The Quest for the Gospel of Jesus

 

For many years I have wanted to explore the gospel of Jesus and find out what it is. I like to think of it as a quest. What was it in Jesus' day? According to the given Gospel accounts which have been handed down to us, there are many answers to the question: almost as many people as Jesus addressed. This has profound implications for evangelism today, which is not 'one size fits all', but relervant to the needs of the individual. Good news is for all.

 

This has been explored in a booklet in the Grove evangelism series, which came out in Feb. 2011. It is called 'The 360 gospel of Jesus' - originally I was thinking of calling it 'The Quest for the Gospel of Jesus' because a hundred years ago Albert Schweitzer whote a controversial book called 'The Quest for the historical Jesus'. It is still a catalyst for frequent further study today. My small contribution about the gospel may not be so controversial, but I do hope it will stimulate much further study, discussion, and positive action in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ today.

 

To order a copy of 'The 360 Gospel of Jesus' visit www.grovebooks.co.uk

 

You can download an online version from the home page of this website.

 

Here is a seminal quote which started me off on my quest.

 

An essentially biblical emphasis – all too often ignored by the church – is that Christ is Lord and Saviour of the whole of a person, or he is no saviour at all. Because Jesus insisted on seeing the person whole, one could never be sure which aspect of a person’s need he would tackle first. Here comes the paralysed man, helpless and obviously sick in body. His friends have bought him hoping for a simple cure, and Jesus talks about the forgiveness of sins. Here on the other hand comes a clear case of spiritual need, an enquirer asking how to gain eternal life, and Jesus gives him an economic answer, telling him how to give away his goods to the poor. Because ultimately Jesus cannot rest content until all of a person’s needs are fully met, it does not matter much to him where he starts on the work of salvation.

 

This was written by John V Taylor, from Mission as Dialogue.

(Quoted in Pray every day by Ronald Jasper. Collins '76 p 51, with 'man' changed to 'person' in the last sentence.)

 

What I explore in 'The 360 gosel of Jesus' is summarised in a new book I have just read, called Boston Common. This is a Salvation Army book about about their holiness tradition, and it was a delight and surprise to read on page 100:

 

A study of the ministry of Jesus reveveals that there is no 'one right way' of bringing people to God. Every one of his 'personal encounters' - Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, the rich young ruler, Zacchaeus - is different from the others: 'be born again', 'worship in spirit and truth', 'sell all you have', and so forth. Thjey are not interchangeable. None is repeated. All have in view the reconciliation of a sinner with God. So also in our sanctifying experince. Again there is no 'one right way'. God suits the experience of himself to our needs and our particular personalities.

 

In a timely coincidence, Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury has been speaking about just this point. It was at the Fresh Expressions day in May 2011 called 'Changing the Landscape'. With thanks to Fresh Expressions, I have added a page to quote the main material in his talk which looks at the many and varied encounters with Jesus.

Here is the main quote, and link to the Fresh Expressions website, video and transcript.

 

In my quest for the '360 gospel of Jesus' I have sought to explore all of the texts from the four given Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so see what might be the gospel of Jesus. What were all the things he said to all the people? To refine the list and make it a manageable selection of 'Top Fifty Texts' I considered all those which could have been an answer to the question, 'what must I do to inherit eternal life?' This had been posed by two different men and Jeus gave them both an personalised different answer.

 

Rather than think this makes the gospel more complicated, I think it opens doors for many more people to hear the good news. When Jesus shared the words of the gospel he spoke to personal need. We need to get to know people, pray, look to the Holy Spirit and trust that we have the words of life for the people we know. How to do this in our own everyday encounters is explored in Sharing faith the Jesus way.