The creation of lists of Jesus’ actions is an abstraction, an arid, irrelevant activity. As one runs one’s eye down the list… one gets a sense of uninvolved detachment. Here is merely a figure in Jewish antiquity, no more engaging than Judas the Galilean, Simon bar Gioras, or Simon ben Kosiba.
By contrast, how different it is to read a passage from a gospel. It scarcely matters where, whether Jesus debating with the Pharisees in Capernaum or standing by the bedside of Jairus’s daughter. He meets us in the story. It is the divine genius of the gospel writer that he draws the readers existentially into the narrative, to involve us, so that we find ourselves making decisions about Jesus and therefore about ourselves.
Of course, we are reading history and biography of some kind, yet pericope by pericope the Jesus we meet is somehow addressing us, forcing us to reach conclusions about him and ourselves. The lists of activities, however, are lists and nothing more, leaving us a a distance as detached spectators. But the gospel, the divine kerygma, draws us into a drama that Christ himself is directing. In the gospel Christ himself meets us and requires the answer, ‘Who do you say that I am?’
Paul Barnett, Finding the Historical Christ (Eerdmans, 2009).
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