This is a sample of material from one stage of the journey which gives a flavour of the course materials.
3. GETTING FOCUSSED
Why Jesus? What Jesus?
1. A Basic Question
When planning this book in different places we got eighty-three written pieces in answer to the question 'Why Jesus?'. Some of the things we mean by the 'Why' in 'Why Jesus?' were:
- Why, in the midst of everything else that calls us in life;
- Why, faced with all the vital claims of the modern world;
- Why, despite all our experiences disappointments inside and outside churches; ·
- Why, why, do we still want to stand with Jesus, and seek meaning from Jesus, and think It is so worthwhile in the end that we want to try and explain it to others?
Why Jesus? What follows is just seven sample reasons - written 'off the cuff' in ten minutes of silence, with a room full of others doing the same. On further reflection the writers would doubtless want to say more. The self-descriptions were also written at the same time.
Are there any answers to the question, 'Why Jesus?' in yourself or your group?. If there are, try writing your own answer. Or maybe leave it till you've had time to take a closer look at it all.
2. Seven People. Seven Answers
Why Jesus? Because he speaks of, embodies and acts out what seems to me to
be the fundamental realities of existence, that significance is in self-giving,
in dying to bring to life; that significance is in the small real world at
the bottom; that significance Is in the upside-downness of the Kingdom, the
last shall be first; that significance Is in the struggle against oppression
and power; and in the paradox of going in the opposite direction to the world,
against the stream. Following this way gives meaning and salvation to the
A young female social work student.
Jesus is an attractive figure - he comes closest in my mind to the perfect
human being. He stands alongside the poor and vulnerable, he taught a philosophy
of love with which I can identify. He was human, and knew the deepest of human
despair and sorrow. He was also one of us, and yet in some way transcends
our poverty of spirit with a courage to speak out, to leave behind the comfortable
ride, to embrace humanity, and to bring wholeness. He gives me a pattern ,
an ideal, and therefore a purpose - a quest to live like him and follow in
his footsteps - and a sense of wholeness because, however much I may fail,
I at least know which path I am following. He was full of compassion and love
and I know the world would work better if we could be like that.
A mother, teacher, and despairer of the church.
I can't ignore him. Believe me - I've tried!. In everything he does or says,
he challenges, confuses, shit-stirs, turns things on their head and makes
life so bloody uncomfortable - in fact, just what is called for when you're
in a world of massive injustices perpetuated by groups of people whose power
comes from maintaining comfortable (for them) hierarchies and status quo.
Add to that his insistence that all this has something to do with God. In
a world of materialism and uncertainty and drifting, I crave for something
permanent which is unifying, in which I feel held and which reminds me of
how tiny my life is next to the 'big picture'.
Musical youth worker specialising in disability in India.
Why Jesus? Because he won't go away. Because he is believable and authentic,
won't stand any nonsense, gets to the heart of the matter. Because I can't
manage without him, stirring me from complacency, putting things Into perspective,
going on before us.
Constantly doubtful, self deprecating, middle aged dogged churchgoer.
Christ lived a life which demonstrated ideals to which I can subscribe wholeheartedly.
These were based on the premise that love is the fundamental truth. He expressed
this by saying that God is Love. His commandments, that we love God and love
our neighbours (and thus love God through our neighbour), seems to me to encapsulate
what is needed for humankind to dwell in peace on this planet.
A young man who would like to contribute to helping the world run on love.
Why Jesus? Because he realised the potential of the spirit of God within
him, and showed us how we too can draw on that inner power and fulfil our
true humanity. He both embodied and lived out a committed love of God and
love of others. Others felt more alive from having encountered him.
Retired education officer.
Poet, you walked the waves
Still, gentle voice
Leading us always to the mysterious side,
The circle of creation dwells within you,
Dancing, dreaming, healing poet of the waves.
From the dark cave within
You seek me out.
Man of stories,
In the orange light of your acceptance I am known and held,
You ask me to take your hand,
Journey into risk, thought, remembrance.
Through bread and wine
You transfigure grey nights into vibrant new dawns.
You the shadow,
You the gate,
You the key,
Wayfarer, tower, hope,
Soaring ranging dancer on the waves.
Overworked educator, denominationally confused, lover of the Northern hills.
3.Jesus as Leader
It would be impossible and unfair to try to summarise these seven views of Jesus. And there are many more, which any group of Christians can supply, as they try to state how it is for them as disciples, and what it is in Jesus that they see as significant and compelling.
If there is one element that marks them all, it is perhaps the fact that all of them are indicating why they think this person is worth following. That is, they indicate why these people think of Jesus as in some way a Leader - or a Master, or a Lord, or a Saviour, or a God. These are some of the 93 titles of Jesus in the New Testament.
No one title or role is necessary for you to 'believe in'. The Journey will open up ways you can journey with him and discover for yourself who he is for you.
4. Which Gospel
There is also another question to open up. The stories about Jesus which we have in the New Testament were written, several decades after they happened.. And, like all stories, they were written by particular people In particular communities and cultures, telling the stories with other particular people in mind who would read the stories.
Naturally, therefore, we have four different versions of the 'Good News' of Jesus. Each Gospel was written at a particular time and place. The exact times and locations are disputed, but for argument let me say that I would argue for AD 68 for Mark, in Galilee, AD 75 for Luke, in Rome, AD 80 for Matthew, in Judea and AD 110 for John, in Egypt. Anyone who reads current scholarship on the Gospels will disagree with some of these!
But also, and more crucially, within each Gospel there are evidences that different disciples and different groups held different views of Jesus, and used different terms and titles for him. So, we have to say, 'Which Jesus?'.
5. Which Jesus?
In a seminar which I run at the Urban Theology Unit, on 'Jesus and Christianity', we study the different possible ways in which the original texts spoke of Jesus. Our current count is seventeen, and we know the list is not complete.
But it does mean that you might find one or other of the titles and traditions more to your mind than others, so that you Journey with a companion speaking your language.
The seventeen titles, roles, traditions, 'lines' will be in the Journey Resource Book we are publishing. You could miss it all out if it is too confusing. Or you might discover one or more of the lines that you want to follow up. The six 'Contemporary Pictures of Jesus' gives a start.
6. Which Treasure House?
We have, then, a variety of contemporary views (like our seven; section 3), and the Gospel versions (section 4), seventeen different scholarly "versions" (section 5) of Jesus. We'd also have to say that there is a marvelous variety of exciting Christian traditions and communities, and geographical, cultural and ethnic locations, in which Jesus appears in very different guises. Each one is a 'Treasure House'.
ln England, many of these traditions and traditional views of Jesus often are not present - such as the Greek Orthodox, the African, the Indian views of Jesus. You could look these up in such a book as The Many Faces of lesus.
In your town, however, you'd find at least five - the Ecclesiastical Jesus, the Devotional Jesus, the Sacramental Jesus, the Evangelical Jesus, and the Radical Jesus. The box 'Contemporary Church Jesuses' says a bit about each.
(Stage 3 also includes other material not shown here.)
Further resources for the Journey continue to be produced.