The central story of the Christian Faith is the story of Jesus. In the yearly cycle of scripture lessons, we remember his birth, his ministry, his passion and death, his resurrection, and his commissioning of the disciples to carry on his mission.
The truth is that outside of the gospels there is not very much historical information about the life and ministry of Jesus. Even the gospels themselves were written long after the events they remember, and reflected the issues and concerns of the time and communities in which they were written.
Because we do not have much historical confirmation of the events of Jesus’ life, it is possible to interpret his life and ministry in a variety of ways, in differently focused stories. I am going to suggest three possibilities, and then ask you to think of the Jesus story that carries power and significance for you in your life. What is the story you would want to tell to succeeding generations?
1. The “atoning sacrifice story”
Jesus emerged from first century Judaism, a time when offering sacrifices in the temple for purity and forgiveness of sin was part of religious practice. Many Christians looking back on Jesus’ death, saw in his crucifixion a deeper, more lasting sacrifice that ushers in forgiveness for all believers who repent.
2. The “challenging empire story”
Jesus is portrayed in all the gospels as challenging the Pharisees and the religious leaders of his day and also challenging the authority of the Roman rulers who made Caesar a god to be worshipped, and ruthlessly dominated Israel. Some interpreters go so far as to suggest that Jesus was aligned with the Zealots, a Jewish resistance movement, and this was what lead to his crucifixion. Others simply point out that at every turn Jesus challenged his followers to choose whether their primary allegiance was to Caesar, or to God. This was apparently seditious enough.
3. The “Jewish mystic, wisdom teacher story”
There are those who say that Jesus had an uncanny connection with the teachings of Judaism and was able to touch the hearts of his followers with a vision of how God’s grace might come to be in the midst of human community.
These are not the only stories, and they are not exclusive, and each of them has implications for how we live. Who is the Jesus that informs your life? Who is the one who inspires you to live with purpose and with dedication?
Send us your thoughts to PrairieSpiritUC@shaw.ca.