Coming up – one of the most important verses in the Gospels. But first a little detour.
Imagine you are in a theatre watching a stunning performance by an outstanding actor. You don’t know the play and it hasn’t been published in a book yet (come to think about it, it was like that in Shakespeare’s day). Afterwards you talk about it with friends. You are interested in the play and emotionally caught up in that great performance. You remember some of the words spoken. Your friends recall other words. You’ve had a shared experience of the message of the play and the performance of the actor. Then you meet someone who knows the actor and they can tell you things about him.
I suggest that it was something like that for those who heard Jesus in the flesh and for others who were influenced by those who had been with him. Of course I’m talking about an infinitely deeper and richer experience than going to the theatre. Think of a river, flowing from its source, gathering momentum, picking up water from side streams, tumbling over rocks and waterfalls. It is one river system, dependent on its source, but containing many elements. Someone standing on the bank somewhere knows only the stream that flows past and may never have visited the source. Jesus, the communities that sprang up after his death, the letters and Gospels they wrote, the church that gradually emerged, are all part of one energising, dynamic event. Every one knows the river exists. You can see it, dive into it, fish in it. So a Gospel is part of the river ‘Jesus Event’. Jesus, his disciples, Paul, the Gospel writers, the emerging church were, (still are) part of the river ‘Jesus Event’.
So a Gospel is not, repeat not, a biography of the man Jesus. Nor is it a collection of his sayings. A Gospel is part of the river ‘Jesus Event’. It is both part of the flow and a witness to it. Jesus, who never bothered to write anything down, changed the course of history! Going back to my theatre image, he was concerned only to give a life transforming experience. Many scholars think that people eventually decided they had better make a collection of his sayings, and that the Gospel writers used that collection to suit their own purpose and design. Careful analysis of what they wrote suggests that surprisingly few of the words they put into the mouth of Jesus were actually spoken by him. Does that matter? I hope this blog will show that it does not because it was all part of the river ‘Jesus Event’. So the next two crucial verses, especially verse 15 were unlikely to have been spoken by Jesus in this form, yet they are a wonderful, concise summary. Like an embryonic cell they contain the genetic blueprint for the life and teaching of Jesus. More, much more, about this blueprint in my next blog. Meanwhile here are the verses:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.