January 14, 2005

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

We will examine the Jesus in the Gospels

Recently, it seems that there have been many books studying “the historical Jesus” as a way, apparently, to figure out what Jesus was really like. Many of these are attempts to debunk what Christians believe about Jesus or to deny his divinity.

I decided that it is time for me to write about the Jesus in the Gospels. That’s the Jesus we Catholics believe in, but I’m convinced that many Catholics don’t understand Jesus as the Gospels present him. Even if that doesn’t apply to you, it won’t hurt to use what I write as a meditation on the life of Jesus.

I earnestly hope that I’m wrong about the general lack of knowledge about the Jesus in the Gospels, but here are some quick tests: How many people did Jesus raise from the dead? Name two times when Jesus cried. During the Transfiguration, when Jesus was talking to Moses and Elias, what were they talking about?

It will be a challenge for me to cover the Jesus in the Gospels in the short 500 words in these columns. I have no idea how long it will take. There’s a lot to cover and I will have to write as concisely as possible. I will usually list Scripture passages at the top of each column, hoping that you will read them so I won’t have to take up space to repeat what they say.

There are four Gospels, each written for different audiences and with different emphases. Despite that, there is really only one Gospel, and that’s the Gospel of and about Jesus Christ. I might point out the differences in the Gospels from time to time, but I’ll treat them as one account of the “Good News” (the meaning of “Gospel”) about who Jesus was.

My columns will not be a biography or a Gospel commentary. The purpose of the columns will be to try to help you know Jesus as one person knows another.

Actually, this project began with my column in the Dec. 24 issue and my article in the Christmas Supplement that was part of that issue. Those covered the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem and our belief in the Incarnation. I ended the column by saying that Jesus is the God-man who emptied himself of his divinity in order to accept our human nature so he could be the sacrificial lamb that takes away our sins.

But it isn’t enough to know Jesus only through the beginning and end of his life. We must also know what he did as he lived among us, especially during the two years of his public life. So, next week, I’ll pick up the story with the beginning of his public ministry.

When the Apostles were choosing someone to replace Judas, Peter specified that it must be someone “who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us” (Acts 1:21-22). That is what I intend to explore.†

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