Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Reading the Gospels Missionally

The four Gospels tell the story of Jesus as a means of announcing the kingdom and of shaping disciples for the kingdom building mission of God in light of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. A missional reading emphasizes rightly the centrality of Jesus’ announcing and embodiment of the Kingdom of God. To put it bluntly, the Jesus of the Gospels did not come to start a religion but rather to unleash the Kingdom of God in words and power. The core of Jesus’ call was a radical exhortation to realign continually in response to the manifestation of the Kingdom. Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection incarnate the ethos of the kingdom in ways that subvert human claims to power, wisdom, and influence. To put it simply the message of the Kingdom is good news or gospel because it points to the way of Jesus as the fullest and final expression of hope and love. It is only through the way of Jesus that men and women can live fully as the human beings whom God created them to be.

In their announcement of the Kingdom, the Gospels present Jesus as the embodiment and fulfillment of all that Israel was to be and accomplish. The kingdom language appeals to the expectations of God’s people about God’s end time rule. But even in Jesus’ life we connect with the narrative of Israel Scriptures. In the Synoptics, Jesus is born a descendant of David in Bethlehem. He flees to Egypt in a time of distress and God brings him back to the land of Israel. Before his public ministry in Israel, he spends 40 days in the Wilderness but unlike Israel whose 40 years in the wilderness was a time of failure Jesus prevails over temptation

Thus, the Gospels share the good news about Jesus for the purposes of transformation. Each Gospel in its own way seeks to transform its hearers into a new type of profound people who find themselves in the story of Jesus and open themselves to a reshaping or a realignment into a new humanity that exists for God’s mission. Thus a missional reading of the Gospels understands the Gospels as manuals of discipleship that invite all people into the story of the Scriptures. We read the Gospels not to learn facts about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus but so we become disciples true to the name, i.e., we become men and women whose way of life manifests the deep magic of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.

The above is a sample of the type of analysis found in my book (re)Aligning with God: Reading Scripture for Church and World (Cascade, 2015).