At the beginning of the year, I kicked off a 70-day plan to read through the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) chronologically. I called it the Gospel Project, and today, Good Friday, is the final day of it.
So what did I learn along the way? Not what I expected to.
I have to admit that the principal reason for doing this reading plan was to better understand the life of Jesus from a historical standpoint. I wanted to see the gospels in their context, to know that when Jesus was speaking over here, He had already done A, B, and C. When you read an individual book, you get one person’s perspective, one narrative. And that narrative doesn’t include stuff that other narratives do. And what it does contain may not even be in the right order. But when you put them all together, you get a complete picture. This is what I was trying to accomplish.
To an extent, I got that. I saw the similarities across the different gospels and the differences, too. I wondered why one author chose to include a particular story while another left it out. I paid close attention to the timeline, trying to understand the narrative arc of Christ’s 3-year ministry.
But then something happened.
Somewhere along the way, I no longer cared about the details. I no longer fretted over incongruities or worried about the timeline. Somewhere along the way, it just became about, well, love. I saw the heart of Jesus, felt His love, experienced His anguish. When He wept, I had to push back tears. When He smiled, I smiled back. When He began His journey to Jerusalem for the last time, I didn’t know if I could keep reading; how could I bear to watch Him die on a Roman crucifix?
It’s weird. I’ve been a Christian for years. I grew up in the Church. I’ve read the Bible cover to cover and have read each of the gospels multiple times before. But I’ve never experienced what I experienced over the last three months. Never. I honestly can’t explain it. But I know I’ve been permanently changed.
The Bible is many things. It’s a history book, it’s a book of poetry, it’s how-to manual for day-to-day living. But at its core, it’s a love story, a love letter from the Creator of the universe to each of us. When the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us, it wasn’t just to fulfill a prophecy, check off the great to-do list in the sky. It was because God loved us. Truly and absolutely loved us. Jesus was born to die. To take humanity’s sin upon Himself and become the ultimate sacrificial lamb, atoning for our sins once and for all. He knew His mission, and He accepted it willingly. There is no greater love than this.
I know all of this sounds trite. It sounds stupid and mushy and of course really freakin’ unmanly. But I also know that Jesus wouldn’t have voluntarily chosen to be rejected, betrayed, denied, accused, condemned, mocked, beaten, whipped, and nailed to a cross for nothing. It was all because of love. It was all because of me. It was all because of you.
The Gospel Project: The beginning of the end
The Gospel Project: Reconciling the birth of Christ
The Gospel Project
There He goes, a hero, a Savior to the world
‘His purpose in life was to go straight to the cross’