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God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers and the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days he has spoken to us in His Son whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory, and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When he made purification of sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Hebrews 1.1-3 NASB
When I was eight my dad took me to the Cabell County Public Library, a beautiful old Carnegie building on 5th Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia, and I got my first library card. I checked out two books, a biography of Robert E. Lee, and a biography of Lincoln. I don’t recall the authors of either. I didn’t finish the Lee biography, it was extremely dull (the book, never the man), but finished the Lincoln. It was part of the Landmark series of biographies for young readers and I read it through four or five times before having to return it two weeks later. That started me collecting biographies about Lincoln. There are other figures I find so fascinating that I collect their biographies as well: George Washington, Abigail Adams, Crazy Horse, Kit Carson, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
After reading three or four good biographies of a person you pretty well know all the facts. After that the critical biographies fascinate and illuminate. I spent a month absorbed by Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals, found myself wrestling with Gary Wills’ Lincoln at Gettysburg, and took many notes while reading Douglas L Wilson’s Lincoln’s Sword. I am always looking out for a new take, a new angle, a new insight but still go back and read the good, standard biographies. It is like spending time with a friend.
I think of the New Testament this way. Everything is about one person, Jesus. We begin with four biographies. We follow with a history of His disciples telling His story to the world. The rest of the New Testament consists of His disciples explaining what Jesus’ life means.
I believe we are supposed to read the New Testament this way. The passage above states that the way God communicates to us now is “in His Son.” Jesus is God’s message. The New Testament is given to share Jesus. If we know Jesus we know God.
The disciple does not approach the New Testament the way the Pharisees approached the Old Testament. They came to the text in much the same way a post-modern literary critic might, or a strict-constructionist constitutional lawyer –trying to see the text in a vacuum, shorn from any authorial intent - and so they were always missing the point. As a young man I was trained, at times, to use the New Testament this way – to proof text, or better still – to build elaborate arguments that had no connection the major themes of Jesus’ teaching but which proved beyond a doubt that one should tow the party line.
I am convinced now that everything is about Jesus. Everything. If we cannot connect our assertions to Jesus, our assertions are false. We could go to I John or Colossians 2 to further our discussion, but all is contained in the three verses above. All creation is from Jesus. The Universe continues because of Jesus. Everything we know about God we know through Jesus. Our salvation is wholly dependent upon Jesus.
Jesus is everything. When we forget that, we stop being disciples and may become Pharisees.