Excerpt from the forthcoming book by Josiah Piett
I remember the first time I read one of the Gospels when I was in highschool. Although I can’t remember which Gospel it was, I can tell you the two main thoughts I had after reading about Jesus’ life.
The first thought that came to my mind was: If this is Jesus’ story, then why do the Christians I know — including myself — not look anything like Jesus?
Jesus seemed to me to be a man who healed people and taught them about love and treating people properly. When I looked at myself and other Christians, it seemed to me Christianity was quite a different thing than this. Christianity seemed to be about going to church on Sunday, youth group on Wednesday nights, and maybe even going to couple conferences and events.
When it came to being in highschool, there seemed to be a gap between my faith, my church, my youth group, my friends and my school. Somewhere in that gap came this story about Jesus who desired to be in all of the areas of my life — not just some of them.
The second thought I remember having was: Why did Jesus get killed?
I had been taught my whole life that Jesus died for my sins, but what I didn’t understand is why anyone would want to kill Jesus. In my mind, Jesus was a man who taught about love and forgiveness. Why would anyone want to kill a man that teaches and lives that way?
I can understand that some may not agree with Jesus’ statement “I am the way the truth and the life,” seeing as it is an exclusive claim. But still, why would anyone have a problem with a good moral teacher? There had to be something more to him than that.
These two thoughts have stuck with me throughout my time studying the Bible and psychology at university, and although I may still struggle with the first question, I believe a person’s answer to the second question may bring insight into why the first question might even exist.
If we do not have a clear understanding of who Jesus is, how will we ever live a life that reflects Him? You see, Jesus must have been more than merely a moral teacher to cause people to want to murder Him. Therefore, living a life following Jesus must be something more than just living by a good moral code. The clearer we see Jesus, the greater we will be able to follow Him and therefore reflect Him to others.
Now there are many different ways of getting to know Jesus. We can know Him through prayer (communicating with Him), through community (being with others who trying to get to know Him), through music, arts, nature, etc. Though I don’t dismiss all of these ways of getting to know Jesus, there is only one sure way of knowing Him – and that is through reading His story in the Gospels.
Anyone’s experience or opinion of Jesus that is contrary to what is said in the Gospels is simply not true. No matter how genuine or how convicted the person may be, there is no contradiction between who Jesus was in the Gospel and who He is today.
Therefore, if we truly desire to know Jesus, we must start first with Scripture — specifically the New Testament Gospels (Mathew, Mark, Luke/Acts, John).
The reason many Christians in our generation have such a problem with living like Jesus is not because they do not desire to, but because they do not have the tools to understand how to read the Scriptures properly. I also believe there are many people who would actually desire to follow Jesus, but they have never heard of Jesus, or they are misinformed on who He is.
Jesus calls us to follow Him and proclaim the gospel to everyone. It’s not our job to say who is worthy to hear the truth or not. Your perspective of Jesus will affect your projection of Jesus, which can have both positive and negative outcomes for those who do not yet know Jesus:
Right perspective (on Jesus) = True projection
True projection (Live like) = Pure reflection
Pure reflection (Look like) = Genuine acceptance (Others accept Jesus)
False perspective (on Jesus) = Wrong projection
Wrong projection (Life like) = Distorted reflection
Distorted reflection (Look like) = False rejection (Others falsely reject Jesus)
Let me leave you with this challenge. Who was Jesus of Nazareth? If you don’t have a clear answer to this, may I suggest you start by trying to answer the questions of why Jesus was killed and why He chose to die? These two questions are similar but not the same. History alone can answer why Jesus may have been killed, but history cannot explain why Jesus chose to die.
I believe your answer to these two questions could be the reason why your life may or may not reflect anything like the One you desire to follow.
Maybe you have the same questions I had when reading the Gospel. If so, I actually am in the process of publishing a book called Beautifully Simple that explores the question of who Jesus was and the encounter I had with Him through discovering why He chose to die. If you are interested in getting more information about this topic or this book, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.