Many years ago now there was a scholarly movement that became known as “The Quest for the Historical Jesus.” Scholars said “Let’s try to get behind the Gospels to find out who Jesus really was, and what he was really like.” So they took bits and pieces of the Gospel testimony and made a picture of Christ. One of the shrewdest things that was said about this movement was that these scholars were like people looking down a well to find Jesus, but didn’t realize that the “Jesus” they saw was really just a reflection of themselves from the water at the bottom of the well!
Sometimes I feel this is actually what has happened in popular evangelicalism. Our “Jesus” is actually a reflection of ourselves. This is the constant danger when we don’t simply open the Scriptures and listen to their testimony about Jesus: we make a Jesus in our own image, usually domesticated. Sadly, much that dominates the Christian media seems to fall foul here. Any Jesus who isn’t both Savior and Lord, Sacrificial Lamb of God and Reigning King, cannot be the Jesus of the Gospels. And any Jesus who does not call us to radical, sacrificial, and yes, painful, discipleship, cannot be the real Jesus.
I sometimes think that our danger as evangelicals is that we use what I sometimes tongue-in-cheek call the “Find Waldo Method” of reading the Gospels. Remember Waldo—the little fellow in the red and white sweater in the midst of the vast crowds? The whole point of the Waldo books was to try to find him. Many people read the Gospels that way, always asking “What does this have to say about me?” But that means that at the end of the day we’re looking for what they have to say about me, and my life, and my improvement. Yes, the Gospels have much to say to me. But they aren’t about me… they’re about Christ. And we need to listen to them and master them, or better be mastered by them and by the Christ they describe.