Friday, October 23, 2009

Who is Jesus? (And Why Does it Matter?)

Dear friends,

"Who is Jesus and what is he really like?" How often do most people even think of that?

If you don’t consider yourself to be a Christian, the thought might not cross your mind very often. But unfortunately, even for those of us who are Christians, sometimes he is more of an abstraction, a formula for how to get to Heaven, than he is a real person. Even at Christmastime, the story of his birth can take on fairy tale qualities. The same goes for Easter. Just like folks who only go to church for those two holidays, many of us only think of his life in terms of the beginning and the end of his story. But what happened in the middle? What did he say? What did he do? And why does it matter?

I would like to challenge you to find out. Read the gospels for yourself! Start with the Gospel of John if you aren’t familiar with it. I think you will be amazed. The cool thing is that since hae is a real person – one who is still living in Heaven – he’s more than willing to help you in the process. Just ask.

For the rest of this post, I’d like to list a variety of resources that can help you get to know Jesus.

If you want a real Bible study project, I invite you to read all four gospels concurrently. I downloaded a chart that lists the corresponding passages in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John side by side, and I’m picking through it a little each day. I started doing this a few weeks ago in response to an interesting note that Brian Bennett (a Lutheran pastor and the husband of my cousin Mary Lynne) posted on Facebook a few weeks ago. He linked to a blog post by Professor David Yeago, The Scriptural Christ, questioning why more pastors don’t regularly preach about the life of Jesus. This struck me! This article I am now writing is one result because it’s not just about sermons, but about how each of us thinks and communicates.

Jesus Without Religion: What Did He Say? What Did He Do? What's the Point? by Rick James is a great pick for people who want a culturally relevant description of the life of Christ for those who are not familiar with the story or its significance to their lives.

The 7th-8th grade English class that I teach at our home school co-op has been studying the novel The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare. Set in the time of Jesus, it follows the story of Daniel, a zealous young outlaw who is trying to overthrow the hated Romans. This book does an excellent job is portraying Jesus as a historical person, and how his teachings and actions affected those around him. Click here to see my Bronze Bow study guide.

One week I had to stay home sick from class, so I sent in a copy of The JESUS Film for them to watch. You can view it on-line here: This movie has been translated into over 1000 languages and shown to billions of people around the world. Learn about this amazing ministry at

I also shared with my class the classic poem “One Solitary Life” by James Allen Francis. Looking for it on-line again, I found a beautiful flash version set to music and nature photography. You might also like to see my own poem, Corpus Christi which is about what Jesus did on earth and how we can live in response to that.

In the month of December, my English class will do an Advent study with Scriptures, poetry, fine art, music, and film. Click here to see last year’s assignments. Just before Easter, we will do a similar study on the death and resurrection of Jesus.

My daughter Mary gave me the book, Then Sings My Soul Special Edition: 150 Christmas, Easter, and All-Time Favorite Hymn Stories by Robert J. Morgan. Several of the pieces are ancient Christmas carols. I have chosen, “Of the Father’s Love Begotten” by 4th century monk Aurelius Prudentius, for my class to sing at the co-op Christmas assembly this year. Wishing I had a CD version of this hymn, I happened to pick up my old copy of All Glory, Laud and Honor (compiled by Diana Waring) that I hadn't listened to in quite some time. And there was the song! Glory be! Listen to an on-line version of this carol here: "Of the Father's Love Begotten" soft version and Kemper Crabb and Mysterium performing on folk instruments.

You can order free copies of the Gospel of John from the Pocket Testament League to give to others. For Christmas distribution, they even have ones with a picture of a candy cane on the cover.

Looking for a way to introduce your child to the story of Jesus – starting in the Old Testament? The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name picture book weaves the thread of Jesus as the promised Messiah thousands of years before his birth. The illustrations are pretty funky and the text is both quirky and poetic. Here is a more complete description from the Christian Book Distributors web site: “The Jesus Storybook Bible tells the story beneath all the stories in the Bible. At the center of the story is a baby, the child upon whom everything will depend. Every story whispers his name. From Noah to Moses to the great King David--every story points to him. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle--the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together. From the Old Testament through the New Testament, as the story unfolds, children will pick up the clues and piece together the puzzle. A Bible like no other, this book invites children to join in the greatest of all adventures, to discover for themselves that Jesus is at the center of God's great story of salvation--and at the center of their story too. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.” You can see inside the book with links on this page: Jesus Storybook Bible

We have always loved the animated Bible story videos produced by NEST Entertainment. Thanks, Grandma, for giving us the series when our older kids were young!

How did I come to know Jesus in the first place? Read it here: My Story of Liberty in 1976!

And finally, a poem that I mentioned earlier in this blog post...


"One Solitary Life"

by James Allen Francis

He was born in an obscure village,
The child of a peasant woman.
He grew up in still another village,
Where he worked in a carpenter shop
Until he was thirty.
Then for three years
He was an itinerant preacher.
He never wrote a book.
He never held an office.
He never had a family or owned a house.
He didn't go to college.
He never visited a big city.
He never traveled two hundred miles
From the place where he was born.
He did none of the things
One usually associates with greatness.
He had no credentials but himself.
He was only thirty-three
When the tide of public opinion turned against him.
His friends ran away.
He was turned over to his enemies.
And went through the mockery of a trial.
He was nailed to a cross
Between two thieves.
While he was dying,
His executioners gambled for his clothing,
The only property he had on Earth.
When he was dead,
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend.
Twenty centuries have come and gone,
And today he is the central figure
Of the human race,
And the leader of mankind's progress.
All the armies that ever marched,
All the navies that ever sailed,
All the parliaments that ever sat,
All the kings that ever reigned,
Put together have not affected
The life of man on Earth
As much as that
One Solitary Life.

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