By Rev. Canon Robin Gamble
100 days to find him,
100 days to follow him,
100 days to become like him.
He started out as the peasant child of unmarried parents. He lived in a tiny, dusty village in an ‘up North’ part of an obscure and disliked country on the extreme edge of a great empire.
He was active for between eighteen months and three years. He didn’t do any of the things that make people famous: didn’t fight any battles, didn’t build any great cities, write any books or make any discoveries. All he did was spend time amongst his own people, teaching them about God, healing the sick, giving peace to the disturbed, gathering a handful of followers. He died a criminals’ death and…
And today he is the most loved, well known and influential celebrity on the world stage. He has transformed more lives, inspired more world changes and humanitarian movements than anyone else in human history. Music has been composed, pictures painted, books written and cathedrals and cities built, all in his name.
Even in a modern secular state like Britain where we don’t quite know what to do with him, he is still the most remembered, admired and respected person in our shared culture and memory.
So how did the obscure ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, become ‘Jesus Saviour of the World’?
How did Mr Nobody become the friend of everybody?
So this is the plan. 100 days to ‘Journey with Jesus’.
From reading the four gospel stories about him I have picked out 100 readings to take us from birth and boyhood, into maturity and ministry and finally to crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. Actually it is not so much a 100 passages to just read, more like a 100 miles or steps to travel. You see it is not just about his life but ours too.
It is not enough to read a bit a day, put the book down and then get on with life. Here we have the opportunity to open the windows of our soul on to a whole new life. To discover the path that he trod and still treads, breathe the peace that he gave and still gives and love the love that he shared and still shares.
Perhaps you are reading this as a curious explorer, or as a new Christian, or as someone who has already spent years faithfully following Jesus. Here you have a 100 days to find him for the first time, or for the first time in a long time. A 100 days to change your life journey, to follow his path. A 100 days to actually become more like him.
Now be honest with yourself. Have you ever thought, ‘life could be so much better’, ‘I could be happier’, ‘there could be more purpose, more direction, more joy’? If you haven’t, then I am truly sorry for you because somewhere along the way you have lost it. If you have thought these things then you need to spend 100 days in the company of the greatest life-changer the world has ever known. And then another 100, and another 100 after that.
Pouring over the gospels and reading a pile of ‘Jesus books’ over the years, I have come to the conclusion that there are 10 key marks to the man Jesus:
- He was a Northerner
- He came from the ‘working class’.
- He battled with demonic evil
- He came up against the religious leaders and establishment
- He combined words (proclamation) with works (healing and exorcism)
- The common people loved him and knew that he was unique
- He honoured and made special room for women
- He created a new style of companionship amongst his followers
- He had a very strong sense of Jerusalem as his destiny
- Jesus had a unique self-awareness. He saw himself as the Saviour of people and as the Son of God.
These 10 marks or themes will keep appearing and re-appearing as you follow Jesus in these 100 readings. They are like silken threads, woven together to form an unbreakable cord that is both soft to the touch and steel-like at the core.
Hopefully every one of these 100 readings will give a challenge or invitation to find, follow and become. But just to help you, I have picked out occasional signposts along the way. I have also included various thoughts, suggestions, and questions and written some special prayers to help you to both understand him and to journey alongside him.
100 Stories About Jesus
We find out most about who Jesus was, what he did and why things happened as they did by reading the gospels. The four gospels are best described as collections of short stories forming one long story of Jesus’ life. The first three, Matthew, Mark and Luke are remarkably alike. Together they tell the story of Jesus rambling around the Galilee area then travelling down the Jordan Valley to the great climax in Jerusalem. Here we see him gather his disciples, heal the sick, teach parables and talk lots about being the Son of Man and about the Kingdom of God. In John’s gospel the story is a bit different. He seems to bounce back and forth between Galilee and Jerusalem. There are still disciples and miracles, but not quite as many. Instead of calling himself the Son of Man he coins the ‘I Am’ expressions and instead of the ‘Kingdom of God’ we have ‘Eternal life’. The four gospels then fall into a three and one package.
Here I have picked out 100 of these short stories, to form a sort of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John combined version. You could see it as a ‘greatest hits’ of Jesus, but I prefer to think of it as a flowing together of the four greatest streams of literature that the world has ever produced. It jumps about a bit, as do the originals, and some of the stories are grouped together under headings such as, ‘parables’ or ‘people he met’, this happens in the originals too.
Some people will read these stories in a very disciplined fashion, one a day for just over 14 weeks. Others will miss the odd day, but that’s ok as long as you pick it up again. Some will make the major mistake of reading two or three at a time, like doing two or three days walking in one day. The point is, it is not just about the time to read, it is about the follow up time to think about, ponder and assimilate the reading.
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John can best be understood as collections of eye-witness records remembered and written down by the people who were there. They were the ones who actually saw and heard. Unlike them, I myself, have never physically seen, felt, heard or touched Jesus, neither have I met anyone who has (this despite all the language people loosely use about Jesus speaking and showing). But I am still a witness. I am a sort of ‘testing him out and finding that he is really there’ witness. I have searched, read, explored, made decisions and followed.
Some years ago I made a radical change to my life. Up until that point I had been living as a Christian and working as a vicar and evangelist on the rough basis of trying to be and do all the normal Christian stuff. I listened to God talks, read God books and had God conversations and sort of tried to do and be it all. My life, ministry and evangelism were ok, but only ok. Then I came to a change of direction in the road. I decided to find out as much as I could specifically about the man Jesus and to copy him. To make him my hero, my model, my mentor. To literally try and do it his way. Today I view the place where I live as my Galilee, I try to base my daily life of relationships, work and prayer on him. The way I wander around, share the good news and pray for healing is an attempt to do it his way. This ‘doing it his way’ personal revolution has transformed my life and ministry.
So as a sort of ‘deep thought and life-style witness’ as opposed to an ‘eye-witness’, I stand in the witness box, make my oath to speak the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and then declare that to follow the path of Jesus is to live in a bigger, deeper, richer, fuller and more alive way than any other.
Who is this slight, bearded man,
Walking through the early morning mist,
Coming down from the hills,
Down from his prayers?
His face, his eyes, his lips,
The song of his talking,
The shape of his walking.
He knows where he is going.
And those who know
Are following him.
That’s all the preparatory info.
Now we are ready to begin this life changing 100 day journey.