Do you read the Bible in an attempt to be more like Jesus by looking at things from his perspective?
If so, that’s a good objective. Some say it’s the whole point of reading the Bible. The only problem is that it’s sometimes hard to relate to Jesus’ point of view. He is the Son of God after all, and reading the Bible this way just makes you work ever harder to be like Jesus.
When you fail, you become discouraged. That’s when Scripture reading becomes a shame-inducing task, yet another part of life that makes you feel worse about yourself. That is certainly not the point of reading the Bible.
There is another way to read the Bible—or at least another way to read the Gospels. Instead of reading Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John through the eyes of Jesus, try reading them through the eyes of the people who encountered the transforming presence of Jesus.
Putting yourself in their shoes while reading the Bible impacts your perspective in at least the three following ways:
1. They Felt What You Feel
First, you’ll find that the people mentioned in Scripture had feelings similar to yours. Their situations were real and hard, perhaps even harder than your own. They can inspire you to overcome the challenges you face.
The feelings and circumstances of each person encountering Jesus can often be described like your own: Andrew was overwhelmed, Mary was grieved, and the lame man was stuck. The Cana wedding couple were exhausted, the woman caught in adultery was guilty, and the woman at the well felt trapped. You could say that the royal official was powerless, the disciples on the boat were afraid, Nicodemus was unsatisfied, and the blind man was marginalized. Do any of these words describe you now? Have they described you in the past? Will they in the future?
As you read the Gospels, try putting yourself in the shoes of those who have been with Jesus, and if the shoe fits, then the Bible will come alive for you with newfound intensity, and your attitude and understanding will begin to change.
2. An Encounter with Jesus Changes Everything
Second, by putting yourself in the shoes of the people who met Jesus, you’ll see how a single encounter with the transforming presence of Jesus changed the trajectory of their lives. They each felt that their circumstances had painted them into a corner. The key for them was not merely to better understand their circumstances. They didn’t need to process what they had gone through, blame someone else, or empower themselves. No, what they needed most was to be with Jesus Christ.
Unbelievers struggle to come to grips with the concept that a man was God. But believers often have the opposite problem. They struggle to realize that the God they believe in became fully man. As John put it: “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
One of my favorite thinkers once said, “the Word became flesh, then we spend most of our time turning him back into words again.” What matters most is not the words we use about change, even these ones you’re reading now, but that the Word himself—Jesus, the truly transforming presence—can change everything for you.
When he comes along, the possibilities shift. The future is restored. Everything changes. I hope you want this and will find it in your own transforming encounter with Jesus.
3. More Like Jesus
Third, reading the Gospels through the eyes of those who encountered Jesus is a surer path to becoming more like Jesus.
You’ll never become more like Jesus by trying harder. You do that by being with Jesus. If you rely on anything other than the transforming presence of Jesus to make you more like him, it won’t work. Each of those who encountered Jesus’ presence had already tried hard at life (think of all the Gospel characters I mentioned above). Most of them were quite religious. Some had committed their entire lives to seeking God. But an encounter with Jesus right where they were led them to become like him.
May the same be true of you!
This article has been adapted from the introduction of Transforming Presence, featuring ten encounters with Jesus in the first half of the book of John. Get the book here.
Image attribution: urfinguss / Thinkstock