to us, what I talked about in episode 1 begins to happen - our hearts begin to overflow with love and a desire for more knowledge is birthed in us.
I want to take one more episode to talk about this, because I think this is so critical to understand as we move forward in looking at the events in the Gospels. This episode was just an introduction to the concept of meditation, but I'll break this down even more next week for you, and give you some more practical tips. subscribe now so you don't miss it.
If these videos have been encouraging to you, post them on your social networks and tag your posts with the hash tag #gospels. I'd love to hear your feedback and questions, so be sure to submit them through the contact form on my website, www.joshuahawkins.com.