Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Movie Night

We've been encompassed by the story of Jesus lately.  My husband, our eleven year old and I have all read The Jesus I Never Knew by Philip Yancey. I just finished a rereading of Mark (not a study-I read the whole thing in 3 days) and our girl is working through it one chapter at a time.  That takes care of us big people, but what about the little one?  Well, this week our family watched an old movie.  "The story of Jesus according to the gospel of Luke."  We ate some red beans and rice (yum), snuggled up on the couch, and even the 4 year old was enthralled.  She asked a million questions.  She gasped when the nails were driven into his hands.  She touched my face when a tear slipped down it.  She was fully engaged in the movie and I was engaged in her, wishing I could see the story the way she did for the first time.

There are several things I love about the movie.  I love the details.  For instance Jesus wears the same clothes the whole time.  I live in a place where nobody changes their clothes every day.  Nobody has that many clothes; they all think it would ruin the clothes they do have to wash them that often, and besides they say only people who really smell have to change their clothes every day. (Yes it's true, Americans; there are parts of the world where they think our obsession with hygiene is because we are excessively stinky!) We can't imagine that Jesus walked all around Galilee with enough luggage to change his clothes everyday either.  Some of the details include things I learned about as a student at Harding.  For example the way Jewish men covered their heads to pray and stood up to read scripture but sat down to teach.

Another thing I love is the complexity of Jesus' character.  They don't portray a "happy" Jesus or a "solemn" Jesus.  They don't go for a "social gospel" Jesus or a "hell and judgment" Jesus.  Somebody in charge of this project reflected how complex Jesus is.  When we read Luke well, we see a full range of human emotion in Jesus.  We see him angry, full of pity, hurt, joyful, lonely, overwhelmed by people, and enjoying the company of others.  The Jesus we find in the gospels cannot be boiled down to a single sentence or made to fit anyone's agenda.  He is a real person. He is the perfection of God made into a person. His feet got dirty. He loved a good party, and his friends betrayed him.

Finally I love the way you can see the whole story play out in just a couple of hours.  I have studied Luke in a Bible class over the course of 2 years.   By the end, I had forgotten the beginning!  I understand the need to study the word deeply and to deal with the challenges bit by bit.  However, it is good for us to take a step back sometimes and see the big picture.  I need to remember that the Jesus who touched the blind man is the Jesus who was born in a stable and the Jesus who was hanging on the cross.

I wish I read my Bible like I watched the movie.  More than that, I wish I read my Bible like my little one watched the movie! Do you know what I mean?  I am reading along and I see the words on the page, "He withdrew by Himself to a city called Bethsaida. But the crowds were aware of this and followed Him; and welcoming them, He began speaking to them about the kingdom of God and curing those who had need of healing." (Luke 9:10-11) When I read "crowds," I am not hit with the crush of bodies, the claustrophobic feeling of too many people pushing in at me.  I am not astonished that Jesus, clearly exhausted by his work, manages to welcome them rather than push them away. I don't ask, "How he can go on making himself heard.  Isn't his throat sore?"

If my imagination is not engaged, it is not for a lack of experience. I have been in a real crowd: the kind where you imagine that if you lose your footing you'll be crushed, the kind where the smell of unwashed people takes your breath away.  I have opened the door to an unexpected knock and wanted to cry, "Why are you people here? Can't I have a moment to myself?" I have taught 200 students in an auditorium without a microphone and had a sore throat. 

Writing for this blog has been a lesson in reading the Bible well.  As I try to prepare a post for you, I have to read deeply.  I have to ask questions and think about how these women are like we are.  The gospels are written sparsely.  They won't do the work for us.  We must bring our experience and our imagination to the text.  So the next time you read, read well. Think about the dust and the heat.  Imagine the press of the crowd.  Smell the feet he washed.  Let the text become real to you!

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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