My daughter loves it when I read to her, which makes me exceedingly happy. Even though she is not even 2 yet, I know the days of her letting me read to her are numbered, so I treasure those moments. However, I am always amazed at the fact that she usually chooses one book for us to read, and asks me to read it to her over and over again. She seems to love the repetition and the familiarity of hearing one story read numerous times. It strikes me as odd, because I seldom go back and reread a book. There are just too many other books waiting for my attention.
The Bible, and the Gospels in particular, are books that beg us to reread them over and over again, regardless with how familiar it may seem to us. That is because the Bible continuously reveals new truths to us. This is not because the Bible morphs into something while we are not looking – it is because we, ever-changing, are morphing into something different. The opening of Mark’s gospel, which most scholars believe was the first gospel account of Jesus ever put into writing, declares itself to be, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Our Monday morning Bible study group is taking a closer look into the Gospel According to Mark, and in our preparations, I highlighted a quote from our study guide, written by John Carroll, who said, “If this is the beginning of the good news, that is so in part because the work of grasping it—and enacting, embodying it—must be an ongoing process [for readers of the gospels]”1.
The “work” referenced in the above quote is just that—it’s a process and a practice, a journey rather than a destination. The gospel accounts of Jesus Christ are deep and rich. Every time we visit them, we walk away with a new treasure. Their stores are never exhausted, and we deceive ourselves if ever we believe that there is nothing left for us in their pages. That is why it is so important that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, spend time in the gospels, revisiting their familiar stories time and again.
While the word of our God will never change, we do change. Each time we come to read the gospels, we come as people who have experienced new information, heard new ideas, learned new concepts, or embarked on new relationships. These things change us, color the lenses through which we read Scripture, and alter the way we understand the things Jesus says and does. This is the work of the Holy Spirit within each of us individually, and collectively as the church engaged in reading the gospels together.
One of the elements that fueled the Reformation movement was the relatively new accessibility of the Bible. With the advent of the printing press, lay people had easier access to the Word of God. For many, it was the first time they were permitted to dip their own hands into the vast treasure chest of Scripture. They thrilled to read those words for themselves, and delighted in being that close to God’s Word. I believe this Reformation principle remains important. We have such tremendous access to the Bible—both in printed and digital forms. While we cannot remember a time when others denied us access to the Bible, we should never deny ourselves the riches contained within. Our understanding of the gospels is work—ongoing work—and it’s a well-rewarded labor we should never shirk.