The Gospels Teach Us to Slow Down for Easter
April 4, 2019 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
If you have ever studied the life of Jesus, you probably have learned that the “public ministry” of Jesus occurred over a three-year period of time. Bible scholars calculate this number using the Gospel of John’s mention of the annual Passover Feast. So, from the baptism of Jesus to his death and resurrection takes about three years.
When you press a little further into this three-year period, we discover that Jesus spent most of that time near his childhood home of Nazareth, which was near the Sea of Galilee. Jesus used this time to teach and to work powerful miracles. About one year before his crucifixion, Jesus traveled to his furthest northern destination, Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16, Mark 8, Luke 9). It was in this region that Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ. Jesus also began at this point to speak openly about going to Jerusalem, suffering at the hands of the scribes and chief priests, dying, and rising again from the dead. The disciples didn’t know what to make of this talk.
The next chapters in the Gospels describe that journey to Jerusalem (Matt. 17-20; Mark 9-10; Luke 10-19). Then everything slows down for that last week. The gospels spend more time on those eight days, from the Triumphant Entry to the Resurrection, than on any other period of Jesus’ life and ministry. 29% of Matthew. 38% of Mark. 21% of Luke. 43% of John. Focused on .6% of Jesus’ public ministry. What does this structure of the gospels teach us?
- The Death and Resurrection are the Most Important Works Jesus Accomplished. Jesus himself says, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45). This “ransom” is the centerpiece of his ministry, the whole point for the incarnation. Therefore, it is appropriate that the death and resurrection of Jesus be the centerpiece of our study, our worship, and our “religious” life. The gospel writers want us to major on Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- It is Good to Slow Down and Contemplate the Events of that Final Week. More than likely, the original recipients of the gospels would have listened to the entire gospel in one sitting. Image a church setting with one person reading out loud. The first 99.4% of Jesus’ public ministry reads like a face-paced, action-packed story. Teaching with authority. Powerful miracles. Tense confrontations with the Pharisees and Sadducees. The original listeners wouldn’t have our modern convenience of owning a printed copy of the gospels. They couldn’t go back and review. I imagine they would have been left in awe of Jesus’ power and authority just before they heard of the Triumphant entry. Perhaps, if they were not familiar with the end of the story, they would have cheered with the crowds of Jerusalem as Jesus rode on a donkey.
Everything changes, though, at that point of the reading. The pace slows. The plot thickens. Jesus’ authority and power are not in the center. The gospel writers want us to think deeply about that last week. They want us to feel the weight of the transition within five days of the crowds celebrating Jesus on Sunday and crying out, “Crucify him!” on Friday. They want us to grieve the darkness of the cross and be elated with the resurrection.
Such training and directing of the emotions takes intentionality. It starts with training our minds to ponder, not race. The gospels were structured in such a way to force the listener to linger on Easter.
As we approach this day in which we celebrate the hope of the resurrection, are you lingering or are you racing? Work doesn’t slow down. School doesn’t slow down. Spring cleaning and yard work have finally started in earnest. Too many things crowd our lives. The gospels, however, call us to slow down and linger in this fateful week of the life of Jesus. What are you doing to intentionally train and direct your emotions to celebrate Easter?