#99: The Big Story

Luke 1:1-4

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

John 20:30–31

Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

They are great stories. Moving, inspiring and motivating. In fact they are the greatest stories of the greatest human being who ever lived. But are they true? Was it really like this? Sometimes it seems like just too much to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, that wise men came and shepherds greeted him, that he cured the sick, cared for the poor, turned water into wine and rose from the dead.
At the beginning of his gospel Luke made it crystal clear that they were all true stories, known by those who were in the know.

‘Handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eye witnesses’
‘So that you may know the truth’

Here we are now. Almost at the end of the tale and now it is John’s turn to make the key point:

‘as they were handed on to us by those who from the beginning were eye witnesses’.

We live in negative and often destructive times. Cynicism, fake news, and conspiracy stories abound. The Media, TV documentaries, social networking and the new atheism seem to have come together in a grand alliance to discredit religious belief. Yet still these stories stand out alone as true authentic and life changing.

In 2016 I found myself talking about the resurrection to a room full of very bright sixth formers. Inevitably one of the loudest and most confident had established himself as a sort of group leader. In fact, he was on the way to becoming a ‘group think’ former. These are the ones who tell us all what to think and stupidly most of us join in with the ‘group think’. At a certain point in the discussion he strongly asserted, ‘When you’re dead, you’re dead.’ I could sense the room being influenced by him. Then it came to me and so I replied, ‘Yes, when you are dead, you are dead but when you are Jesus, you are Jesus.’ Suddenly the ‘group think’ was not quite so tight and well-shaped. Later on when we asked the whole group to fill in a response sheet it was surprising to see how many had ticked the, ‘I would like to find out more about Jesus’ box.

Some time ago I read Anthony Beevor’s account of the Battle of Stalingrad. It is a great book of compelling historical authenticity. I was so gripped that a couple of years later when a friend recommended ‘Life and Fate’ by Vasily Grossman, a novel set in Stalingrad I read that too. There is always a big overlap between a historical novel and a historical account but they are not the same. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not historical novels. They are solid wall historical accounts made out of bricks, made out of eye-witness testimonies from lots of different people. It is vital that we all grasp this when we ask the big questions.

Did it happen?
Did he say that?
Is this what happened?

These words at the beginning of Luke’s and at the end of John’s gospel are saying, ‘yes it did and yes he did and yes it is’ to all these questions.

These Gospel stories have been written that we might:
Find him,
Follow him,
And become like him,
That we might believe and have life.
Eternal life,
Jam packed with peace and joy.
Meeting lots of other people who have met him,
Together changing the world.
And ourselves being part of the story.

So ask yourself, how are you reading the Jesus story? And how deeply?

Lord Jesus,
They met you,
Listened to you,
Were touched by you,
And wrote the story.
Help me to read,
Read again,
And be changed forever by their truth.